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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.

On guarding, security, and keeping it local

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Friday, February 22, 2008
Though this story is largely about manned guarding and doesn't have much to do with what my readers encounter on a daily basis, there are some issues to ponder here that I think resonate throughout the security industry. The gist is that the town of Flint has chosen Securitas as the guarding firm for its transportation authority over a local firm that's already been providing services, based solely on the lowest-bid criteria imposed upon it by federal mandates (but which the town actually ignored when it awarded the contract two years ago - we'll get to that). First of all: This is security we're talking about! Is this really an area where lowest-bid should rule? I'm thinking perceived competence should reign supreme here. But, we're told: Both companies ranked similarly in an MTA analysis of their abilities and experience, but Securitas had the lower costs. It submitted a bid for services set at about $415,000 compared to Teachout's $449,000 bid. So, assuming it's true that these companies would do equally well protecting the citizens of Flint, we're talking about $34,000 a year in difference. I agree that's significant (half a city clerk, say). But how is that savings realized? Well, through Securitas paying its workers less. Here's the breakdown: Securitas: $14.76 an hour for on-site supervisors, $11.91 for guards. Teachout Security Services: $16.14 an hour for on-site supervisors and $12.66 for guards in the first year with a 3 percent pay raise in the second year. The Securitas supervisor pulls down $30,700, Teachout's supervisor gets $33,571 annually. That seems a little low to me, but I guess I can see why someone would want that job. The standard guard for Securitas, however, would garner just $24,772 annually, vs. $26,332 for the local guy. Those are barely above the federal government's family-of-four poverty guidelines for 2008. The important thing to remember here is that all of these guards will be living in Flint (or surrounding areas). So when I hear a quote like this: "We can't do this based just on the fact that this is a local firm," Foy said. "It all comes down to trying to get the absolute most for the people of this community with the money we have available." Because MTA receives government dollars, it must follow federal guidelines for awarding contracts by hiring the lowest qualified bidder, Foy said. I wonder, Isn't it possible that the way to get the most for the people of Flint is to get them better paying jobs? Isn't it possible that security guards who aren't wondering quite as much where their next meal is coming from might be better at protecting people? Add those two motivators together, and I think a $34,000 difference is pretty negligible. Quite simply, I think there are many more factors that need to be considered here beyond price, but it's easy to understand why so many security vendors and installers compete on price. It's obviously a reality for government work. Maybe some lobbying needs to be done to exempt security specification from some federal guidelines? I understand protecting the taxpayer from graft and fraud, but shouldn't we also consider actually protecting the taxpayer from bodily harm? Or, maybe city officials should just ignore federal mandates in the first place: But in 2006, MTA handed the security contract to Teachout after four other companies, including Securitas, submitted lower bids.

Looking ahead to ASIS

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Thursday, February 21, 2008
I know it seems like September is a long ways away, but this week I'm on a preview trip of ASIS International's 54th Annual Seminar, which will take place Sept. 15-18 in Atlanta, Georgia. So far, I'm very impressed with Atlanta and some of the venue spaces they have here. For example, I'm staying in the Marriott Marquis which boasts one of the largest atriums in the world (47 stories) and is dizzyingly spectacular. The Westin is also pretty cool and is the tallest hotel in the Western hemisphere (74 stories) with a rotating restaurant allowing you to eat dinner with a 360 degree view of the city. Tomorrow we're touring the Georgia World Congress Center where the show will actually be held. We also got an "after hours" tour of the aquarium (i.e. no little kiddies running around), which was amazing. You could tell everyone was very impressed with the scenery. They even built a conference space that can hold 1,200 people with a similar view of the 64 million gallon tank and four rare and impressive whale sharks (left). Smart people. One of the highlights of the aquarium was the beluga whale, and it wasn't just because he was playful and majestic, but I won't go into details and leave that to curious minds and YouTube (and no, I'm not going to link to anything). Let's just say he thought these ladies were impressive, too. And, to top it all off, we had beautiful clear skies to watch the full lunar eclipse. ASIS folks go out of their way to put on a good show.

Copper theft

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Thursday, February 21, 2008
Hopefully you saw the newswire story on RSI Alarm's push to bring the copper theft epidemic to the consciousness of the security industry, through a new web site and other means. It's something we've covered in ancillary terms here and here and here, but Keith Jentoft, RSI president, may be right that people aren't making it a big enough piece of their security solutions for customers. What's crazy is that it's not just commercial sites that are getting hit; people are grabbing residential HVAC units off their rooftops and throwing them in pickups and driving away. Or their pulling the electrical wire off of people's houses. Check out this video sent in by an RSI dealer. They thief is pretty brazen, no? Whether it's sensors on HVAC units or video verification tied to motion detection or simply hardened HVAC units, integrators and residential installers need to be delivering solutions to combat this now.

VSD: Prognosis is good

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008
According to this report from IMS Research, there are only good times ahead for Video Smoke Detection companies like axonX, of Sparks, Md. and D-Tec, a U.K.-based business that just opened an office in Atlanta in December. I’ll have more on this later, but Mac Mottley, CEO of AxonX , told me that IMS’s projection that the VSD market will reach $36 million by 2011 “are in line with our projections.” In fact, Mottley said the projections may even be low if, as Mottley expects, “we get larger players adopting the technology at a faster rate.”

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