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And the winner of the “Security Oscar” is….

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I love Meryl Streep but her Oscar win Sunday night felt a little bit “been there, done that” to me. Not matter how deserved, it was her third, so where was the thrill?

So thank goodness for Don Moore, president of Moore Protection, a security company based in Redondo Beach, Calif., who instituted the Morpheus Award—which I like to call the “Security Oscar.” At Academy Awards time each year, Moore Protection presents the “Morphie” to a film “that best depicts the realistic use of modern security technology in mainstream media”—and it’s always a fun surprise to see which movie is chosen.

This year, the 2012 Morpheus Award went to “Tower Heist,” starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and Alan Alda. In a Feb. 27 news release from Moore Protection sent out, the 2011 movie is described as “a comedy-action film about a team of disgruntled working-class employees plotting to reclaim money that has been stolen from them by a greedy Wall Street mogul. In order to accomplish this, their team must, in addition to many other obstacles, circumvent the high tech surveillance system in place at the mogul’s home located in the penthouse of a high-rise Manhattan apartment building.”

John Akouris, VP of Moore Protection and the company’s resident film buff explained in the release what made director Brett Ratner’s treatment of security stand out. “Another director might have chosen to deal with defeating the security measures in a more fantastic, but less believable, way. Mr. Ratner, in keeping with his characters’ ‘blue collar’ ethic, used a more practical approach, and it worked to advance the story line more realistically,” Akouris said.

In Greek mythology, Morpheus was the name of the god of dreams and visions. If movies had been invented then, likely he would have been in charge of those too.

Moore has previously told me that his company for years just has usually announced the award internally and to clients. But he began announcing it publicly last year to highlight the positive uses of security technology in Hollywood, especially during awards season.

Also, he has said, “the Morpheus Award is an excuse to remind customers to use their alarm systems.”

"It never fails that someone experiences a burglary during one of the many awards shows,” he said. “Thieves know when they see limousines all over these affluent hillside communities of L.A. that the chances of finding an empty home full of valuable goodies increase exponentially. It’s a target-rich environment for burglars all year long, but the odds of a homeowner distracted by thoughts of red carpets and neglecting to arm their security system before leaving for an event make their illegal activities a lot easier.”

Moore also warned homeowners to take responsibility for their alarms. “Show business people often have assistants and household staff to which they have delegated the task of turning on their alarm system, and this is a dangerous practice. If a crime is committed while the system is disarmed it is the owner, not the assistant, which is put at risk. I encourage all my clients to personally arm and disarm their systems daily and test them at least monthly.”

Can’t wait to see the movie!

2GIG’s “sleek” panel is “elegant,” The WSJ says

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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Wall Street Journal just gave a nice nod to 2GIG, touting the 2GIG Alarm Kit in a recent technology article.

In the piece entitled, “Safe at Home,” which is about easy-to-install, tech-friendly security systems and written by Michael Hsu, the WSJ singles out 2GIG’s alarm system in this way:
 

You can't judge an alarm system by how it looks, but the 2GIG Alarm Kit's control panel is so much more elegant than any other security solution out there, it's hard to justify devoting the wall space to anything else. Instead of a clunky keypad that makes you feel like you're working the midnight shift at a convenience store, the 2GIG control panel is a sleek white box with a color touchscreen.

And Hsu says it’s easy to install and he also noted other features he likes about the product of 2GIG, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based home security systems developer, such as:

 

The best part about 2GIG is how it integrates with the rest of your house. By adding compatible devices, like a thermostat and lamp module, you can have the system lower the heat and turn lights on or off when you arm the system.

 

According to Wikipedia, the WSJ is the largest newspaper in the United States, with a circulation of 2.1 million copies (including 400,000 online paid subscriptions) in 2010. That's a lot of potential security customers!

Congress passes NG 911 provision: Is it a threat to PSAPs?

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

At more than 100 pages, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012—H.R. 3630, the so-called "payroll tax" bill that passed Congress last week—is a daunting read for just about anyone outside the Capitol. There's a lot in it that doesn't pertain to tax relief or job creation, including items of great interest to the alarm industry, and now it is law.

A lot was changed during the months-long process of getting the bill through the partisan morass, but one item of concern to the alarm industry survived intact: language defining "Next Generation 911 services" and the possibility of unverified PERS calls going directly to PSAPs. Despite the efforts of Alarm Industry Communications Committee, which worked with the National Emergency Number Association on revisions to the language, H.R. 3630 passed without the requested changes as the bill accelerated through a congressional conference committee.

There is a silver lining, though. The AICC was told by congressmen that the NG 911 provision would only authorize a limited number of demonstration projects, and that it did not authorize the Federal Communications Commission to permit automated unverified calls to go directly to PSAPs.

I'll have more details soon, along with a look at the proposed auction of frequency spectrum that could affect the monitoring industry.

Long Island’s got burglaries, Honeywell has solution

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Talk about serendipitous product placement—Ron Rothman, president of Honeywell Security Group, was featured in Newsday this week, talking about Honeywell’s new Tuxedo Touch, a security/automation product for homes that can also be used by businesses. And the article on him just happened to appear in the newspaper on the same day Newsday’s cover story was on the rising number of burglaries at homes and businesses on Long Island.

