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Industry teamwork helps fix legislation

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I just learned that the security industry teamed up with environmental groups in a successful “no-nonsense” effort to address a flaw in an important piece of federal legislation.

The effort seems like a good example of how consensus building can work for everyone.

Yesterday, according to the Security Industry Association, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to enact a fix in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act—one that SIA has long been seeking.

As SIA explains, the act requires electronic devices to meet certain efficiency standards while in “no-load” mode. However, SIA said, those requirements also apply to security and life safety devices, including video surveillance and access control systems, even though they are always in an “active” mode.

SIA, a trade group for businesses in the electronic and physical security industry, considers that a “nonsensical” requirement, so formed a coalition that it said contained both industry and environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, to draft language for a fix.

SIA said that H.R. 5470, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., which passed Dec. 8, contains the new language, which would provide an exemption from the “no-load” requirements for security and life safety products and retain the act’s “active” mode efficiency standards for those products.

“This is an important vote for the security industry,” SIA research director Mark Visbal said. “Members of Congress—like the environmental groups that support this bill—clearly recognize the need to correct this legislative glitch. We thank Congressman Pallone for his efforts to enact this important correction.”

SIA also added that “multiple Senate proposals introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., include the security and life safety exemption, while Pallone’s proposal is a stand-alone measure.”


Please leave your name and contact information for follow up... Please!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

So we're getting ready for our next news wire and preparing to design and lay out our next issue of Security Systems News. That means I gotta be sure all my ducks are in a row...

Plenty of breaking news for the wire on Thursday ... Check!

The top monitoring beat news for my monitoring section ... Check!

A handful of interesting general news stories ... Check!

Special features like How I Use My System and Stats ready to go ... Check!

SSN's hard-hitting NewsPoll for the January issue with lots of chartable data and insightful comments ... Che-- Wait a minute!!!

I got all the data and have some beautiful pie charts now for the January issue and for the premium section of SSN... however, one of the most thorough and insightful comments in the comment section of the poll apparently has no attributed author... It's too bad, too, because someone really put a lot of time into this reposne... Unfortunately, if you don't tell us who you are, we can't and won't reach out to you for more information. Fear not, whoever you are; you're not the only one who commented and didn't leave a name or contact information. In fact, it happens every month. We've been trying to come up with new and exciting ways to remind you to leave your name and contact info, but we're kinda at a loss...

Anyway, here's the posted comment to SSN's last poll...

“During the recession, our employees have had to take on additional responsibilities previously shared by a larger number of employees."

I just gotta say, Amen to that, brother or sister. Seems like we've all had to really step up lately to run more efficiently. Then the nameless commenter goes on, as asked, to elaborate on some of his or her methods for not only attracting and holding onto those quality employees every security exec covets, but also how he or she maintains a paradigmatic work environment.

"1. Appreciation for their efforts is continually communicated individually and to the group. 

2. Employees are aware as to 'who is not pulling their share of the load.'  The need for increased efforts and results are discussed privately with the less productive employees.  If they choose not to improve their job performance, they are replaced.

3. Unnecessary expenses have been reduced or eliminated. It is difficult when employees are asked to sacrifice when they see money 'wasted.'

4. Road blocks are eliminated to make employees' jobs easier.  Management has to be even more aware and involved to make it easier for employees to achieve their goals.

5. Investment in employee training is emphasized.  Not only does this training make the employee more valuable to the company, but it also makes employees feel like they have a future with the company and they are also improving their skills. 

6. Management has to set examples that they are participating in the expense reductions and also putting in the extra effort."

Hear that bailed out financial institution executives...? Anyway, back to the list...

"7. Communication with employees has been increased.  Rumors can be devastating.  Sales, expense reductions and product/business development efforts are communicated.  These communications are two-way communications.  We are looking for employee inputs as to how to best increase sales, reduce expenses, improve our products and processes. 

8. With prospective employees we are honest about the business slow down and explain the efforts we have taken to improve the company and our products.  These changes will continue as the market improves.  We are looking for skilled employees who want to part of an aggressive team oriented company.  Our pitch is that you control your destiny as never before."

That all sounds pretty dang good... Thorough... I just wish I knew who's tight ship I was getting a look at... Please, if this was your comment, let me know so I can put your contact info in file and reach out to you for insight.


Thinking green

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Green’s been a recurring theme in my reporting this week and for the past couple months.

When I was at ASIS, several integrators/manufacturers where talking about integrating security with energy-  and building management. And, a long those lines,  last week I spoke to Schneider Electric about the security element of their new Green Buildings Segment.   Interesting stuff. 

And, frankly, I just plain like the fact that there's a business case for being green and the fact that the security industry is involved.

