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More bad PR for municipal video (or is it?)

Thursday, May 21, 2009
This column in the Philly Daily News is a good window onto how the public sees, and what the public expects of, municipal video systems (about which we've got a special report on our main page right now). Basically, people are upset because a jogger out at 6:45 a.m. on a bridge was mugged and the image captured of the attacker is all grainy and it's hard to make out who he is. Ok, sure, it would be great if the image was clear and we could make out the attacker, but think about that for a second: People are mad because they couldn't get a crystal-clear image of someone at 6:45 a.m., outside, on a bridge? I mean, couldn't they just zoom in one of their magic cameras in space? I think on the one hand, this is bad PR, since the image seems to be unusable, and what's the point of putting cameras up if you can't use the images? But, on the other hand, isn't it a good sign that society now expects there to be a video image of just about anything that happens anywhere? If this jogger had been attacked and there had been no video image at all, would there have been a clamor: Why wasn't there a video camera on the bridge? I think maybe yes, judging by the rest of the article, and it seems like that might be good for business. Also, I love the comment at the bottom: "I have to agree that any cameras installed should produce CLEAR and SHARP images." Well, yeah... I've got to think an article that thinks this kind of investment in security cameras isn't enough is also good for business. Check this out:
On May 12, he says, the agency underwent a massive switchover from analog to fancy digital technology on the existing cameras that survey the area's four bridges and the PATCO train line, allowing DRPA to capture and store more images. The agency will also "phase in" another 220 high-tech cameras throughout the system in 2009, bringing to more than 300 the number of lenses trained on the system's users and infrastructure. Matheussen said that "no less than eight" of those cameras dot the Ben Franklin Bridge. None of them are trained specifically on the walkway, however. Instead, they provide a sweeping view of the walkway, roadway and PATCO line (which runs alongside the bridge) and allow DRPA police to zoom in, pan out and swivel to and fro as needed. As for the quality of the image caught on tape of Weighnecht's attacker, all Matheussen will say is that "we have an image" and that the agency is working with law enforcement on both sides of the river to make an arrest.
Exactly how much money do you want to spend on IP video, columnist? And why is "phase in" in quotes? Do you think they can install all of them simultaneously? Like with a magic wand? In the end, I think these high expectations for video systems are good, as they create an expectation that video will be there, and that it serves a purpose. Living up to those expectations can be hard, but it's worth the effort if it means municipal video becomes virtually universal.

GVI makes a buy

Thursday, May 21, 2009
GVI announced today the acquisition of some VMS technology from a company I've never heard of called PacketNVR. From the Web site, it looks like they've mostly been OEMing software for other people. Likely, instead of OEMing for GVI, GVI just said, "Why don't we buy you so you don't create software for our competition at the same time?"
GVI Security Solutions, Inc., (OTC Bulletin Board: GVSS), a leading provider of video security surveillance solutions featuring the complete Samsung Electronics line of products, has acquired a suite of Video Management Systems (VMS) software and related technology from software provider PacketNVR, LLP. The acquisition was effected through GVI's wholly-owned subsidiary, GVI Video Management Solutions.
So, basically, GVI is getting into the software game. You'll see in the release that they picked up some talent in Tom Galvin, who'll now run their VMS business going forward. I've got an interview request in, so I'll see what more I can learn, if anything.

GPS fails, what happens to security?

