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Brink's earnings up

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Shares of Brink's Company stock were trading high today—the highest since 2003 when it changed its name from Pittston Co to Brink's, according to a Rueters report—after the company posted higher-than-expected first-quarter earnings. Here's the official press release. First quarter income was up $48 million, or $1.02 per share, up from $31.1 or 66 cents per share for the same quarter last year. Revenue was up 24 percent from $920.6 million from $740.5 million last year. Operating profit was up 51 percent to $97.3 million. Brink's said the increase was driven by "Latin American Operations and Brink's Home Security Unit."

You, sitting here in 2010

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008
So I got a call back from Andy McDill at Delta Corporate Communications and yes, it's true. They'll be installing these seats in their fleet of 777 and 767 aircraft. They're called Cozy Suite seats and they're made by Thomson Solutions, a company based in Northern Ireland. You won't be able to sit in them until 2010, as they're actually just being manufactured now. The bad news for me and the many of you who regularly fly into the Portland Maine Jet Port, we won't be able to ride in the Cozy Suite seats all the way home, since Delta's 777s and 767s don't fly here. We can catch them on flights out of Delta's hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati and JFK though.

ROTC cadet robbed - wireless surveillance solves the crime

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Here's some great press for municipal surveillance systems, wrapped in the filth that is the worst of human nature. In Dallas, some scumbag robbed an 18-year-old ROTC cadet while he was suffering a seizure on the sidewalk. Luckily, a wireless surveillance system not only recorded the crime, but helped police pick-up up the perp returning to the scene of the crime the next day. Check out the video: Security systems catch bad guys. Really. It's not just cool technology, but serves a purpose, and that message needs to be continually pushed, not just for the good of the industry, but for the good of society in general. This story is also kind of personally satisfying for me, as I've written about this Dallas system, installed by Bearcom with Firetide and Sony technology, and we had a presentation about this deployment at TechSec 2007. So the things I write about aren't just theoretical, but practical as well. That makes me feel good.

Not your everyday gym shirt

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Monday, April 28, 2008
So, apparently the concept of "intelligent textiles" is more prevalent than I first thought. Here's a blurb about a t-shirt that monitors vital signs such as heart rate and body temperature. It's a good old cotton t-shirt embedded with conductive fibers that's supposedly washable, too. (Good thing, otherwise wearers of this t-shirt may not be welcomed in many enclosed spaces.) Here's how it works: "A micro controller embedded in the t-shirt digitizes the signals and transmits them via a wireless connection to a remote back-end system for real-time monitoring." The article claims part of the five-year development of this technology was partially paid for by the Department of Defense. Interesting. It also said that the company is beginning field testing for the monitoring of emergency service workers such as police officers and fire service workers. My thought is that some company has to be doing that monitoring, why not you?

Happy news from Delta

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Monday, April 28, 2008
I'm back after a glorious school vacation week of outdoorsy fun and sun with the family. No, we did not go on an excellent, educational, exotic vacation, it was warm and beautiful right here in New England. So, after that great week, I'm expecting some work re-entry pain, but it's kind of nice being back at my desk with my Mac. Maybe it's the fact that it's nearly returned to winter temps here in Maine, or maybe I'm peppy because one of the first things I came across this morning was some potentially excellent travel news. Lots of you in the industry, like me, spend a fair amount of time on planes, so this may make your Monday as well. I don't have confirmation—i no call back yet from Delta Corporate Communications—Delta is apparently installing some newfangled seats in some of its planes in economy class. There's lots leg room, a side panel so you won't fall asleep on a stranger's shoulder and here's the one downside: You may have trouble talking to the person next to you. Now that's the kind of downside that I like. Here's what they look like: The stories I've seen (in Saturday's New York Times and on a couple blogs) say the seats will be installed by 2010. I'm hoping that Delta Corporate Communications is going to call me back with the happy news that some of the first planes to use these will be flying in and out of the Portland (Maine) International Jet Port.

Alarm company robbed!

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Sunday, April 27, 2008
This is pretty classic: Alarm company robbed in Ohio. Now, most people wouldn't figure an alarm company for a place with a lot of cash on hand, but maybe, I'm thinking, people who rob alarm companies probably aren't that bright. Of course, it turns out they weren't looking for cash: Officers said the two unknown subjects smashed out the glass of the front door, tripping the sensors. They proceeded to steal cartons of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. An alarm company having a bunch of smokes and dip on hand? That I guess I could believe.

