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Clearly, no one offers IP, cellular, or GSM radio security solutions, right? It's all POTS, right?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I came across this blog post in my Google Alerts this morning. Someone needs to give this guy a call and let him know how they can help him. I've only been covering the security industry for a little less than a year, but it seems to me that there has to be lots of options out there.

I was hoping the payoff on this would be bigger

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I got pretty excited when I heard about the arrest of the "Winnie the Pooh Bandit" today. I figured that's got to be a great story, but I was a little let down. Basically, he's just some scumbag with pitbulls who's been in jail before and robbed three banks for a total of $5,000 or so. As my daughter would say, "Borrrring." I was really hoping for a thoughtful, kind-hearted, Tao of Pooh kind of bank robber. But, no, he just was wearing a Pooh T-shirt one time. The good news? They bagged him thanks to surveillance footage that was released. Someone recognized him and ratted him out. Score points for cameras. The bad news? He didn't say to his arresting officer, by way of explanation for his deeds, "Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?" Nor, while robbing them, did he offer to bank patrons, "Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering." Because that would have been kind of awesome.

Time to invest in an alarm system...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Try to make sense of this.
The owner of ABC Car Sales & Rental, 617 N. Dixie Hwy., told police someone burglarized his Hallandale Beach store between 6:30 and 11 p.m. July 28.
Hmm. Not sure when during those five hours the burglary happened. Guess you need an alarm system, dude. But, well, this probably doesn't happen that often. You learned your lesson. Oh well.
The burglars stole three Dell laptops valued at $800 each, a surveillance system, two cameras, a digital video recorder and an alarm siren valued at a total of $4,000 and three Global Positioning System units valued at $200 each.
A: Those Dell laptops are valued by me at about $80, not $800. You can get brand news ones for like $499. I saw the ad on TV about 50 times during 60 Minutes the other night. B: What's going on with the surveillance system, exactly? Did you not have the DVR secured in an out of the way place? Did you go online and buy this and install it yourself and think it was actually going to do something? Seems like that was a bad investment, but, hey, live and learn, right?
As the owner walked through the store with officers they spotted a phone junction box ripped from a wall and lying on the ground. A video camera was removed from a wall and a phone wire torn off another wall.
The sentences were inserted in the story just because. It's called adding "color." I don't really see what other purpose they serve.
The burglars bent and twisted a metal door to enter the business. A door jamb surrounding the steel door was broken, split and splintered and the key pad for the alarm system was taken off a wall.
Yikers. Seems like these guys made a bit of a ruckus getting in. Must be an out of the way spot. Weird, right? Especially considering this was done before 11:30 at night, when people are kind of our and about. But here's the real question: HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THE KEY PAD FOR THE ALARM SYSTEM WAS TAKEN OFF THE WALL AND NO ALARM WENT OFF AND NO CENTRAL STATION WAS NOTIFIED AND NO COPS WERE DISPATCHED? I mean, they don't even know what time this happened. If there's a dispatch, and the guys are just too quick, well, that's that. But if there's an alarm system and this happens, someone screwed up in a major way, right? What is going on here?
A black crow bar was left behind inside the business.
Let's check it for prints.
The owner told police it was the fourth time this year the business had been hit.
What? There's no way this is real, right? It's got to be an insurance thing, or something. How could this be the fourth time this has happened and the alarm system doesn't work and he's got no idea where or how to install the cameras, etc.? It's ridiculous. I really do not understand the world.

A better plan for churches

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Remember that article I linked to about arming the congregation? Looks like some guys are coming together to see if they can figure out a better plan. I don't have a link, but here's the gist:
The American Society for Industrial Security International (ASIS) is bringing together security and cultural professionals from various religious communities for the Faith-Based Organization Security Council (FBO Council), an interfaith sub-council started earlier this year as part of the organization’s Cultural Properties Council. The FBO Council will address the security risks and needs of houses of worship and faith-based organizations to develop best practices and standards.
Good idea, if you ask me.
“The Faith-Based Organization Council is a result of incidents of violence and other crimes against houses of worship and faith-based organizations,” said Jeffrey Hawkins, executive director of the Christian Security Network, and head of the FBO Council. “We want to have all faiths represented so we can effectively develop comprehensive standards and guidelines, and tackle issues that all religions are facing now and in the future.” Hawkins is also vice chairperson of ASIS International’s Cultural Properties Council. He will head the Faith-Based Organization Council through 2009 and become chairperson of the larger Cultural Properties Council next year. ... The Faith-Based Organization Council is ASIS International’s first body dedicated to security issues among faith-based organizations. The group already has recruited members from the Christian, Jewish, Mormon, and Muslim faiths. “Having representatives from diverse faiths will help garner further communication and help build trust,” said Nawar Shora, legal director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and a FBO Council member. “Perhaps one of our greatest challenges as a society has been a lack of trust and lack of understanding. The Faith-Based Organization Security Council will help further communication and broaden understanding, thus ultimately improving society's trust. Once faith-based communities secure this trust, they can move forward in security, safety and dialogue.” The organization will identify the major risks that houses of worship and faith-based organizations face, including violent crimes, arson and internal theft, and develop standards and guidelines to combat them. One of the first projects of the council is a resource guide for houses of worship and other faith-based organizations. The guide will provide insight and instruction for developing safety teams, assessing risks, identifying potential dangers and protecting high-profile religious leaders. Hawkins will outline several strategies in “Increasing Risks for Faith-Based Organizations,” a presentation at ASIS International’s Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif., Sept. 21-24.
Practically speaking, it wouldn't be a bad idea for integrators to bone up on the guide they release and hit this panel discussion. Places of worship represent a real marketplace - already, the A/V guys make many a good sale on giving them their sound systems. No reason not to add on video, intrusion, and access control. I still don't think they'll go for the metal detector at the front door, though.