“Of course, this is technology that can help address the rising number of burglaries,” noted David Gottlieb, Honeywell’s global marketing communications leader, in Honeywell’s new blog, called The Security Channel.

Both Honeywell Security Group and Newsday are based in Melville, N.Y. Rothman was profiled on Monday, Feb. 20, in a regular business feature in the paper titled “Executive Suite.” He’s pictured holding a Tuxedo Touch monitor and answering such questions as this:
 

What are some new developments at your company? 
We just released our new Tuxedo Touch, a home controller with a color touch-screen display, which controls the security system, thermostats, lighting controls, window shades, locks and other devices. Also, the systems have the ability to send you a video clip of an activity that occurs when you are not home -- so you might have a package being delivered, a child coming home from school, your elderly parent going into the kitchen -- the camera will capture and send you a 10-second clip.

And on the cover of the same paper is an article about a dramatic increase in burglaries on Long Island. Newsday said that police cite a number of reasons—including the relatively warm winter this year:

Officials blame the burglary uptick on a variety of factors, from desperate junkies craving money for opiate painkillers to the high price of precious metals. And the weather. Last year's snow and cold might have kept prospective burglars inside, [Nassau police Chief Steven] Skrynecki said.

"At this time last year," he said, "we were under snow from almost the beginning of the year through February."

 

Behavioral analytics chief promises details on deals

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

While panelists on a TechSEc educational panel said video analytics are alive and well,  I spoke to BRS Labs’ CEO John Frazzini last week and he's sticking with his declaration from the September ASIS show.   The verdict on video analytics is in, he says, they died in 2011.

He won’t comment on any involvement BRS may or may not have with the World Trade Center project in New York, though a recent New York Post story was talking about BRS and the WTC,  but he did say that the company will have big news this quarter.

And while Frazzini takes pains to point out that BRS Labs does not consider its product "video analytics" (it’s behavioral analytics—and BRS will be receiving an umbrella patent for its technology in the next couple of months he said), he said BRS Labs' technology is being spec’d in (soon to be revealed) projects will have dollar amounts “far exceeding” any other video technology contracts.

I’ll let you know when I hear any specifics on these projects.

Talk at Barnes Buchanan: Cable companies' motivation for entering security

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I am just back this week from our TechSec new technology conference.

Unable to make it? There’s lots of coverage of on the site about the various the educational sessions--Mobile Apps; Ensuring your cloud provider is secure; the keynote; Video analytics; and, Emerging technology. 

TechSec took place in Delray Beach, Fla. on Feb. 7 & 8, after which I headed up Route 1A to The Breakers in Palm Beach for the Barnes Buchanan Security Alarm conference which took place Feb. 9 and 10.

You may wonder how a hardy New Englander such as myself can stand so much warm weather. It’s not easy, but I’ve toughed out these back-to-back conferences for a few years running.

It’s at Barnes Buchanan that I get an overview of the capital and debt markets, hear from lenders, and attend panel discussions (often remarkably candid) featuring leaders of some of the industry’s  major alarm companies.

The focus of the conference tends to be more residential and small business, but as more and more integrators get into the RMR business, there’s more information about these companies at  Barnes Buchanan. According to Barnes, overall monitoring and service revenue was up 5 percent in 2011 to $18 billion from $17.2 billion in 2010 and $16.3 billion in 2009. There’s been a notable increase in the number of integrators who have an RMR component (not just maintenance contracts) in the past three years.  That sounds like good news to me.

That last tidbit is from Michael Barnes’ annual Industry and Market Overview--which features a feast of numbers on monitoring revenue, M&A activity sliced and diced and served up in a lively presentation.

Mike’s two-hour overview always includes a lot of back and forth with the audience and this year. This year,  there was a lot of talk about new entrants.

Many, many questions started out this way: “If Comcast acquires ADT ...” Barnes himself said he expects cable companies to do some acquiring soon and “ADT’s likely the first one to get picked off.”

The cable company that picks off ADT would instantly get 28 percent of the resi market share. Tied for No. 2, with 2 percent apiece are Monitronics, Vivint, Pro1 and Stanley.

But Barnes asked an interesting question: Will big cable companies really be motivated by the economics of the security industry? The security industry, he said, is just not that big in comparison to the giant telco and cable industry.

He talked about visiting Comcast--a major enterprise—and noted that a cable company that decides to go into security has a lot of barriers to overcome.

But, say for argument’s sake, a cable company does a truly bang-up job and starts creating a large number of accounts. Say that cable company grows like Vivint, Barnes posited.

Vivint has gone from no accounts in 2006 to 600,000 accounts today. Most would agree it’s had remarkable growth and success in a short length of time in this industry. But, Barnes said, however impressive that is, will 600,000 accounts in five years really wow the board of a cable company that has 24 million subscribers?