This morning, I spoke to Elliott Boxerbaum and Chad Parris, consultants with Security Risk Management Consultants, Inc for a story I’m working on. In case you don’t know them, these guys specify big deal security/building projects around the world and have worked with most of the national and regional integrators in North America.

When I asked Boxerbaum and Parris if they’re doing much work with green buildings, they said yes. In fact, they worked on the largest green building in the state of Ohio. According to some, it's the largest green building in the U.S.

Siemens was the integrator for this job.

The Lazarus building in Columbus  was is a 1.5 million square-foot retail facility that’s now an office building. It earned a Gold level LEED certification. Boxerbaum said building owners get LEED points for things like encouraging staff to ride bikes to work, and having showers on site. This particular building also has a green roof. “It’s like a park with gardens, trees and bushes, picnic tables and benches,” Parris told me. “It’s an interactive urban space on top of the building,” he said.

Sounds great to me, but Boxerbaum pointed out that along with these cool projects come new security challenges for specifiers, integrators and end users. Among them, security implications for parking area for bikes, access to showers, and managing access for the public to a rooftop park in a major city.

New opportunities, new challenges.

I’ll have more on the Schneider initiative and Security Risk Management Consultants here and in the January issue of Security Systems News.


Another Five-Diamond central station

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I like to give props where props are due. I got a release from Niscayah recently, and it appears the company's Woburn, Mass.-based central station underwent the vetting and attained Five-Diamond certification from the Central Station Alarm Association.

Good for them! I underwent the training that operators need to go through in order for their organization to get the certification. I have my certificate on my wall and my patch ready to be ironed/sewn on, should this journalism gig not work out and I need to look for gainful employ at a Five Diamond central. ;-)

According to the CSAA, there are about 2,700 central stations in the U.S. and only about 100 of them have gone through the vetting necessary to be certified. It's an elite group.

Niscayah in Woburn, Mass. shows off its Five Diamond plaque.

From the release:

"The Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) has announced that Niscayah, Inc-Woburn, MA has received the prestigious CSAA Five Diamond Certification.

"This Certification testifies that 100% of their central station operators have achieved proficiency and certification by passing the CSAA Central Station On-Line Operator Training Course. These courses cover virtually all phases of central station communications with customers, law enforcement, fire and emergency services communications centers. This critical area of communications is the life-saving link between the residential or business properties and the law enforcement, fire and emergency services in local areas."

Kevin Keohane, director of retail services for Niscayah said in the release that undergoing the Five Diamond process spoke to Niscayah's committment. “Acquiring Five Diamond Certification demonstrates Niscayah’s ongoing commitment to quality service and continuous improvement.  Through investments in technology and our most important resource, our people, Niscayah constantly strives to provide service excellence in taking responsibility for the trust and confidence of our client’s life and safety concerns."

Niscayah offers complete security solutions for customers with high security demands within market segments, such as banking, industry, defense, healthcare and retail.

I'm trying to build up the nerve now to undergo Level II training from CSAA. I actually started it last year, but ran out of gas before I took the final test. Maybe this year after the holidays.

A full list of Five Diamond central stations can be found at CSAA's web site.


McGinn, already charged with fraud, now in contempt of court

Thursday, December 2, 2010

There was an interesting new development this week regarding Timothy McGinn, one of two security alarm industry investors charged in April by the SEC with bilking investors in a Ponzi scheme.

I wrote recently about Security Alarm Credit, a new investment venture started this summer by McGinn and David L. Smith.

Smith has quit the new venture, but this week a U.S. magistrate judge in New York found McGinn–who served as CEO of IASG from 2003-2006–in contempt of court for his involvement in SAC. A July 2010 court order prohibited the pair from conducting further securities investment offerings without court approval.

Longtime partners Smith and McGinn were the principals of McGinn, Smith & Co., an Albany-based investment firm that conducted investment dealings in the alarm industry. The company is now in receivership after the SEC in April seized Smith’s and McGinn’s business and personal assets and accused the pair and their company of defrauding investors of at least $80 million. Places the money went included the pair’s own pockets and to pay for exotic dancers on McGinn’s You Only Live Once cruise ship business, the SEC said. The court case is pending.

Smith and McGinn this summer then formed SAC, their new investment company, and were trying to raise more than $500,000 to loan a small Georgia-based alarm company $425,000 at an annual interest rate of 19.62 percent.

Smith's and McGinn's former administrative assistant was listed as SAC's owner and the business was run out of her home in Rensselaer, N.Y. Smith and McGinn were designated as her employees--and executive vice presidents.

The new venture came under the SEC's radar and this fall it filed a motion to hold Smith and McGinn in contempt for violating a preliminary injunction prohibiting them from making further securities offerings.

In a Dec. 1 decision on the motion, made by Judge David Homer in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York, the judge denied the motion regarding Smith because he had resigned from the SAC.

