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Winging my way to Venice!?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yeah, I wish... Unfortunately, it's not in the budget. Of course my headline alludes to the upcoming CSAA Annual meeting. I've heard all about them and read all about them and, of course, written about them, but I've not had the opportunity to go yet. (If anyone has room in their luggage, I'm not a large man... I'd probably fit in a carry-on ;-))

I spoke last year with Keith Jentoft from RSI Video Technologies. He told me at the time, that last year's move back to the states (last year was in the Greater Tucson area—a real favorite of mine) after being in Greece the year before, was an effort on CSAA's part to be sensitive to its mostly financially strapped (given the economic climate) constituents. Keith said he thought the cost issue wasn't really all that relevant, though.

“I think the CSAA is doing its level best to be responsive to its members—and carry out their mission. In these economic times ‘perception’ often is reality, whether or not it is true. I don’t really think the cost difference between exotic/local is as significant as people think. It is more perception,” Keith told me last year. “I think that alternating between something more exotic and something less exotic is a good compromise and will be effective in today's environment. I think that the fact that the CSAA is willing to adjust and make changes based upon input from their members demonstrates that Ed Bonifas and the board really do want to serve their members and listen to what they say.”

I also spoke with Keith the year before in '09 when the Annual Meeting was in Greece. He really hit the importance of the meeting (and I've heard this from a few different people over the years...)

"What’s cool about this is that you get all the AHJs in one place ... The most important people there are the AHJs. you’ve got the president APCO—the 911 people. etc., you can just ride the bus with these guys. if you’re an integrator, you can get your views heard," Keith told me on location from Greece in '09.

Anyway, the whole reason I bring this up is that the most recent edition of CSAA's Signals wants you all to know that early bird pricing for the Venice trip is due to expire next Friday, Aug. 19. Early bird registration secures $150 savings per person off the regular rate.

Here's some of what you can expect at the Annual Meeting, should it be in your budget to go:

Early bird registration deadline: Friday, Aug. 19, 2011

Registration deadline: Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

Special tours registration deadline: Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

Hotel reservation/cancellation deadline: Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011

Airport transportation form deadline: Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

2011 CSAA Annual Meeting: Oct. 14-19, 2011

The keynote address is being given by FST21 founder Israeli general Aharon Zeevi Farkash. I've met the General a few times and interviewed him at this past year's ISC West. That promises to be a good talk. FST21's been seeing a lot of press lately, too.

In addition to his talk, CSAA will also offer the following educational sessions at its Annual Meeting:

* An AHJ president’s open forum.

* The current state of acquisitions and mergers.

* Alarm communications technologies.

* A nationwide public safety broadband wireless network.

* The ASAP to PSAP program.

* An update on PERS’ initiatives.

* Cloud computing: security as a service.

* Residential technologies of tomorrow.

For more information on the annual meeting head to CSAA's site, or call John McDonald, CSAA Vice President of Meetings, at 703-242-4670, ext. 17.




Golf, anyone? Market limited for house in fraud case

Monday, August 8, 2011

For sale: House in Vero Beach, Fla. Priced to sell at $1.49 million (it was valued earlier this year at $1.7 million to $1.9 million). Must like golf.

Under a judge’s order, the house is up for sale to benefit investors defrauded of more than $80 million in a Ponzi scheme allegedly run by security alarm industry investors Timothy McGinn and David L. Smith. Smith and his wife bought the home 10 years ago.

But the property on Orchid Point Way is proving difficult to sell, partly because it’s in an exclusive gated community for golfers, according to a court filing this month.

McGinn and Smith were principals of McGinn, Smith & Co., an Albany, N.Y.-based investment firm that conducted investment dealings in the alarm industry. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against them last year, contending that from 2003 to 2009, the pair diverted funds into financially troubled entities and also into their own pockets, and for such expenses as paying for exotic dancers on McGinn’s You Only Live Once cruise ship business. The pair’s assets have been frozen and a receiver appointed.

A judge this February ordered the Smiths’ vacation home be sold. But the receiver wrote to the judge on Aug. 4, saying there’s a water leak in the garage and the pool is not functional. The receiver said the Smiths haven’t paid their homeowners or floor insurance premiums for the house, so he recently bought new policies that cost $10,000 per year.