Is this the worst model ever for municipal monitoring?

Monday, August 17, 2009
We've been writing quite a bit about public-private partnerships for municipal surveillance, with the general model being that the city and/or some private businesses buy some cameras, have them installed, and then contract with a private monitoring center to monitor them. It seems to work especially well with some analytics involved. But here in Lancaster, it's an unaccountable non-profit organization that's installing and watching the cameras. Why? As the critics in the story I linked to suggest, it's not controlled by the cops, so there's no jurisdictional reason for these people to be watching, and it's not a professional security company, so there's no industry-standard controls as might be employed at a five diamond monitoring center. This weird Lancaster Community Safety Coalition runs everything, but they don't seem to have any idea what they're doing. They're defending themselves as though they're being hit with Big Brother attacks, but that's not really the issue. The issue seems to be that their model is doomed for failure and makes no sense. But they don't even get the argument being levied against them. People say this: "Crystle, a software entrepreneur who has spoken out against the cameras for more than four years, says they should be turned off until the coalition establishes clear framework for accountability and oversight." LCSC replies with this: ""There have been lots of opportunities to weigh in on this," says Lancaster Alliance president Jack Howell, also a coalition board member." But then can't give an example of who they'd actually be accountable to the community. It's not that people don't feel like they can't weigh in, it's they feel like there's nothing good to weigh in on. I'm really quite perplexed by how they came to the idea that they wanted neighbors and volunteers watching the cameras instead of police and professionals. This commenter at the bottom seems like the smartest guy in Lancaster to me: "I really just wish that this was something the police controlled entirely. Oddly, I feel even stranger knowing that most of the people that work there live in the city. I feel a lot could be done to hide footage or just not tape crimes being committed when they might be friends of yours." Right? Do you really want your neighbors watching the cameras? Or do you want third-party, objective people watching the cameras? It just seems like a strange, strange setup. One not to be emulated.

Do resi security? How about those housing numbers?

Monday, August 17, 2009
The good news is that a leading index of builders' confidence went up. The bad news? They think the market still stinks. Guess that's good in the sense that they haven't lost their marbles. I mean, if those builders thought the market was really great all of the sudden, you might wonder what kind of punch those builders were quaffing, no? Here's the WSJ story. The Commerce department will be releasing more data this week. Tomorrow we'll have housing starts and building permit data. The home builders' index will likely rise to 19 in August from 17 in July. The MarketWatch consensus calls for starts to rise about 2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 596,000 from 582,000 in June. See what happens tomorrow.

Your false alarm refund check may already be in the mail...

Monday, August 17, 2009
If you live in the Fort Lauderdale area and you've paid false alarm fines, you may have reason to expect a refund from the city. This story from the South Florida Times paints an interesting picture of residents and businesses being improperly fined and overcharged for false alarm runs, possibly for the last nine years. The potential reparations? Over $450,000, according to the article. This whole situation has the potential to get very nasty with forecasts of lawsuits if the financially strapped municipality (no offense Fort Lauderdale, but honestly, who isn't financially strapped these days... and if you weren't financially strapped, why overcharge your citizens in the first place?) doesn't refund the money to the residents and businesses who were improperly fined. I do not envy the powers that be in Fort Lauderdale. The article also links to an itemized list of all the overcharges.