But Homer noted that thaowner/administrative assistant said her "only function was to type documents" and that "McGinn was responsible for everything."

Homer found McGinn in contempt, saying SAC's offering to investors contained "material misrepresentations and omissions" and also noted that "the SAC offering is remarkably similar to those prior offerings" that landed McGinn and Smith in court in the first place


Stay tuned for more on this story.



What the heck is PSIM anyway?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The security industry loves its acronyms and one of the most talked about acronyms in recent years has been PSIM, Physical Security Information Management system (or software). I think Steve Hunt was given credit a few years ago, by SSN anyway, for coming up with that particular acronym.

Today, IMS Research released a report about PSIM software, in which they define the acronym and, further,  forecast that "the world market for PSIM software will be worth around $200 million" by 2014.

IMS analyst Gary Wong said that the lack of an agreed-upon definition of PSIM has affected the growth of the PSIM market thus far. "The low awareness of what PSIM software is and its capabilities is a key limiting factor in the initial growth of the market," he's quoted as saying.

IMS Research staff contacted major vendors to help them define PSIM,  and they came up with seven criteria that they believe a software platform must meet in order to be considered a true PSIM.

Complete with some wacky British English spelling, here's the list from their press release:

1) Connectivity and Integration: A PSIM software platform must connect and manage multiple disparate security systems, examples include (but are not limited to) video surveillance, access control, intrusion, fire and life safety, perimeter protection, mass notification and building automation. The PSIM platform should be capable of integration with other business systems within a corporate IT-infrastructure such as ERP systems, data warehouses, provisioning systems, etc. The PSIM platform should be open, therefore hardware and vendor agnostic, and capable of connecting to any input sensors and external applications.

2) Real Time Policy / Configuration Management: A PSIM software platform must be able to define and change policies and parameters related to various connected devices in the underlying subsystems (such as access control, video, etc.).

3) Correlation and Verification: A PSIM software platform must be able to automatically connect and cross-reference multiple events from multiple disparate security systems in real-time and give the ability to flexibly set rules.

4) Visualisation: A PSIM software platform must be able to visualise the actual situation independently from active events. In case of an event, the PSIM platform must be able to graphically display situational information in a manner that provides responders with a picture of the nature of the event, the location and the scope of the threat it presents. It must be able to integrate real world information as a geo-spatial representation.

5) A Rules-based Workflow for Response: A PSIM software platform must be able to immediately offer a step-by-step action plan, based on pre-determined rules and policies, to respond, manage/counter the threat and control response operations. The rules based workflow should be sufficiently complex as to adapt to escalating situations.

6) Availability / Resilience: A PSIM software platform must have capability for redundant functionality (e.g. servers, communication gateways and databases) to support continuity of business and disaster recovery. This includes the ability to integrate backup systems to automate transfer of control room capabilities. It must be able to watch and monitor the functionality and integrity of the underlying subsystems and detect possible threats on the network.

7) Post-Event Reporting and Analysis: A PSIM software platform must provide an audit log that allows for post-event forensic review detailing the event situation and the action taken. It must be capable of developing customised reports that allow for analysis of multiple events in order to optimise policies and response.

IMS's Wong notes that products such as VMS and ACS software, which meet some, but not all, of the criteria above, are not considered to be PSIM for the purposes of the report. So, while IMS projects the PSIM market will be worth $200 million by 2014, "the combined global market for VMS and ACS will exceed $1 billion by 2014 ... It is important to note that IMS Research has measured the market in terms of PSIM software license revenue; if services, maintenance, design and consulting revenues were added, it is conceivable that the market for PSIM software would exceed $1 billiion by 2014."

IMS Research said: "The foundation of the [PSIM] definition should be credited to Steven Titch and Sharon J. Watson of SecuritySquared magazine."

Here's a link to the press release.

Industry loses longtime training advocate

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I just learned that one of the leading advocates of education in the security industry has passed away.

Paul Baran, 58—who was actively involved with the Electronic Security Association’s Education Committee for 16 years and was the committee’s longtime co-chairman—died suddenly Nov. 23 at his home, according to a posting today on ESA’s web site.

ESA announced Baran’s loss with “profound sadness.”

Charles “Dom” D'Ascoli, president of ESA, said in a statement, “Paul’s work on the Education Committee impacted the association and industry on many levels. Under Paul’s chairmanship, ESA adopted new National Training School (NTS) guidelines and expanded course offerings to include topics like CCTV, residential integration and business skills courses.”

On a personal note, D’Ascoli continued, “He was also a great guy that cared about his work, his friends and his family. Personally, Paul exemplified one of the many reasons why I am a member of ESA – he was always willing to help fellow members on technical issues and give guidance to those of us who, at some time in our careers, needed it.  He will be greatly missed by me and his many ESA friends.”