Also, receiver William J. Brown wrote: “While the broker has worked hard to sell the home, and we have looked at a number of creative ways of trying to sell the home, it is a difficult market in a gated golfing community which is very expensive to reside in and appears to appeal to only the most avid golfers as a general rule.”

Brown said he is going to continue to evaluate the equity in the property.


Guards in my inbox

Thursday, August 4, 2011

For a change of pace, there’s been some guard news in my inbox this week. Earlier this week peHUB reported that Wind Point Partners closed a deal with Goldman Sachs Capital Partners to sell its guard company U.S. Security Associates

From the release: “U.S. Security provides security services for over 3,000 clients, with 146 branches across the United States and Puerto Rico. Wind Point acquired U.S. Security Associates (f/k/a Outsource Partners) in 1999 in partnership with CEO Chuck Schneider. Chuck co-founded U.S. Security in 1993 and previously served as CEO of Borg-Warner Security. He will continue to lead U.S. Security Associates and invested in the company alongside Goldman Sachs Capital Partners

U.S. Security Associates is a premier national provider of uniformed contract security services. Our more than 33,000 employees across more than 140 offices serve several thousand clients in a variety of industries across the country."

Then yesterday, I got more information on this deal and about the guard business in general from Robert Perry’s White Paper on the U.S. Security Guard Industry.  Perry reports that U.S. Security Associates is a $900 million company, and this deal is the latest in a busy year of guard company acquisitions. He includes a list of announced guard transactions and says, “the list certainly indicates that the buyers have been very busy in the past 12 months and there does not seem to be any slow down in sight.”

But is the guard market growing? Not recently, according to Perry: “Most industry experts are saying that today’s security guard market, to include only traditional

guarding services, is in the $17—$18 billion range; almost no change since our last report. Therefore, we’ll use $18 billion.”

Perry identifies four developments that present future challenges for guard companies: the new national health care bill; unionization of the guard industry; increase in Federal income, capital gains an inheritance taxes; and, higher unemployment and other taxes.

There are lots more details in this report. To check it out visit


POTS legislation imminent?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So I was reading through my email the other day and I came across the most current edition of Ken Kirschenbaum's e-newsletter on the security industry.

One reader of Ken's asked about POTS and legislation regarding the imminent demise of the communications pathway with which the industry has grown up.

Ken put the question out there and asked if anyone could offer some help.

Now POTS lines, communications pathway alternatives and the FCC's actions with POTS and other communications mediums are topics about which I've written a lot.

I have a call out to my contact at the FCC as well as to a friend with the AICC to see if there is anything current to report on the FCC's developing Broadband Plan as well as any legislation out there currently.

Here's the question posed to Ken in its entirety:

Hello Ken,

We are about to embark on a new marketing campaign to "cut the cord" and I wanted to know what legislation is currently out there on landlines. I know there has been some talk about landlines coming to an end within the next decade or so, but I was wondering if there was anything more specific-maybe at a state level. I am having trouble finding information on line and was told by Amy that you are the expert in the field. Could you maybe point me in the right direction on where to search?

Thanks for your time. I greatly appreciate it.



Last time I talked with FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield in the beginning of 2010 he told me there was going to be a big job of work getting any sort of solid plan ready for implementation.

"There was a requirement in the stimulus bill that the FCC develop a national broadband plan for congress within a year. The purpose of the plan is to look at how to make broadband more universal and more affordable and address a number of national purposes, including national security, public safety, homeland security and education—a whole laundry list of things. So we’ve been gathering a lot of data. There were 28 public notices, directly relevant to broadband," Mark told me last year. "The broadband plan is supposed to be delivered to congress by Feb. 17 and it’ll have a lot of recommendations on rulemaking that the commission should move forward on. I can’t say right now what the recommendation would be, but this public notice certainly asks for a lot of data."

While I was putting this post together I heard back from Mark over at the FCC. He said he didn't think there was anything going on right now.

"I think certainly there's a recognition that networks are evolving to more IP-based networks, but I don't think there is any sort of proceedings to shut down the PSTN. AT&T has filed a petition talking about that and it's out for comment," Mark told me. "Certainly, we're focused on incentives for IP networks in terms of how the current regulatory structures may incentivize people who might want to keep older networks rather than make networks that are more advanced, IP-based networks ... But there's nothing else to really report, other than AT&T's petition."

