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Blame it on the dog

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Checkers the dog is the scapegoat once again. This Checkers isn’t Nixon’s pooch who took the fall as the only campaign contribution Nixon accepted in 1952, but instead an escape artist pitbull mix from L.A. who is blamed for setting off his owners security system multiple times after escaping from his crate, according to this article in The Los Angeles Times. Police responded to each of Checkers Houdini moves, despite the city's two false alarm limit policy, which should have alerted dispatchers of the multiple alarms and not sent police to respond. But apparently the city's 911 system isn't sophisticated enough to flag these alarms, so dispatchers just kept sending the police and costing the owner, and the city, money. This situation brings to light the administrative reality of implementing false alarm policies: most cities and municipalities are not prepared to track, enforce and collect false alarm fines. It’s a huge administrative task and, in most cities, requires personnel, or even a separate department, dedicated to the task of managing false alarms. One company, appropriately named Cry Wolf (owned by AOT Public Safety Corp.) has designed its business around false alarm policy management. The company can either completely manage a municipalities false alarm program and take a percentage of the fees collected, or install software programs and train employees to self-manage the false alarm program. Check out this article about about Cry Wolf from our March paper.

UTC makes move on Diebold

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Sunday, March 2, 2008
How's this for Monday morning news: UTC has made an unsolicited offer to buy Diebold for $2.63 billion (yep, that's "b" for billion). Not that it doesn't make a lot of sense. Since UTC bought Red Hawk and consolidated its installation and integration business in the United States under that brand, it's been number 2 in the financial vertical and none too subtle about its intentions to be number 1. This would obviously make them number 1 (and pretty much unable to see number 2 in the rearview mirror). Might that be an anti-trust violation? I have no idea, but regulators might want to take a look at that. Look for me to gather up some "wow" quotes for the newswire on Thursday. For fun, though, I'll leave you with some of the indication of just how hostile this takeover might be. Here's the end of a response letter John Lauer, chairman of Diebold's board, sent to George David, chairman and CEO of UTC: In addition, we respectfully request that, from here forward, neither you nor any other representative of UTC contact any member of the Diebold Board. And then here's David's response to that: Failing an ability to engage in discussions with Diebold’s board and management, we believe it is in your shareholders’ interests to know of this proposal. Although you directed me in your last letter not to have further contact with Diebold board members, I am urging a timely response now while the matter remains confidential. Hmmm, wonder why I know about this...

TechSec Day 2

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Friday, February 29, 2008
Why am I just getting around to summing up Day 2 of TechSec Solutions, though it ended roughly 48 hours ago? Well, you can thank JFK airport in some small part - due to an absurd amount of traffic going through there, it took me roughly 24 hours to make it home (partly, this is because every air traffic controller on the face of the earth hates Jet Blue and they always get the short straw coming in and going out). Then, today, since I got it at 4 a.m., I kind of slouched around with the kids, playing hide and seek and such, and am just now getting around to the blog.
I know many of you have been refreshing your browsers for hours, desperate for the latest TechSec news, so I apologize. (Those of you who've actually been refreshing your browsers, please seek psychiatric attention.) Anyway, Day 2 was pretty hot, actually. The video analytics panel, featuring Alan Lipton from ObjectVideo and Doug Marman from VideoIQ, was standing-room-only. The big message (which you already got if you read the newswire) was that analytics actually work now (huzzah!), but you have to actually have a plan for using them properly, just like you have a plan for each piece of technology you're employing. Analytics are no panacea, and Alan did a great job of showing what analytics can't do - i.e., see in the dark without help, see through fog, pick out a face in a crowd of 100,000, figure out if four pixels of information is a person or not, etc. Then Doug presented a great business case for analytics in use in a virtual guard tour application. This just seems like a brilliant RMR opportunity for even a small integrator selling to your average car lot. Also, there was a real buzz around the show floor, as people really seemed to be putting two and two together, getting creative with how different manufacturers could work together to make integrators' lives really easy. Particularly, the command and control software makers (you can get the full list of exhibitors here) were getting a ton of attention. Anyway, without further ado, here's the video that gives you a free pass to the day's activities. It was a great event, and I'm already looking forward to 2009, which will again be in Dallas. Okay, I'll admit I'm partly looking forward to it because it gives me a chance to hit Austin afterwards. On Wednesday night, I hit the Continental Club. That place rocks.

Redesigning the master suite?

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Friday, February 29, 2008
Have you been wondering where to pack your heat at night? Worried about how long it'll take you to leap out of bed and grab yer gun? I got this press release about the "latest in home security." Turns out this guy's idea of home security is a new fangled gun rack that you install over your bed. Remember, you saw it here way before it was featured in Metropolitan Home.

ADT target of lawsuit

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Irate over rate hikes, the Contra Costa County (Calif.) District Attorney's Office filed a lawsuit on Monday against ADT, saying in some cases when ADT's raises its monthly monitoring fees and/or charges contract-termination, the company is in violation of California law. ADT customers sign two- or three-year contracts. ADT reserves the right to raise fees after the first year. They lawsuit says ADT should have to advise customers how much the rate increase will be. Thisstory from The Mercury News says that the DA's office has been discussing the issue with ADT for two years. The story reports that ADT denies any wrongdoing.

