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An ISC West video better than mine

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Thursday, April 17, 2008
I have no idea who this guy is, but he's a braver man than I: I dare you to not watch that video 10 times in a row. Please, taser-guy, whoever you are, drop me a line. This is genius.

The long-awaited ISC West video

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Thursday, April 17, 2008
With apologies for lighting, a camera-shake that's slightly disconcerting, and general tardiness, here, for your perusal, is my much-hyped video blog about the recent ISC West show in Las Vegas. Like you weren't there. This event didn't lend itself to video blogging in the way my recent Israel trip did, I'll admit. First, I was running around like a madman and didn't capture video of half the things I'd like to have shown you. Second, it's not like ISC West is all that visually appealing. Basically, it's a bunch of steel and plastic arranged in bright colors apparently meant to disorient you, like the rest of Vegas, so that you can never find your way out. If you click on the ISC West tag at the bottom of this post, you'll get the collection of my thoughts on this year's events, but if I had to recap with an elevator pitch, as I have to in the upcoming video, I'd say there were two major themes: 1. Everybody is on the IP bandwagon now. Even the knuckle-draggers. Any lingering doubt about the future of the industry seems to have been cast aside, and people agree that using the network as a backbone for a security system is a good idea. There are variations on how this idea is applied and to what degree, but no debate on whether the central premise is correct. 2. Partnership (or, as my boss pronounces the word, p-p-p-partnership) is the new industry buzzword, where every company wants to prove they work with every other company. One storage company announces 30 partners, the next announces 31. Why? Because proprietary is the new curse word in the industry. If you're partnering, you can't be proprietary, right? Well, pretty much, I guess. Anyway, on to the video. It is what it is: And I know you readers have some kind of comment phobia, which I'm okay with, but this is your chance to weigh in on ISC West and tell me if you didn't get the same impressions. You just click on that word there, "comments," and then you make a comment. It's pretty easy. You can even be anonymous if you're worried those criticisms of ISC West might land you in Reed Exhibitions jail so that you find yourself against the back wall next year. We were already on the back wall, so I don't have much to worry about.

OpEd pans mass notification

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Today, on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Virginia Tech University, the New York Times ran an OpEd that expresses reasonable concern about safety on college campuses, but manages to get it all wrong, in my opinion, on what colleges should do about security measures. James Alan Fox , a professor at Northeastern University, clearly doesn't understand mass notification systems. I could excuse him not understanding the technology, but to imply—as he seems to do— that mass notification systems could actually make campuses more dangerous is ridiculous, and irresponsible. Fox is right about one thing—he believes that universities need a well-trained security staff and staff in general. What he doesn't seem to get, is that security technologies—like mass notification and access control systems—can help a well-trained staff do its job. Have you read this piece? Rest assured that lots of university types are reading it. Are you penning a letter to the editor or calling the editor to see if you can write an OpEd in response right now? The Times owes equal editorial space to an OpEd piece that dispels the myths Fox is creating.

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Looks like that $500 million came in handy

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Interesting to look back on our story about Tyco taking out a $500 million line of credit following its split-up last year. There was some debate about what the money might be for: Paul Fitzhenry, Tyco spokesman, did not have any further comments on the line of credit. However, industry analyst Jack Mallon, managing partner of Mallon Associates, noted that taking a $500 million line of credit is not something a company does just as a matter of course: "The company's been in a holding pattern for the past three years. They have talked somewhat about acquisitions but haven't delivered in the security area." Is that about to change? "Perhaps," Mallon said. "The time is right [for expansion and acquisitions] and the opportunity is there," according to Mallon. Tyco may have secured the credit line for the purpose of starting a "more aggressive growth program," he said. He tempered this speculation, however, saying there may be "another factor, they may be contemplating some other capital expenditures." I guess $187 million is kind of chump change for Tyco International, but it does make me feel like we sort of called that.

Jump on the buzzword bandwagon

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008
At ISC West I had a chance to talk with Mike May, the president of iVerify, a dedicated video monitoring company in Charlotte, N.C. They just bought a 40,000-square-foot building in Charlotte on a 15-acre secure campus. Here's a good article from the Charlotte Observer about the company. (There will also be an article in our May issue about the purchase, by the way). The Observer piece was interesting because it included alternative uses for video in the retail space and the potential for video to be used for more than just security. May talked briefly about video as a marketing tool for stores to evaluate how much time customers spend at certain displays and the flow of people through the store as a way to better market products. Yet again, another example of additional services that can be incorporated with security. What's the buzzword for that again? Oh, yeah, value-added services. I bet those crazy marketing people pay good money for those kind of statistics, too. I hear there's a new conference that focuses on educating security companies about alternative value-added services to add to their offerings. Check it out: Security Business Development Forum (and yes, SSN, is coordinating a large part of it and, yes, it's certainly worth your click).