AT&T's petition can be found here.

At that time, when rumblings of a possible POTS sunset began to surface, I also talked with Vector Security's Rick Simpson. He was pretty insistent that even if POTS went away today the tech exists to make the transition.

"If you called me up today and said, ‘Listen I don’t have any landline phones in my house. I have an alarm system and I have a network connection. Can you monitor me?’ I’d say ‘Yeah, we can.’ Honeywell, Bosch, DMP a couple others out there today have devices that allow us to take that information and transmit it back to the central station,” Rick told me at the time. “This is not a major issue … There’s enough technology out there available to us to be able to connect and monitor any system out there.”

I also have a call out to Lou Fiore at the AICC, from whom I waiting to hear back now.

On the same topic, I also picked up a LinkedIn discussion started by IPAlarm's Steve Nutt in the Alarm Monitoring Group. I've talked with Steve before about telcos, the PSTN and alternative communications pathways like VoIP, GSM and broadband.

He shared a story and topical question:

How not to handle migration away from PSTN

I was recently contacted by an alarm monitoring company in Bulgaria who had switched all the lines within their own premises from PSTN to VoIP. The majority of their systems stopped functioning correctly and they were getting all sorts of communication errors.

Bulgaria has the highest level of software piracy in Europe and it was quite funny how they contacted me with the expectation that I would immediately send them everything we had ever developed without pausing for a moment to discuss the simple matter of cost.

Anyhoo, it reminded me of a misconception (one of many) that I had stored in my head about the demise of PSTN. I had only ever thought about what would happen when customers no longer had the option of a landline, when in fact the situation could arise where a monitoring company no longer had the option either.

I have no idea if this is what happened to the monitoring company in Bulgaria as our communication ended very abruptly, but I can't help wondering how many other monitoring company owners worldwide have contemplated this happening to them.

I am working with a company in the Caribbean and the owner told me it's not possible for anyone to order a new installation of a PSTN line any more. I'm not sure how many countries would have a similar situation right now, but you'd have to guess that the number might increase rapidly over the next five years.

What is the situation with PSTN in your country?

Security industry consultant and CTO at Systems Support Specialists Mark Fischer responded:

Here in the U.S. the problem on the central station side is that the communications carriers are using VoIP as part of their network "upgrades." So the central station my be served by PSTN or T1 connections, and the subscriber may have plain POTS, but all of sudden systems stop communicating form certain areas, because backbones from an area are being routed over a VoIP connection by a carrier in the routing chain.

What I find amazing is the number of installing alarm companies that are in denial about the problem, they believe that because they made a format change or are able to get a few test signals through that they have provided reliable communications. What they do not understand is how VoIP really works and how it is treated on the Networks, the difference between tier1, facility based solutions and secondary level providers, and the effects of network load. Not to mention backup power issues both on site and off.

The fact is that VoIP is the going to be the future of land line telecommunications for the foreseeable future. Central Stations and installing companies need to provide migration paths for their subs to ensure reliability of monitoring services.

There are lots more comments that I won't get into here.

Interesting conversation. I'll update this post and tweet should I hear back from Lou from the AICC side.

Let me know what you've heard in your municipalities re: POTS or PSTN legislation.

ESA conducts survey on alarming trend

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I just wrote about a battle ongoing in Illinois over public entities taking control of fire alarm monitoring away from the industry. Even though a federal judge recently ruled in favor of ADT and some other alarm companies that state law doesn’t give fire protection district the authority to be in the fire alarm monitoring business, municipalities in Illinois are interpreting part of the ruling to assert they still have the right to mandate all alarms be monitored by them.

But the problem isn’t just in Illinois, according to the Electronic Security Association. A recent post by the ESA Integrator, the ESA’s news site, says that cities and towns across the country are looking to raise revenues by getting into the alarm monitoring business. The ESA is conducting a survey to learn the extent of the problem.

Here’s more from the ESA:

“A hot issue in the industry right now is municipalities across the country, seeking ways to increase revenue, looking at entering the alarm business by either offering monitoring services to residential or commercial alarm users or mandating that all alarms be monitored by the municipality. ESA has created a survey that every member should take to help us determine the breadth of the problem nationwide.

