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Barnes/SSN survey takes pulse of industry

 - 
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How did the wholesale monitoring industry hold up in 2011? Michael Barnes knows.

Barnes, founding partner of Barnes Associates, a consulting and advisory firm specializing in the security alarm industry, recently completed a joint survey with Security Systems News that involved the biggest players in the industry. It was the second year that Barnes has conducted the survey with SSN, and it provided some interesting insights.

Without completely tipping Barnes’ hand, let’s just say that the industry grew. I had a chance to find out more about it this week in conversations with two leaders of the monitoring world, Russ MacDonnell of Rapid Response and Don Maden of COPS Monitoring. They both confirmed what the Barnes/SSN survey found, and that bodes well for the industry.

I’ll have more about the survey soon, both on the SSN website and in the April issue.

CSAA webinars: The Central Station Alarm Association has two sessions on tap that promise to be of interest to members and nonmembers alike.

“Building a Partnership with Insurers,” scheduled for 1 to 2 p.m. March 14, will focus on how insurers are resurrecting the insurance/alarm industry/law enforcement triad for lower losses and greater profits. “Social Media in the Central Station,” set for April 18 from 1 to 2 p.m., will examine the benefits and hazards of Facebook and Twitter in the monitoring workplace.

For more information on either webinar, contact Stephanie Morgan at smorgan@csaaintl.org or call 703-242-4670, Ext. 15.

Consultants, manufacturers and integrators mix at AMAG SES

 - 
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I spent the past two days at AMAG Technology’s Security Engineering Symposium here in St. Petersburg, Fla.

It was the 11th annual AMAG SES event, with about 90 consultants in attendance. “We handpick the best consultants in the industry and invite them here,” AMAG director of business development Jody Ross told me. More consultants than ever before attended, she said, and about “45 to 50 percent of them were new faces.”

According to informal surveys at the event, business is good these days for the consultants. Eighty percent of consultants said they’re working on new business currently, as opposed to more jobs for existing clients. In a show of hands, about 75 percent said they are “busy or very busy” and about 40 percent say they’re looking to hire more consultants.

Ed Chandler of Security by Design, a frequent attendee at this event, said he checked up on improvements included in the new version (V7.1) of AMAG’s Symmetry access control and security management system. He also views the event as an opportunity to give product feedback to AMAG and other manufacturing partners who attend the event, he said.

Coincidentally, I’d just interviewed Ed’s wife and business partner, Lorna Chandler, last week. She will be SSN’s featured specifier in our “Specifically Speaking” column in the April issue of SSN. Each month, we do a Q & A with a different specifier, (supplied to SSN by SecuritySpecifiers.com), and I also had a chance to meet three other specifiers in person who are alumni of the SpecificallySpeaking column (Michael Crocker, Mark Peterson and Ted Wheaton)  

AMAG’s manufacturing partners this year, included HID and Stentofon, which have both been at all 11 AMAG SES symposiums. Dan Rothrock of Stentofon demoed a new (extremely audible) audio product called “Turbine.”

One point emphasized by Rothrock and AMAG at the event is that both are typically considered ideal for enterprise solutions, but both offer solutions for smaller applications,—that’s fewer than 16 readers for AMAG, and for Stentafon, “a two to 16-station IP-solution that doesn’t need a server or software licenses,” Rothrock said.  

Hawkeye Technologies showcased its Harmony web-based solution that enables users to interface with AMAG’s Symmetry solution using any device with a web browser.

SRI International Sarnoff  showed off its iris-readers, a walk-by solution and a handheld solution. I saw a demo where a guy’s iris was recognized when he was wearing tri-focal sunglasses. It’s not cheap, the readers run around $2,800 for the stationary readers and $20,000 for the handheld, but the price has come down substantially, and these guys claim that their solution—because it works at some distance (relative to other solutions) —is more valuable. Plus, they say it’s the most accurate biometric next to retinal scans and Stephen Piro, business development director for SRI said: “administration and recurring ownership cost is extremely low.”  It’s been implemented at an athletic facility at Auburn University and elsewhere. Niche-y but cool stuff.  

Assa Abloy brought its demo bus to the event. The focus was on its wireless lock lines, which I’d seen at ASIS and ISC West last year, and its new resi phones-unlocking doors solution—a collaboration between Verizon and Yale, which was introduced at the CES show in January, and some say may migrate into the commercial world.