Thursday, May 21, 2009
I'm sure many of you saw this story, about the GPS system potentially failing, come across various news wires, though it hasn't yet really hit the mainstream. And maybe it's much ado about nothing. The GAO is sort of famous for warning that things are going to happen, but then they don't happen by virtue of the strenuous warning that was issued. But here's how Information Week puts it:
The global positioning system could fail next year and repairs aren't moving quickly enough to prevent failure, according a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. It's unclear whether the U.S. Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to prevent disruption in GPS service for military and civilian users, according to the report.
So, I'm thinking that could be bad, if GPS systems just stopped working all of a sudden. I've got a call in to confirm this, but I'm pretty sure that StarTrac service that Centra-Larm puts out would just stop working, leaving a lot of customers pretty angry and drying up some serious RMR. And that's just one very small example. Guardian Mobile would certainly be hosed, as well. Here's what their head honcho told us:
John Tedesco, president and chief executive officer of Guardian, said, "Marketing up to this point has been done primarily via word of mouth, but we've gotten some early adopters. Now that GPS is mainstream and there are exciting new products, we need to market to the industry and let it know that we are the leading provider," said Tedesco.
That's right, GPS is now mainstream: In your iPhones, Blackberries, and, yes, a bunch of security products. Is this a big deal? It seems like it could be. More from Information Week:
"If the Air Force does not meet its schedule goals for development of GPS IIIA satellites, there will be an increased likelihood that in 2010, as old satellites begin to fail, the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. government commits to."
So, maybe not a widespread black-out of GPS, but spotty and intermittent service? That might be almost as bad. Those security applications pretty much have to be up and running all the time or they're not much good.

Alarm management committees started in Texas, Miss.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I got a press release from SIAC the other day. It's available here. SIAC Law Enforcement Liaison Glen Mowrey, with whom I've chatted on various occasions, summed it up best when he said "There's a tremendous amount of positive energy generated by these committees because people are coming together from different disciplines and sharing their best ideas and effective practices." It's all about team work and realizing that at the end of the day, we all want the same thing: We want the product/service to function efficiently, the way it's supposed to, so that the protection of life and property is assured. Mowrey continued: "I expect the number of these committees to continue to grow as alarm management practices are refined and improved nationwide." Let's hope so. I've written about it before, and it's true: everyone wins when we work together. Also from the release, Don Williams of the Mississippi BFAA noted that "Understanding that both law enforcement and alarm companies have different ideas on how to define success is the first step in creating a cohesive working environment. We both want to provide residents and business owners with the highest level of protection. Through mutual cooperation we can make this happen." Amen to that.

UL's buying up companies - who knew?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Why this story is running in the Boston Herald, I'm not sure, but it's an interesting profile of Underwriters' Laboratories, an institution I know some of you are quite familiar with. Most of the article is the sort of stuff you've read about lots of times: testing of products, blowing stuff up, setting it on fire, cracking a safe with a blow-torch, etc. (and, by the way, why is the safecracker guy driving a Ferrari, exactly? What's the pay like at UL? Can I get a job?), but there are a few interesting tidbits, too. Such as:
"We’ve acquired one company in Denmark, two in Italy, one in Japan, one in New Zealand — a lot of it has been hiring people and engineers overseas and training them," said Keith Williams, UL’s president and CEO. "That’s really been the big emphasis for us — globalizing our operation."
Huh? Guess we haven't exactly been on the stick with our UL reporting. Are they doing more security product testing overseas? We're going to have to look into that. Also, this:
With globalization comes piracy and, of course, piracy of the UL logo, which is another company concern. (Counterfeiters know that while the mark is not government mandated, most distributors won’t ship a product without one.) Because of this, UL unveiled a new holographic mark last June, which will soon appear on 32 common consumer goods, including power supply cords, night lights and ceiling fans. The new mark features a gold background, color shifting ink and several "floating UL symbols."
Cool. Holograms are pretty. Will they come on fire panels next?

Housing crisis bottomed out or not?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
What do you residential dealers who play in the builder market think of the surveys and stats reported in the past couple of days? Yesterday, a National Association of Home Builders survey seemed to indicate that, yes, we'd reached, or almost reached, bottom. Government stats released today, however, seem to indicate that the bottom is not so close. These figures show April housing starts at a record low pace, which would indicate we've got a ways to go before hitting bottom. Here's that story And while I spent most of my academic life avoiding all things math, I know it's always a good idea to look at the methods and sample size in these studies. And whadya know? This story includes this reminder:
The government cautions that housing data are volatile and subject to large sampling and other statistical errors. In most months, the government can't be sure whether starts increased or decreased. Large revisions of reported figures are common.