Somerset's losing money, but they're buying

Monday, August 17, 2009
I came across a new company today, via press release of its earnings (or lack thereof): Somerset International. Edit: Okay - they're not new. Looks like we wrote about them at the beginning of last year. Maybe I should search our site BEFORE I blog. Anyway, the rest of this still makes sense. Apparently, it's public holding company that's looking to capitalize on "the exponential growth in concern and demand for security." Haven't you noticed the exponential growth in demand for security? I certainly have. Anyway, they've purchased a number of companies in the last couple of years and the earnings statement released today says the company is still on the hunt. According to Yahoo, the company's stock is worth less than a penny, and only has 94K on hand, and is losing roughly 350K a quarter, but, regardless:
John X. Adiletta, President of Somerset, concluded, "As part of our growth strategy, we remain focused on continuing to expand our portfolio of security technology companies through additional synergistic acquisitions. Our goal remains to expand our portfolio of companies, increasing cross-selling opportunities and operating efficiencies, and ultimately achieve profitability."
I'm assuming there's another bank of investors somewhere who've committed cash to the venture. Otherwise, that makes no sense. Currently, Somerset operates: Secure System, which "provides personal alarm systems, wireless transmitters and receivers, and personal alarm locators. The company currently serves colleges and universities and medical and mental health facilities. Its products are also easily adaptable for office campuses, residential facilities, and correctional facilities. The system works by providing an individual with a wireless personal alarm locater with which they can summon help and be located by the pressing of a button." Meadowlands Electronics and Vanwell Electronics, which "specialize in the distribution, sale, installation and maintenance of fire and security equipment and systems that include fire detection, video surveillance, and burglar alarm equipment. Meadowlands and Vanwell have similar product availability from distinct manufacturers. Vanwell exclusively distributes Siemens Building Technologies, Inc. products and Meadowlands distributes other brands of fire and security equipment. This affords the opportunity to provide a wide array of specified equipment with the flexibility to offer cost effective alternates when appropriate. The products encompass complete lines of fire, CCTV (closed circuit TV), communications and PA systems; services include maintenance contracts, monitoring services and system engineering." And Fire Control Electrical Systems, which "specializes in the distribution, sale, installation, and maintenance of Honeywell Life Safety fire and security equipment and systems that include fire detection, video surveillance, sound systems, and burglar alarm equipment." I'll be putting in a call to Adiletta. Should be a company to watch.

This reminds me of the software article I just wrote

Friday, August 14, 2009
So, I just got done writing this quite lengthy special report on what "stability" means for physical security software, covering everything from testing procedures to metrics, network compatibility to the stability-feature dynamic. Most people agreed, referring to that last bit there, that in order to have robust features you've got to have a long track record, as each feature must be thoroughly vetted, and you can't thoroughly test a brand-new piece of software that has a million features. It's just not possible to test them all in a real-world environment. Rather, many companies (especially the established ones) said, you need to start with a relatively simple and stable platform, and then build on that proven technology by adding feature sets, testing each feature thoroughly before it's added. Makes sense to me. Funny that today I should run across this article, telling the browser makers to just knock if off. No new browsers, please. Basically, the jist is similar: sure, this new browser might be really cool, since it's based on a new engine and everyone else is working off an older engine. But, the thing is, those older engines sort of work, right? They might have some drawbacks, and we might all fight over which is faster, but many of the bugs have been kinked out. With this new browser, RockMelt (a crap name for a browser, if you ask me - sounds like a bad sandwich), the bugs will be all brand new, unless the vetting process is remarkable, which it probably won't be (I'm just cynical by nature).
But let's look at the flip side of that statement. When you build something from scratch, you still have to make it work with all the other stuff that exists. The Web is a vast place, with billions of sites and countless plug-in technologies, many of them considered a standard part of the Web. There's Flash, Acrobat, QuickTime, Java, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. Now, you can build new interfaces for all of that and force the companies that own these plug-ins to work within these standards to support your browser. However, none of that may be very easy.
Wait a second - I thought IT had standards... Doesn't everything work with everything else? But I digress...
I imagine that these companies have a hard enough time supporting the growing list of upstart browsers. Google Chrome, for example, which has about 2 percent of the browser share, is never first on the list when someone's building a plug-in. My favorite password manager, LastPass, is still working on a Chrome toolbar.
Hmmm. Remind you of any security industry problem you know of? Exactly - every new VMS vendor that comes out is sort of a pain in the ass, isn't it? Not that I begrudge them their business models, but don't we have enough VMS vendors by now? Shouldn't we be working on whittling them down rather than adding to them? Anyway, if you get through the monster that is that software article I wrote, feel free to drop me a line of feedback. I'll be working on follow ups as the year goes along.

Look who's turning 15!

Thursday, August 13, 2009
Just got an announcement from Dallas-based Monitronics. They're very excited to be celebrating their 15th anniversary this month. I guess in this economy, who wouldn't be excited to still be going strong after 15 years? According to the release:
since it's inception in 1994 as a small start-up, this alarm monitoring company has grown to nearly 700 employees and 600,000 customers.
Monitronics has celebratory events throughout the month of August, leading up to a company-wide celebration on Aug. 21. Monitronics' VP of marketing Mitch Clarke had this to say:
This month is an opportunity for us as a company to recognize our customers and our dealers and thank them for their loyalty. We strive to provide the best service to them day in and day out.
Congrats to Monitronics on their 15th birthday.