NEC’s Miguel Llerena told me that specifiers and integrators need to take more of an interest in the “how virtualization will play a role in this industry. They need to be aware and prepared,” he said.
He said he’s working on eight access control systems, AMAG and others, that use a virtualized server. “Virtualization will happen first, then private cloud and then the public cloud,” he predicted, and suggested that integrators get certified on VM ware or other virtualization platform.

Other partners at the event included Innometriks, Intransa, Milestone,  and Winstead.

AMAG’s Tina Seraphin, who joined the company one year ago and is spearheading the company’s new professional services offerings, described the program, which she said was launched in response to requests from consultants.
 
I'll have more on this, but it’s an extensive, structured program that provides a variety of extra support for integrators. “More frequently, we’re finding consultants are writing into specifications that professional services must be included in the project,” Jody Ross said. “It’s a safeguard, an extra layer … everyone can sleep better at night.”
 
There were also about 19 integrators at the AMAG event, as well as PSA Security’s Bill Bozeman. This is the second year that integrators have been invited to attend some of the consultant sessions yesterday and to participate in a kind of mini-conference which is scheduled to take place today (March 7). They’ll hear from AMAG and AMAG partners, but they’ll also have a consultant/reseller panel discussion and break-out sessions.

AMAG did this with five resellers last year, and decided to expand the number of integrators this year. The discussion will focus on the best ways to work together, Ross said. Last year both the consultants and integrators said it was “valuable to get input from the other side,” she said.

One integrator, Dan Kilgore of RFI Communications, attended consultant sessions on March 6 and was looking forward to the joint sessions today.

“I wanted to hear what they are being presented with and what we’ll be presented with tomorrow. If I can understand how they get to their frame of mind, that might help me to be a better resource to them,” he said. While it’s important to maintain a separation between the consultant and integrator, the two professions “oftentimes live in separate vacuums,” and that’s not helpful for integrator, specifier, end user or manufacturer, he said.  
 

NFSA gets new president

 - 
Monday, March 5, 2012

Russ Fleming is the new president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, following a vote by the organization’s board. Fleming replaces John Viniello, who retired effective the first of this month after 28 years on the job.

The board voted March 2 to select Fleming, the organization’s former executive VP, for the president’s post. A special NFSA committee met Jan. 25 to nominate him, Fleming told me at that time.

I’m trying to reach Fleming to learn more about his goals for the NFSA. I’d also like to learn more about who’s going to be the next executive VP.

Viniello announced Jan. 19 that he planned to retire. “I will turn 70 years of age at the end of February and it’s time to step down. It’s been a great run,” he said in a statement on the NFSA’s website.

Viniello told me he and Fleming had worked together for 25 years and “in my estimation, he’s the top engineer in the sprinkler industry.” Fleming sits on a number of National Fire Protection Association committees, Viniello said.

When asked what his own greatest accomplishment has been on the job, Viniello answered: “Oh, that’s easy. My staff.”

He said that when he became president in 1984, “the association was in dire financial trouble. People were being laid off and I was determined to look at the staff and assess who could get it done and who couldn’t.”

He said the association now has a “terrific” staff of more than 40 people. He said NFSA staff members are the “who’s who in the sprinkler industry. … I’m most proud of the staff that I’ve been able to assemble.”

Viniello said his previous careers included being a school guidance councilor and dean of admissions at Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus in New York City before becoming a regional manager for the NFSA in 1973. “I didn’t know a sprinkler from a water faucet when I first started. I had to learn, and I had a lot of good teachers,” he said.

In 1981, he left NFSA to work for Grinnell Fire Protection as head of their residential fire sprinkler division. “That was before fire sprinklers were really known for protecting homes and I guess I was considered one of the pioneers in that whole technology,” he said. He returned to NFSA to take the job as president.

