I'm surprised this is the first I've heard of an Internet campaign to recruit people to monitor IP cameras from the comforts of their own homes. It's a group called Virtual Vigilance, part of American Border Patrol, and they're placing IP cameras on the border with Mexico that can be monitored over the 'Net, provided you've got a user name and password. The idea is that people can sign up to monitor individual cameras, so that each camera is monitored 24/7, and volunteers can contact border guards if they see something suspicious.
These guys have at least done a little homework:
To maximize vigilance, viewing time is limited to 30 minutes, after which another volunteer takes over.
So, for each camera, the group needs, say, 12 rotating volunteers? Or as many as 48 if each person agrees to only take one shift a day? And each of those volunteers needs to commit to 365 days of vigilance? That adds up to a lot of people in a hurry if you're trying to cover any serious portion of the border. We're talking 2,000 miles of border here.
More power to them, I guess, but I can see this sort of thing possibly becoming a bit in vogue. Graffiti problem at the school? Get some volunteer parents to monitor cameras. Worried about sex offenders in your community? Set up cameras near day care centers and get volunteers to monitor them for signs the bad guys are in the area.
Hey, it's better than everyone just sitting home and watching soap operas, right?
Anyone watching 60 Minutes tonight saw a Flir thermal camera being instrumental in a search for Leonardo da Vinci's lost masterpiece, "The Battle of Anghiari," a mural that may reside behind a wall covered by a another painting. An art detective is trying to use the heat signature of the pigments da Vinci favored to prove it's there. Pretty neat.
View the preview here.
Sorry about my use of exclamation points lately. I hate to yell at you, but I don't think you can write the word earthquake without an exclamation point. They're kind of exclamatory events.
Anyway, an earthquake rumbled through Indiana this morning and the guys at Exacq, of course, got some documentation on video. It's not exactly movie-of-the-week exciting, but interesting nonetheless.
Check it out here.
Here's a little blurb about a Swiss company working to integrate "analysis modules for biochemical sensing" into textiles for health monitoring. It made me wonder how prevalent true health monitoring was in the industry and the logistics of central stations to incorporate it into their offerings? Granted, this isn't your average PERS monitoring, it involves the analysis of sweat, blood (and tears?). Per the company's Web site:
This allows for the first time the monitoring of body fluids via sensors distributed on a textile substrate and performing biochemical measurements.
I imagine the development of the specialty "sensing textiles" would be fairly complex, but I wonder about the requirements for monitoring? Could companies that already specialize in PERS and have medically trained operators easily incorporate this high level of medical monitoring into their systems? It's obviously a new technology, but the concept seems plausible to me. And frankly, I'm curious what these "sensing textiles" will look like. I have a hard time believing these techie guys will have even a remote sense of fashion (people have to wear these things, after all).
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.
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 implyÃ¢â‚¬â€as he seems to doÃ¢â‚¬â€ that mass notification systems could actually make campuses more dangerous is ridiculous, and irresponsible.
Fox is right about one thingÃ¢â‚¬â€he believes that universities need a well-trained security staff and staff in general. What he doesn't seem to get, is that security technologiesÃ¢â‚¬â€like mass notification and access control systemsÃ¢â‚¬â€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.
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.
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).
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.