Brink's stock up; TechSec kicks off

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Brink's stock is trading at a 52-week high today (the last trade I saw was 68.47. Guess investors like the news yesterday that Brink's Home Security will be spun off to become its own publicly traded company. (See yesterday's post below for more info) Meanwhile, I'm here in Dallas at TechSec Solutions, which in case you didn't know, is a conference that's all about IP-ready security technology, and sponsored by my paper Security Systems News and our sister publication, Security Director News. At the keynote address the morning, David Bunzel, managing director of the Santa Clara Consulting Group, talked about how the adoption of standards will be the catalyst to widespread adoption of IP-ready security technology. The momentum for the adoption of standards, he predicted, will not come from consumer demand, but rather from you, the security integrators. At my table this morning were Derek Gietzen of General Lock, a security technology company in San Diego, and two guys from Dakota Security of Sioux Falls: Bob Peplinski, their regional vice president and Brent Waysman, a systems engineer. The president of their company, Eric Yunag, was featured in our August issue as one of the 20 movers and shakers under the age of 40, in the security industry. Yesterday, before the conference began, I had a great tour of ASG Security's Dallas office, with their general manager Chad Dawald. Dallas is the biggest and most successful (in terms of RMR) branch, and it's easy to see why when you visit. I'll be reporting on that visit in our April issue. On a side note, I arrived in this city late Sunday afternoon and had a chance to visit the Nasher Sculpture Center, which is around the corner from the Fairmont where we're staying. It's an indoor-outdoor museum and where you can get really close to some stunning stuff: Brancusi's The Kiss, Giacometti's skinny people, Moore's reclining women and Picasso's head of a woman statue. If you're in the neighborhood, it's worth a visit.

TechSec Day 1

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008
TechSec Solutions, the conference I program with Security Director News editor Rhianna Daniels, got started in earnest today with keynote speaker David Bunzel, managing director of Santa Clara Consulting, an analyst group that started in the data storage industry and has moved over to cover the security space. His message, that the security industry needs to embrace standards in order to move forward both in overall market size and in the complexity of solutions, was often repeated throughout a great first day of educational programming. You'll see in the video below the main gist of the day, but one thing you won't see is one of the best panels I've seen at TechSec: The True Cost of Ownership panel led by Paul Smith, which broke down, with actual numbers generated by Clark Harbaugh, an account manager for Systems Group, for a variety of job sizes and types. Basically, analog and IP are now neck and neck in terms of initial cost, was the general conclusion, and IP offers major upside in terms of features and capability. And, if you factor in the cost of moving an operations center in the five years of owning a system, Harbaugh concluded IP could save an end user nearly $1 million. I'd love to hear what you guys think of that.

TechSec starts today

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Monday, February 25, 2008
Today begins the fourth annual TechSec Solutions, the great conference with the bad name. I can make fun of it because I, along with Rhianna Daniels over at Security Director News, program it, evaluating more than a hundred presentations to select the 10 (or so) best educational offerings for our attendees - end users, IT professionals, integrators and the like. This year it's again at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, where it will be again next year. It's mostly because of the Dallas airport's many direct connections that we stay here, but in truth there are a number of great security companies in the area, both integrators and manufacturers. Plus, I get to make a side-trip to Austin every year beforehand, which keeps me happy. Ever heard the South Austin Jug Band? Damn, they're hot. Anyway, starting tomorrow, you'll get a couple days of from-the-show updates, which should include video, assuming all the systems we have in place work right. Let me know if there's anything in particular you want me to summarize, via the comments link right down below this post (see it? You can click on it, you know. It won't hurt). Tonight it's just a meet-and-greet boozefest, but I'm sure I'll have lots to report.

TechSec gets started

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Monday, February 25, 2008
Tonight the exhibitors loaded in, getting their booths ready for tomorrow. It was a fun time, with a lot of vendors collaborating on how they wanted to present together and show the integrators and end users how interoperability can really work. IQinVision, for instance, had at least four companies swing buy to ask for cameras to display in their booths. I guess there's a reason they moved into much larger headquarters. Tomorrow, Dave Bunzel leads off with a keynote address on standards for the industry, and we'll have a number of great panels. I'll give you all the details I can between networking events, etc. Stay posted.

Brink's to spin off Brink's Home Security; Settles with Apx

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Monday, February 25, 2008
Big news out of Virginia this morning: The Brink's Company announced it will spin off Brink's Home Security. Here's the company press release. I'll have much more on this later, but I have to say the first thing that came to mind was an interview I had with hedge fund chief Thomas Hudson of Pirate Capital last February. During that interview he said, he foresees "material progress toward the sale of Brink's within 12 months." Separately, Brink's Home Security today settled a lawsuit with ApxAlarm Security Solutions of Provo, Utah, according to Dave Simon, spokesman for Brink's. The details of the settlement are confidential, he told me. Here's some some background. The suit was originally filed by Brink's in August of 2006, and eventually involved counter suits from Apx.

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