To take the survey, visit




Reputed mob boss appeals ADT fraud conviction

Monday, August 1, 2011

Security Systems News has written previously about Vincent Artuso, who was sentenced in 2009 to nine years in federal prison for his role in a real-estate scam to bilk ADT out of millions of dollars.

Now, according to a recent Associated Press story, Artuso, reputed to be a captain of the Gambino crime family's South Florida operations, has asked a federal appeals court to throw out his conviction. Artuso’s lawyers claim that prosecutors in the trial used “prejudicial evidence” about organized crime that wasn’t related to the fraud charges, the story states.

Here’s more from the July 27 report:

“Vincent Artuso's attorneys asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to toss the conviction because prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to convict him of fraud and racketeering charges involving a scam that targeted ADT Security Services Inc. They also claim the trial was tainted by a biased juror.

But federal prosecutors countered that there was ample evidence in video recordings, audiotapes and court testimony that proved Artuso was a "made member" who ran a South Florida crew for the notorious crime family. And they said defense attorneys should have raised objections at trial if they were concerned about the juror.

Artuso was convicted of the charges in a 2008 trial after prosecutors built a case contending he was a captain of the Gambino crime family and directed a powerful crew that included his own son.

Prosecutors also asserted that Artuso was linked to the infamous hit that led to John Gotti's rise to power. They cited FBI affidavits and other evidence indicating Artuso was present on Dec. 16, 1985, when former Gambino boss Paul Castellano was gunned down in front of a Manhattan steakhouse — allegedly on Gotti's orders.

Gotti, known as the "Teflon Don" for his ability to avoid criminal convictions, was convicted in 1992 of racketeering and murder and died in prison a decade later.

Artuso was never charged in the Castellano killing, but prosecutors in January 2008 accused him of setting up a sale and leasing scheme involving four office buildings owned by ADT Security Services that defrauded the company of at least $11 million over five years. He and three others were convicted of the charges in October 2008.”



Potter Electric helps young burn survivors

Friday, July 29, 2011

It’s summer and almost time for a camp that gives children who are burn survivors a chance to enjoy everyday camp activities and also build their self-esteem with support from each other. And it’s thanks to sponsors such the Potter Electric Signal Co. that the youngsters have the opportunity to attend such a special place free of charge.

For more than 10 years, Potter has supported the Burns Recovered Support Group, which is hosting the annual Missouri Children’s Burn Camp Aug. 8-12 this year at Camp Sabra, in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, according to a recent company press release.

Here’s more from the release:

The Missouri Children’s Burn Camp provides a special experience for young burn survivors to interact with one another and have a positive effect on their attitude and self-image. The camp hosts between 75 and 85 children each session, where campers enjoy swimming, boating, archery, water skiing, fishing, zip lines, ropes courses, and crafts. This year, the BRSG we will be hosting 2 children from Peru to attend the camp, as well as native Missouri and Kansas residents.

Judy Nyhoff, Inside Sales Manager for the Sprinkler and Industrial division of Potter Electric, has been a member of the BRSG Board of Directors for 4 years and personally involved with the camp for 7 years. During that time, she has acted as a camp chaperone, counselor, and group leader. She said, “Burn camp is truly an amazing experience, not only for the campers, but for everyone involved. During the years of my participation, both my husband and my son have joined me in attending and volunteering at camp. Helping the campers see their true beauty and potential makes the experiences worthwhile.”

Missouri Children’s Burn Camp was founded in 1997. Due to the support of many wonderful sponsors and volunteers like Potter, there is no charge to any camper for participation in this program.  Burns Recovered Support Group sponsors all the children interested in attending camp. Missouri Children’s Burn Camp is for any child, 6-17, who has been hospitalized for burns.

For more information about the Burns Recovered Support Group or Missouri Children’s Burn camp, call 314-997-2757, or visit


Security + fire = More business

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Security companies often come across customers who also have fire needs, but if they don’t do fire, they have to turn those business opportunities down.

But now ADI, the Melville, N.Y.-based wholesale suppliers of security and low-voltage products, is offering a free course to show you how to add fire to your product offerings.

According to the company, “the ADI Spring Into Fire Roadshow offers an accredited training class (2 hours) provided by Fire-Lite Alarms. Designed to help you expand your business into fire protection and safety, this course will provide detailed information on how you can get started in this market today. The class will review current market trends, leading fire solutions and life safety technology. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how you can grow your profits.”

