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Private equity still likes security

Friday, April 17, 2009
Yet another PE firm has set up an acquisition company to enter the homeland security marketplace. It's not exactly going to be your standard security integration firm, but I'm sure it will dabble in cameras and access control from time to time.
GRCR has formed Six3 Systems Inc., a Fairfax, Va.-based government services acquisition platform focused on national security and defense intelligence. No financial terms were disclosed. Six3 Systems will be led by Robert Coleman, former CEO of government contractor ManTech International.
What will they acquire? That's the question.

Iveda Solutions earns Safety Act certification

Thursday, April 16, 2009
Iveda Solutions marketing manager Bryce Witcher emailed me yesterday to let me in on some exciting news.
Our experience at ISC West was beneficial to the company. We met so many new prospects that will take our sales people quite a while to get through. Our ‘coming out’ was a success. Also, after our meeting, we found out that we got our Safety Act certification from Homeland Security. That was really cool news.”
SAFETY Act certification comes from Subtitle G of Title VIII of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, also called the Support Antiterrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, which provides critical incentives for the development and deployment of technologies for potential use for anti-terrorism by providing liability protections for providers of qualified anti-terrorism technologies. It's all about developing tech that can save lives. Again, according to Witcher:
Accordingly, Iveda Solutions provides its customers robust real-time IP video hosting and real-time remote surveillance services designed to be used by multiple first responders in cases of threat from criminal or terrorist activities. The technology is a set of services designed to secure a site through the monitoring of a video security system installed by a third-party partner of Iveda Solutions. The services include the data center, centralized video hosting, and remote monitoring/surveillance. The technology also includes training of the intervention specialists and third-party partner selection criteria. This designation will expire on April 30, 2014. Many companies that work on getting certified know it is a huge project to complete. HUGE. Because of the perceived infancy of the real-time surveillance service sector, we believe we are in the right place at the right time, that this will help us be recognized as a company that can actually provide true real-time remote surveillance. Having the certification shows others that the Department of Homeland Security has recognized Iveda Solutions as utilizing technologies that truly work and are applicable to preventing or combating malicious activity.

Changing the analytics standard copy

Thursday, April 16, 2009
When I first entered the market four years ago, all of the talk was about what analytics could do (wicked cool stuff, I assure you). About two years ago, the focus changed to what analytics can't do (hey, guys, we never said it could do really wicked cool stuff, just wicked cool stuff). Every presentation on analytics suddenly included a bunch of slides where the presenter said things like, "which of these guys has a gun under his jacket? We don't know"; or "which of these people is about to rob a bank? Who knows?; or "No, you can't pick a face out of a crowded stadium." Well, maybe this last bit needs to be taken out of standard Power Point presentation or they should make it clear they're speaking for themselves. Check out this blog posting by 3VR head Steve Russell:
After a grueling multi-year testing process, in 3VR SmartRecorders and SmartCams provided between 85 percent and 92 percent accuracy in recognizing and matching faces in a few crowded, highly-trafficked public train stations in Seoul. In each case, the images analyzed were of fast-moving groups of commuters entering or exiting various transit areas en masse.
If you can get past the white text on black background, the rest of the post is pretty interesting, too. So, you can pick out faces in a crowd? I can see how maybe there's an app for that. Sister paper SDN wrote up the story here.

CO detection makes sense for dealers and consumers

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
More and more states are passing legislation requiring mandatory CO detectors in new homes. This is a story that will explain why. It's about a family that was warned about dangerous levels of CO through its CO detector (which, importantly,was connected to the family's monitored alarm system.) The mother was quoted as saying:
"That was the really scary thing," she said. "We all felt fine. There was no smell, nothing."
System Sensor was showing its new (this fall) CO detector at ISC West, which has a test to ensure that it is, in fact, detecting CO. (This is notable because other brands have tests which ensure that the device is powered up, but not that the detection device is working.) CO detectors are an easy add-on for residential security dealers, and one that stands out, I think, as making good sense for families to have. System sensor maintains a nice tally on its Web site about where legislation has been passed Here's a link. Click on the links on the right hand side to find out what's passed or pending in terms of CO legislation.

High technology solution to "key bumping"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
In one of the more interestingly punctuated press releases I've been sent in a while, I was alerted to the Super Grip Lock, pitched as a solution to the key bumping problem (you know, where people can get past a deadbolt in about five seconds). In case you don't know about key bumping, here's a wacky Japanese video that gives you the idea (I'm sure there are English ones, too, but this one is fun): So, how do you stop criminals when they can just bump your deadbolt? Make sure the deadbolt handle can't turn! I'm thinking even I could install this thing: Of course, the question remains of what good this would actually do. Do robbers really very often target homes where people are there? Aren't they looking for unoccupied homes? I'm not completely sure why you'd want to more strenuously lock yourself in your home unless you had lots of enemies or something, and if they really want to get in because you haven't paid the vig on the $50,000 you borrowed to bet on the Red Sox last night, they'll just kick your door down or something. Maybe people do live in fear of burglars key bumping their homes while they're there and coming in an doing bodily harm to them. Maybe that's why I live in Maine. For those of you with time to kill, here's an instructive video about how to make one of these bump keys (go to YouTube to watch this if you enjoy expletive-filled comments (and who doesn't?)):

Can home security systems be art?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Yes. And here's proof in the form of a creepy video of some kids (who by the way, are in need of belts) breaking into a house in Florida. The good news is that the cops caught the thieves. The eight-camera system was sold to the homeowner by Landy Peluso, who owns Monitech Security Services. Landy told a local TV station that he installs hidden cameras in lamps and other places for customers. I have to add something here though. This video reminds me of a modern dance performance. It must be the stage-left and stage-right entrances and exits of the thieves, alternating with various pets, and accompanied by--what is that noise? a parakeet? Plus, like that dance performance, it goes on, and on, an on. If these kids straighten up and fly right, they might find better work in live installation in a museum. I"m not being critical, really. It's a security system that works, and it's like, art, man.