Some ADT-FirstService analysis

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008
At first blush, I thought the ADT purchase price for FirstService's security business was something of a steal. They paid (an announced) $187 million for a business that did roughly $200 million in revenue last year (theoretically - it's not broken out on FirstService's financials). So, less than 1x 12 months trailing revenues, that's pretty good, I'm thinking. But then Frank Brewer said that only about 10-11 percent of that revenue was service-based. So, that's $22 million on the high side, which is just $1.83 million of RMR (theoretically - hard to know what of that is contracted and what is one-time fees). So, if you calculate as a multiple of RMR, you've got $187m/$1.83m of RMR, which leaves you with a multiple of 102x. Obviously, this isn't an RMR-based business, and ADT is keeping the management (FirstService Security CEO Frank Brewer will be the head of a new integration division at ADT) and a lot of clients and expertise, but there's still no guarantee that SST and Intercon will continue to create new business at their past rates, and there's likely to be at least some attrition in the sales and engineering forces, as there can be during an acquisition. Now I kind of wonder if ADT overpaid a bit, especially in this economy. Money people, feel free to tear me down.

ADT to buy SST, Intercon

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Monday, April 14, 2008
Well, happy Monday! Just when things were starting to slow down after ISC West, here comes ADT to announce a $187 million acquisition of FirstService's security business (better known as SST in the States and Intercon in Canada). Here's the FirstService announcement, too. It's a "divesture," doncha know. There's a webcast later today where I can ask questions, but on the face of it, it looks like ADT got a pretty good deal. The FirstService businesses apparently reported $200 million in revenue last year, so the $187 million number looks to be under 1x. FirstService has lately been buying in the property management space, so maybe they weren't seeing an upside in security over the long haul or just thought this was a good time to get out. Plus, you'll notice they don't even mention security in their report of 3Q numbers recently (probably because it looks to be only about 10 percent of its business and all the other segments were way up, revenue wise). Here's the spin from FirstService, which seems about right: "The sale of our integrated security services division is a key strategic move by FirstService to intensify our focus as a global provider of diversified real estate services," said Jay Hennick, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of FirstService. "While the future prospects of our security division are excellent, particularly its strong internal growth potential, we concluded that accelerating the growth of our three real estate services platforms through a combination of internal growth and acquisitions would create greater long-term value for the shareholders of FirstService. We are very pleased to have found the right buyer for this highly sought after asset, and are confident that industry leading ADT will take this business to the next level." Also, the FirstService stock is down 33 percent over the past six months, so maybe that had something to do with wanting to shake things up a bit. More later.

Where in the world are the sprinkler components?

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Saturday, April 12, 2008
I never visited this place when I lived in Washington several years ago, or since then on visits to DC. It just reopened last week after a two-year renovation and now I think I've got to go. Not because the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks Conference which led to the creation of the United Nations was held here, not because Padarewsky signed the piano and Stravinsky hung out here, and not because of the art collection. No, what really interests me is that they've hidden their sprinkler system components in an innovative way. This is going to be a business trip Click on this link to see the picture of the renovated music room. And see if you can spot the sprinklers.. A little background courtesy of the NYT: Dumbarton Oaks is an 19th century Georgian house on several acres in the Georgetown section of DC that’s been a library/ art museum/music venue [owned by Harvard] since the 1940s. In the 1920s, the owners brought in Parisian interior designer Armand-Albert Rateau, the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White and the classical muralist Allyn Cox. They added “wings to the house, covering walls and ceilings with images of foliage and mythological creatures, and installing mirrored shutters and gilded pilasters shaped like palm trees ... No other interiors by Rateau survive in the U.S.,” said James N. Carder, curator of the house. “We’ve treated ours with tender care, hiding all the new mechanicals in little crannies.” In the music room (top left), modeled after 16th-century French chateaus, repainted ceiling beams now conceal sprinkler pipes.

Is this "seeing through walls"?

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Friday, April 11, 2008
I just got a box in the mail containing a flying pig. Well, a plastic pig with wings that flap that you can hang from the ceiling, not something that actually flies. The reason? UltraVision says people told them they'd see through walls, "when pigs fly," and now, well, they can do it, so here are some flying pigs. I guess I have an issue with their definition of "seeing." Watch this video and tell me if you think this qualifies as "seeing" through anything. Okay, done now? I'm thinking that detection motion through walls (or the ground, or whatever) is pretty darn cool and useful, but doesn't really qualify as "seeing" anything. Sure, you can judge the size and speed of the object, but you don't know whether it's holding a gun, or is actually two people, etc. I think this is one of those cases of overselling something that doesn't need to be oversold.

More sleeping guards

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Thursday, April 10, 2008
I'm busy-busy getting our paper out today (not that you care), but wanted to post yet another sleeping guards story. You guys dishing video analytics have yet another sales piece. (EDIT: That link is fixed now - sorry.) These guys weren't just lazy, they tried hard at being lazy: NRC investigators determined that, on multiple occasions during that time, securtity officers at Turkey Point were inattentive to duty or served as lookouts so other officers could sleep on duty. Though it's the power plant getting fined...

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