Sounds like an opportunity.

The ADI Spring Into Fire Roadshow began earlier this month. Here’s a list of upcoming locations and dates (all class run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and include lunch): Dallas, Aug. 2; Pompano, Fla., Aug. 2; Houston, Aug. 4; Greensboro, N.C., Aug. 9; Pittsburgh, Aug. 9; Seattle, Aug. 9; Elmsford, N.Y., Aug. 9; Tampa, Fla., Aug. 9; Orange, Calif., Aug. 10; North Hollywood, Calif., Aug. 11; Minneapolis, Minn., Aug. 11; San Leandro, Calif., Aug. 16; Fresno, Calif., Aug. 18; Portland, Ore., Aug. 19; Sacramento, Calif., Aug. 23; Denver, Aug. 24; and Elk Grove, Ill., Aug. 31.


Detection, verification, apprehension and deterrence

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I received some emails lately that remind me of the importance of converged verification technologies in security. I'm talking about verification, of course, something about which I've written plenty.

Of course, avid readers of my blog and stories are familiar with Keith Jentoft and his company RSI Video Technologies whose Videofied has been delivering verification, apprehensions and deterrence and securing priority response from increasing numbers of PDs everywhere. There's more than one way to verify an alarm, however. Sonitrol Pacific is tweeting out success stories pretty regularly, too. Of course, not everyone's down with verification and I've looked at that too. And of course, not all the verification/priority response legwork is coming from the Videofied camp.

Recently, I got an email from David Smith over at C.O.P.S. He wanted to let me know how thrilled they were to catch some bad guys in the act, report to the local PD and be an active part in apprehending some perps. Dave said C.O.P.S. couldn't be happier.

"I thought you might like to know that we caught a burglar in the act!" Dave told me. Dave shared a link with me of the verified crime in progress and the apprehension. Nice work guys.

I also recently got an email from Minu Seshasayee with Interprose PR. She was letting me know about a new gig for March Networks helping to protect, via video, a large solar farm in Italy. I met Minu at ISC West recently. I always appreciate hearing what's going on in the world of video surveillance.

I've written about similar situations here in the U.S. where expensive equipment like solar panels, and of course copper piping are at constant risk of theft.

Seems like a no brainer to me. Verification is a value add.

Energetic Vivint

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vivint has been in the news this year for changing its name from APX Alarm to signal the Provo, Utah-based company’s expansion from home security into home automation.

A big part of home automation is energy management and the summer-sales-model Vivint is increasingly involved with energy solutions. First, there was the company’s acquisition late last year of a company that installed smart meters for utilities. Then, this month, Vivint announced it has a new energy division, Vivint Energy, and a new president to lead that division.

Here’s more from the July 19 press release:

“Vivint has hired Tanguy Serra as president of the company’s newly formed Energy Division. The new Vivint Energy division pulls together the company’s smart meter installation capabilities, energy management services and renewable energy initiatives. The division will continue to expand the company’s role in providing smart energy solutions for consumers and utilities."

"In his new role, Serra will lead the company’s energy initiatives, as well as oversee day-to-day operations and bottom-line performance of the division. Serra will report to the company’s COO Alex Dunn."

"Prior to joining Vivint, Serra served for seven years as a vice president at TPG, a leading global private investment firm with $48 billion of capital under management across a family of funds. Serra worked in TPG’s London office, where he was on the team that managed the successful buyout of TIM Hellas Telecommunications SA, one of Europe’s leading mobile telecommunications firms. Serra also worked in Singapore and Hong Kong, leading TPG’s investment in HKE, a leading Chinese renewable energy company. Most recently, he worked in TPG’s San Francisco office, where he focused on renewable energy investments in the United States. Before working with TPG, Serra served on Merrill Lynch’s Energy Investment Banking Team. He also worked at Morgan Stanley Capital Partners and Deloitte."

“Tanguy’s experience will be a tremendous benefit to our organization. We are very excited to have him as part of our management team,” said Alex Dunn, the company’s COO. “The demand for additional energy-related services led us to launch this new division, and with his expertise, we will be able to provide innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy services to our growing customer base. Since the initial introduction of our energy-related services almost a year ago, we have seen an overwhelming response. We currently have more than 60,000 energy management customers and an adoption rate for energy management services of 45 percent.”