Quick PSA-TEC update

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
You may remember my vague guesses about PSA-TEC being up from last year. Here are the details from the press release:
The 2009 PSA®-TEC went against the current trend in trade shows with a 7 percent increase in registrants and a 17 percent increase in the number of companies attending.
That's pretty great, in this economy or ever, for a 25-year-old show. Of course, last year was the first time they really made a push to get non-members to the show, and this year that message probably hit home the most. Also, they teamed with Reed Exhibitions (they do the ISCs), so that couldn't have hurt. Regardless, a good sign for the industry, I say.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009
If you haven't checked out the discussion on John Honovich's post about a new HDCCTV Alliance, you need to. Great stuff there. I remain skeptical about the HDCCTV Alliance's very existence, considering the amateur quality of the Web site, but I've got an email into them and I'll let you know what I find out.

GVI 1Q numbers

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Here's another post in our continuing look at just how bad the first quarter was. This time, it's GVI | Samsung reporting numbers. Remember that this is a company about three years into a major turnaround, as orchestrated by Steve Walin and Joe Restivo, and can be considered something of a "new" company, despite the fact that it's been around for a while. It had been growing pretty consistently, but 1Q put an end to that:
For the quarter ended March 31, 2009, net income was approximately $116,000 or one-third of a cent per diluted share, as compared to net income of approximately $330,000, or one cent per diluted share, in the quarter ended March 31, 2008. Net revenues for the quarter ended March 31, 2009 were approximately $10.4 million, a decrease of approximately 8%, as compared to net revenues of approximately $11.3 million in the quarter ended March 31, 2008.
Eight percent off certainly isn't armeggedon, and it's certainly a hell of a lot better than many industries. Bad numbers for a company that would like to still be growing, but more evidence that security has been fairly resilient to the economic situation.
"In the face of a deep worldwide recession, we are reporting our ninth consecutive profitable quarter," said GVI Chief Operating Officer/CFO Joe Restivo. "Net sales were down approximately 8% reflecting the difficult economic conditions. Despite the economy we were able to strategically deploy our sales and marketing efforts to record strong overall sales gains in Latin America and selectively expand market share."
Check this out, though. Remember that $116,000 in profit?
Net interest expense for the quarter ended March 31, 2009 decreased 42% to approximately $113,000 from approximately $196,000 in the quarter ended March 31, 2008. The decrease was primarily a result of a lower interest rate on the Company's credit facility which stood at prime plus 25 basis points or 3.5% as of March 31, 2009.
Well, at least $83,000 of that was thanks to the really cheap credit that's available right now. They've got a gross margin of 28.5 percent translating to an operating margin of 3 percent. Sustainable? Last year it was more like 30 percent and 6 percent. As long as it's really the economy that did them in for 1Q, everything seems fairly healthy.

Good news for those in builder market?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Here's a story about a National Association of Home Builders study that shows that builders' confidence is increasing, and that we may have finally seen the bottom of the housing crisis.
The NAHB-Wells Fargo index rose to 16 in May from 14 in April on a scale of zero to 100. It's the highest since the 17 recorded in September. The index got as low as 6 in January. Before the current housing meltdown, the index had never gotten below 20 in its 24-year history. It peaked at 72 nearly four years ago.
The industry trade group received 733 responses to its survey in May. The story says that the index matched economists' expectations. According to John Ryding and Conrad DeQuadros of RDQ Economics.
"This is one more piece of data that suggests the recession's grip in the economy is beginning to loosen."
The story says that tomorrow the Commerce Department releases its estimates for housing starts and building permits in April.
Over time, the NAHB index and housing starts are highly correlated. Starts are down 48% in the past year and down 72% from the peak. Economists are forecasting a slight increase in starts to a 519,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate from 510,000 in March.