One reason the Bell companies that got involved in security in the last decade left, he said, is “they can’t make [the security piece] big enough.”

We're putting final touches on the March printed issue of SSN today, but I'll have more on the Barnes Buchanan conference later this week and next.

 

 

SW24 sees bright future for guards

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

“Guards, gates and guns.”

That was the standard for the security industry 20 years ago, as cited by Edward Levy, VP and global head of security for Thomson Reuters, during his keynote address at last week’s TechSec conference in Delray Beach, Fla. But while technology has clearly raised the bar since then, allowing many companies to reduce the number of boots on the ground, a contradictory fact remains: The age of the guard is not over.

To prove the point, look no further than the streets of New York, where SecureWatch24 has announced plans to move aggressively into guard services. The company was recently awarded a contract to supply unarmed guards at an Ivy League alumni club in Manhattan, and it intends to continue to push into this segment with its own training program.

“We’re moving into the guard sector in a big way,” said Jay Stuck, VP of sales and chief marketing officer for SW24, which specializes in property surveillance and video monitoring. “We think it’s pretty compatible with the technology initiatives we have going right now. Our view is that the two can work hand in hand. … At the end of the day, you’re still going to need guys in navy blazers.”

While Stuck sees a bright future for the guard segment, what does the rest of the industry think? You can weigh at rmiller@securitysystemsnews.com.

Jaunty talk about behavioral analytics

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Scanning my inbox, and my SIA update this morning, I saw this perky piece from the New York Post, talking about Port Authority "brass" secretly deploying "military grade" and "science-fiction like" security systems

Sounded so intriguing, but the only real detail in the story is that BRS Labs (purveyor of behavioral analytics) is apparently working with the Port Authority down at the new World Trade Center.

Coincidentally, I'm speaking with BRS Labs brass John Frazzini on Thursday--so will have some more details for you then.

Experts shine on TechSec stage

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

While sunny Florida hasn’t quite lived up to its billing—blue sky has been scarce, at least so far —the eighth annual TechSec, a two-day conference being held in Delray Beach, is definitely meeting expectations.

Many of the security industry’s top players are here, and the presentations and discussions have been lively. The monitoring world was well represented at Tuesday’s session, with Morgan Hertel, VP and general manager for Mace CS, and Jerry Cordasco, VP of operations for G4S Technology, among the presenters. Do video analytics really work? Is your cloud provider secure? Those were among the topics debated, with some energetic exchanges between the audience and the experts on the dais.

Day Two kicked off with William Rhodes, a market analyst for IMS Research, giving TechSec attendees a look at what to expect in video surveillance technology in 2012 and beyond. The rest of the day features sessions on implementing current vs. emerging technology in long-term projects; PIV (personal identity verification) being propelled into the private sector; and SaaS (software as a service) and ROI for the end user.

The conference wraps up with the next generation of security practitioners discussing new technology and how it will affect the industry. Four members of Security Directors News’ “20 Under 40” class of 2012 are on the panel, including Whit Chaiyabhat, director of emergency management and operational continuity at Georgetown University, and Christopher Chapeta, physical security specialist for Chevron.

I had the chance to talk with both of them yesterday, and for anyone in the security industry skeptical of those who have grown up with the Internet, cellphones and social media, I have good news: If these folks are typical of those who will guide the industry in the future, it’s in good hands.

For those who couldn’t join the TechSec this year, there’s always 2013. And you can get a taste of what you missed in the coming days in SSN. 

Problems at Platinum redux

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I wrote last week about Platinum Protection suddenly laying off most of its employees. I’m still gathering information about what led to that abrupt Feb. 2 action by the summer model sales company based in American Fork, Utah, and want to make sure I have as many facts as possible before publishing a story.

I’ve yet to hear from anyone at Platinum in response to requests for comment. I’m told by a knowledgeable company insider—an employee who was among some 600 corporate, sales, technical and other staff let go last week—that the company kept on five or six employees to try to figure out what to with about 6,000 accounts that Platinum kept in house.

However, this person said the company at this point doesn’t have the finances or personnel to continue with its plans to bring on about 25,000 accounts this summer, as it did last summer. “You lose your sales force, you lose your entire company,” the employee told me. Other summer sales companies are busy signing up some of Platinum’s former sales reps and technicians, the person said.

The person said a company owner announced to employees last Thursday, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but Platinum is closing its doors and all employees are terminated effective immediately and I’m really sorry this happened.”

The employee said: “People were bawling. They had never been through something like this before. They didn’t know you could have a job for years and all of a sudden they tell you, ‘Sorry, you’re done.’ … There’s no severance, no nothing.”

I’m still digging into whether this had anything to do with a recent lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, charging that the two men who provided the start-up capital for Platinum six years ago have been running a $220 million Ponzi scheme.

Platinum has stressed that Utah real estate magnate Wendell Jacobson and his son, Allen Jacobson, are no longer owners of the company, which was founded in 2006.

But what I’m hearing is that negative publicity generated by the lawsuit, filed this past December, did nothing to help Platinum financially.

I'll continue to report on this story. Stay tuned.

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