Roger Rogo

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Friday, April 25, 2008
So there's yet another player in the plug-n-go security market: Rogo. For $10.95 a month, customers can remotely access cameras from their PC or cell phone using this system. The model is similar to other vendors in this arena: making remote video monitoring a mass market product by making it as cheap and easy as possible. But $10.95/month? That's pretty darn cheap. Rogo is pushing the use of USB cameras, which are so inexpensive they can give them away for free, or so they say at least twice in this article. However, the obvious drawback of USB cameras are that, well, they're USB cameras and they have to plug into your computer to work. Who wants 50 yards of USB cord strung through their house, even if the camera is in the form of a cute puppy? (The picture of the puppy camera has nothing to do with the Rogo system, I just thought it was cute and funny ... plus it's Friday.) To counter this downfall, the Web site explains that the system is compatible with AXIS wireless cameras. Another problem from a consumer standpoint is that all the captured data is stored directly on the consumer's computer. The FAQ section of the Web site says that the system only takes up about 5 GB of space, but still... Something interesting and perhaps new about this system is that the cameras can be set on "motion detect mode" and only record when activated. That certainly seems like more of a security-related function. The article also mentioned the ability for the camera to produce graphs and quantitative results based on the footage, or so says the president of the company: “We’ve also moved beyond just security,” [James] Trimble says. Because the system can monitor 24-hour activity and graph it, a retailer can examine the peaks and valleys of activity in a store. That was a first for me, too. It sounds like there must be an analytic component incorporated in the system, right? No mention of the word "analytic" in the article or on the Web site, but perhaps that word doesn't create the excitement in the consumer market as it does among security professionals.

Mainers go nationwide

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Friday, April 25, 2008
I was determined to find a good YouTube video for today, since it's Friday and everyone likes a little mid-afternoon video on Friday, and I just couldn't resist showing a little love to a Maine company, Guardcom, that's trying to go national with a wireless alarm system that's self-installed. Here's the video pitch: More than a few things strike me here. First, I've got to think false alarms are a nightmare with this service, as not only are they just using simple motion detectors, but it sounds like they're not using enhanced call verification ("We'll call you to let you know the police have been dispatched!") and arming and disarming via keyfob is great in theory, but I bet anyone with kids knows that keyfobs are meant to be played with. Still, this goes to show you the type of high-margin alarm company you can put together with products from Honeywell and Alarm.com (check out the remote arm/disarm demonstration here - it's kind of cool). Think about it: You've got no installation staff, no outside service calls, and you can third-party the monitoring. So, essentially, all you'd need is a warehouse in nowhere Maine and a couple people to take orders and ship out systems, plus a marketing budget. Seems like a good business model to me.

United Protection to buy mystery firm

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Thursday, April 24, 2008
United Protection is a guarding/integration firm trying to make some noise in western Canada and has been slowly moving toward the U.S. market, apparently by starting with the guarding business. They hired former CEO of Rentokil Initial Canada Don Allan in 2006, struck a deal with Convergint for some high-level integration work last year, and now are making their big play: They've signed a purchase agreement for a company in the southern United States doing more than $100 million annually. Which one? They're not saying yet. It's a mystery. No wonder people aren't in love with the guarding business here in the States, though. Look at the financials on this deal: [T]he Company has entered into a share purchase agreement to acquire a 75% interest in a private security services company based in the Southern United States (the "Target"). The consideration to be paid for the interest in the Target will consist of: approximately USD $15.6 million to be paid in cash; approximately USD $3.1 million in the form of a convertible vendor financing note; the assumption of approximately USD $7.2 million in indebtedness; and other liabilities which amounts will be confirmed prior to closing. Under the terms of the agreement, United Protection also has a five-year option to acquire the remaining 25% interest at a defined valuation multiple. The acquisition, which is anticipated to close on or before May 30, 2008, is expected to be funded through a new equity financing by United Protection. During the 2007 fiscal year, United Protection had revenues of approximately $22.5 million, net income of $0.6 million and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization ("EBITDA") of $1.2 million. During the same period, the Target had revenues of approximately $98.7 million, net income of $4.8 million and an EBITDA of $9.0 million. United Protection is currently in the process of conducting due diligence on the Target's financials. So, you can get 75 percent of $100 million in guarding revenue for less than $20 million and the assumption of $7 million in debt? There's something I'm missing. Net income of $4.8 million should cost more than that, it seems to me, but I'm new to the world of guarding acquisitions.

Contractually overloaded

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Here's an article that follows one woman's experience in contract hell. Her experience is specifically about getting unknowingly roped into a contract with her satellite television provider, but could easily be applied to alarm monitoring contracts. From a consumer point of view I can completely understand her frustration (I just changed cell phone providers, which was quite an ordeal). And, apparently, so can the author of this article. Here's my favorite paragraph: Customer service contracts have become the bane of our consumerhood, a modern form of indentured servitude, a spiral of preset spending from which breaking free is almost impossible. We wince and sign, lured by equipment discounts or other come-ons, all with a sense that we'll regret it later. However, from the company's standpoint, the need for contracts is unquestionable, particularly in the alarm industry where RMR is the number that counts. I monitor several industry listserv's and regularly read posts from business owners about their troubles with contracts: how to write them in a way that's legally binding and inclusive, but at the same time easily understood by the consumer. I don't often read about the enforcement of contracts, so I don't have a good perspective on how much of an issue it is, but I imagine it's not something that's in the 'likes' column for many business owners. I think it's safe to say that contracts are nobody's friend, except maybe your lawyers.

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