Baran, a security consultant who was married with three sons and was a lifelong resident of Bensalem, Pa., also was chairman of the education committees of both the Pennsylvania Burglar & Fire Alarm Association and the New Jersey Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, the ESA site said.

In 2006, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, as ESA was then known, presented Baran with a Sara E. Jackson Award.

D’Ascoli said Baran won the award “because of his outstanding contributions as a committee chairperson.”

Baran began teaching in 1987 and since then was actively involved in many ESA committees, and held various subcommittee chair seats on the fire section and membership committees.

In 2009, Baran did an interview with SSN TV News at the Electronic Security Expo (ESX) in Baltimore, explaining what NTS is and the training options it offers.

The industry has lost a passionate education advocate.













Are you ready for some football? Creative dealer incentives and tailgating--with pics.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I wrote a story recently about a neat initiative in the mid-Atlantic that aimed to help dealers improve their business, network, and have a little fun besides.

Dealers organized and competed against each other in areas such as adding on services, increasing RMR, and broadening industry knowledge through continuing education. Winners of the competition were feted at a pretty massive and awesome sounding tailgate at Baltimore's Baltimore M&T Bank Stadium for the Baltimore/Miami game on Nov. 7. They even got a visit from the Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders. Kinda makes me wish I was an AlarmWATCH dealer down in Baltimore rather than a journalist up in Maine (Though I understand the Newspaper Guild is considering brining on a cheer squad...) Oh well.

The Protect-A-Thon was the brainchild of AlarmWATCH's Guy Kline and was brought to fruition by event partners Interlogix and AlarMarx.

It sounded like everyone really had a good time.

In follow up to that story, AlarmWATCH forwarded on some pics and a link to some video of the tailgate and game the winners got to go to.

Below, please check out pics and video of the First Annual Protect-A-Thon. Dealers interested in checking out AlarmWATCH and maybe getting in on the second annual event can visit AlarmWATCH's dealer page.

Incidenteally, Baltimore defeated Miami 26-10.

Here's a pic of Protect-A-Thon engineer Guy and AlarMax's Steve Heier.AlarmWATCH's Guy Kline and AlarMax's Steve Heier

And this is a pretty intense pic of Interlogix's Jim Porter.Interlogix's Jim Porter

This is a picture of the overall winners of the Protect-A-Thon.

Protect-A-Thon winners

Here's a pic of the gameday action between the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami Dolphins

More news from Mace

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I'll have a more detailed report later, but here are some highlights of the news, which has been plentiful, coming out of Horsham, Pa., home of Mace Security International.

First, Mace has settled its legal disputes with former CEO Louis Paolino. Here's the filing on that. It's agreed to pay him $4.6 million, $2.3 million of which was paid on Nov. 1. The remaining $2.3 million will be paid Dec. 31, 2010. The filing says that to ensure the second payment, Mace gave Paulino "collateral ... in the form of a first mortgage lein on one of the Company's Texas car washes and a security interest in the Company's [Mace] personal defense spray business.

It also released its Q3 financial results, where it realized a 9 percent growth in revenues ($373,000) in Q3, which ended Sept. 30, compared to Q2. Gross profits increased by about 16 percent ($200,000) for the same period.

Also, Mace continues to shed its non-security businesses, with the Nov. 11 agreement to sell its Linkstar subsidiary, a business which Andrew Shapiro of Lawndale Capital, called back in September, an "absolutely horrible and overpaid for acquisition. If you have been following Mace for long, you may recall that Linkstar was acquired against our wishes right in the middle of our proxy fight to remove Paolino directors. The acquisition of Linkstar was a Paolino deal and rubber stamped by his board, not the current team. It has been a horrible distraction for the new management team."




Thanksgiving time for sharing--and safety

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

With the holiday approaching, I thought I’d share a couple of industry-related Thanksgiving news items that crossed my desk.

One is about the generosity of California-based Bay Alarm. Thanks to the efforts of company employees, more than 500 low-income families will be guaranteed a Thanksgiving feast.

The company said its employees have held fundraisers ranging from car washes to auctions this year “to continue their time-honored tradition of serving turkeys to families facing financial hardship.” The initiative was started by Bay Alarm’s Oakland branch office in 1998, and corporate headquarters matches the proceeds, the company said.

The money will enable employees this week to distribute over 500 turkeys and dozens of hams to families through a variety of nonprofit organizations that feed needy families and the homeless throughout the year.

On another note, the National Fire Protection Association has some safety advice as we cook our holiday turkeys and all the trimmings.

According to the NFPA’s education division, “Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home fires involving kitchen equipment.”

The NFPA urges families to keep kids out of the kitchen and away from the stove, hot liquids and foods. Also, check on your turkey and food on the stovetop frequently during cooking, and test your smoke alarms to make sure they’re working by pushing the test button.

Have a generous and safe holiday!