Here’s more from the NFSA’s website on other votes by the board on March 2:
 

At its meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Friday, March 2, 2012, the NFSA Board of Directors elected the following members to two-year terms as officers, beginning immediately: Chairman, Dennis Coleman, Engineered Fire Protection, St. Louis; Treasurer, James Boulanger, Patriot Fire Protection, Seattle.
In addition, the following staff members were elected to officer positions: Russell P. Fleming, President; David J. Vandeyar, Secretary; Fred Barall, Senior Vice President of Industrial Relations; Kenneth E. Isman, P.E., Vice President of Engineering; Buddy Dewar, Vice President of Regional Operations; James F. Lynch, Vice President of Industrial Relations; James D. Lake, Vice President of Training & Education.
Two new members were also welcomed to the Board of Directors. Bruce LaRue of Potter Electric was elected as the new Chair of the Supplier and Manufacturers (SAM) Council, a position that carries a seat on the Board. In addition, Buck Buchannan was designated by Globe Fire Sprinkler as their new representative on the Sprinkler Manufacturers Council, and he was among the sprinkler manufacturers elected to a new two-year term on the Board of Directors. Congratulations to all the new officers and Board members!

 

Three out of four for Monitronics; Tweets for SIAC

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Make it three out of four for Monitronics.

The Dallas-based alarm monitoring firm was recently named Frost & Sullivan’s North American Company of the Year for 2011, adding to similar awards the company won in 2008 and 2010.

Frost & Sullivan praised Monitronics for maximizing value to clients by expanding its customer service operations and streamlining internal processes, resulting in record-low attrition for the year. The market researchers also cited the company’s “concerted efforts” to expand its dealer network, a point that wasn’t lost on Bruce Mungiguerra, VP of sales and dealer development for Monitronics.

“The biggest part for us, for our company and our dealers, is the way our program is modeled as a 100 percent dealer environment,” he told Security Systems News. “All of our business comes through our dealer network, and we really promote a high level of branding for our dealers to promote themselves and be their own local company.”

Mungiguerra said the award gives Monitronics’ dealers a big boost when it comes to marketing their services.

“Being able to have been recognized as the North American alarm provider of the year now for three years, it really helps give credibility to the dealers,” he said. “They can use those logos and that information on their branding to show what a great central station we are. … At the end of the day, our bread and butter is the ability to provide great monitoring services to retain our customers for a long time.”

Tweets for SIAC: Social media and the Security Industry Alarm Coalition? It might not sound like a match made in heaven, but SIAC sees the value of Tweets and blogs and is taking advantage of the new tools. Since launching its initiative a year ago, the group has attracted more than 100 followers on Twitter and 40 to 50 blog readers a week.

“While we have overcome many challenges, our industry continues to face significant issues in many communities,” said Stan Martin, SIAC’s executive director. “Social media helps us keep industry leaders informed on key issues in real time so that we can engage law enforcement and elected officials early in the decision-making process.”

SIAC’s weekly blog can be found at www.siacinc.wordpress.com, with Tweets at @SIACINC.

“It’s a long-term growth process to get more people involved in improving alarm management practices across the country,” said Dave Simon, SIAC’s communications director. “The first step is sending relevant, consistent information, and we believe these tools are effectively serving that purpose.”

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

 - 
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!

What you need to know about PIV

 - 
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If you don't do work with the federal government, should you care about what's going on with PIV (Personal Identity Verification) credentials? Isn't it just a credential that government agencies are required to use for access control?

PIV may not be moving into the private sector as rapidly as some proponents predicted years ago, but there is movement in that direction. Rob Zivney of Identive Group, David Belchick of Citibank, and Don Erickson, CEO of SIA, did a great educational session at TechSec this year about how PIV, the PIV-I (PIV-Interoperable) and CIV (Commercial Identity Verification) are moving into the private sector and how integrators can and should take advantage of this opportunity. (I’m working on a story for next week about that discussion).
 
But there was more information released today by the Smart Card Alliance Identity Council and Access Control Council, which I’ll be taking a look at and maybe you’d like to check out as well.

The groups released a white paper about PIV-I deployments at Booz Allen Hamilton; SAIC; XTec Incorporated; and the Commonwealth of Virginia. They also released a brief with general information and comparisons of the credentials. Both can be downloaded at the Smart Card Alliance website.

If you’re attending ISC West, you can learn more at a workshop "Standards-Based Secure Identity Credentials: Leveraging the Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Specifications for Commercial Credentialing Programs," on March 27th from 8:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. in Sands Room 104. Registration is available on the workshop webpage at http://www.smartcardalliance.org/secureid.

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

 - 
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

 - 
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.

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