Architects getting phased out by security

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Obviously, I follow the publishing industry almost as closely as I follow the security industry (it'd be nice if my industry didn't completely disappear while I'm trying to cover another one), and the news in publishing is pretty bad right now. There's another paper or magazine closing every day, seemingly. However, Architectural Openings Journal closed not because the business model is crap, but because the market is disappearing. Why?
"That whole industry is being absorbed: half by the construction and half by the security industry."
Whereas the architect used to decide what the door opening would be, now it's the security guy and the construction guy. I often hear about manufacturers talking directly to the A&E community, and integrators often gripe about having to deal with A&Es show design without knowing how the products they specify will actually work, but maybe the A&E's influence is waning. Another good sign for the security industry, I'd say. I was totally surprised to see the cover of the magazine on the page I linked to above. For architects to be getting a cover story on biometric access control - just didn't realize their jobs went there. But I guess they don't anymore.

More (armed) security needed at sea

Monday, April 13, 2009
The most recent Somali pirate drama got me thinking. Should U.S. merchant ships be more secure? Should it become common practice to have armed security on-board? At least one ex-marine believes so. The point of a security system is protection of life and property, right? I mean, let's be honest, there's probably not going to be anything gained from installing intrusion alarms, motion sensors, and video monitoring on a ship which is out in international waters most of the time and in foreign jurisdictions a lot of the time, unless the first responders are right there on the ship. And unless they're equipped to deal with the menace these pirates increasingly pose. I say, arm the ships, and, to quote the aforementioned ex-marine, "smoke[d] every one of those guys." That may sound harsh, but these pirates aren't modern day Robin Hoods, they're criminals and murderers, and maybe need a little operant conditioning in the form of punishment. Just my opinion. I welcome yours. Oh, and I just have to comment on this line from the linked ABC story above:
Justice Department officials are trying to determine whether to try the pirate in the U.S. or leave him to a pirate court in Kenya that has yet to try anyone for piracy.
Am I understanding this correctly? The U.S. Justice Department is actually considering handing the one surviving pirate of a band of pirates who terrorized hard-working Americans, over to a "pirate court?" Huh...? A pirate court that has yet to try anyone for piracy, no less. Really? How do we know this court to try pirates isn't run by pirates? Yeah, let's consider handing this guy over to the pirate court. Good thinking. Again, just my opinion.

Saving money by cutting security?

Monday, April 13, 2009
This story out of Virginia could have some major implications for the security industry and the future of how we do security in the United States. Quite simply, we've got potential U.S. Congressmen arguing that the security being mandated for ferry service in their district is a waste of money and it should be cut or significantly scaled back in order to preserve the ferry service, which is important to the local economy. Check this quote out:
"Everybody who's ridden that ferry agrees that the security checks are not only not effective, but probably not needed," Clark said Thursday. "If we can save $1.6 million on the cost of providing security that isn't needed, we're most of the way to achieving the savings VDOT would achieve by cutting back on the ferry."
Stan Clark, an Isle of Wight County supervisor and a contender for the state House seat held by Del. William K. Barlow, is leading the effort. Barlow is a Democrat who represents the 64th District, which includes Isle of Wight and James City County.
Whoah! The security checks are not effective? Someone is running on a platform that the security is worthless? Has there been an incident on the ferries since they've begun? How do you know plans haven't been thwarted? That a potential terrorist passed up the target because it wasn't worth the attempt? Of course, there's no way of knowing those things. And after spending time in Israel, I'm actually pretty convinced that "random" inspections are worthless, as the guards can't actually perform random inspections - they naturally gravitate to certain situations and people and once you observe them for a while it's pretty easy to avoid the "random" inspection if you're a smart bad guy. But ought we to be politicizing the expense of security? Should this Clark guy be deciding what's worthless and what's necessary? Is he getting security briefings? Does he have any experience with security operations and risk management? These kinds of decisions need to be left to independent third-parties appointed by the government but operating relatively free from political restraint. The real problem, of course, is that this is an unfunded mandate from the federal government to the states. This is the nut graph:
Though security is mandated by the federal government, the cost falls on VDOT's shoulders. The $1.6 million covers a security detail of between 32 and 35 armed security guards provided by a private security firm, according to Hansen. The guards each are provided basic weather gear, a sidearm, a nonlethal weapon and a flashlight.
If security is seen as a burden, it's not going to be done right. If security is going to be mandated, there needs to be funding behind that mandate (this is the same kind of policy-making that has crippled public schools, by the way, and has set up resentment against kids who need special education - I've seen that firsthand as well). And people need to see the reason for the mandate, too. This bit, thrown in at the end of the story, is mindblowing:
VDOT does not keep a log of incidents handled by ferry security guards, but numerous arrests have been made involving "threats to the ferry, contraband and assistance in breaking up fights," Hansen said. "The biggest thing we have found is that having the security presence there has been a deterrent to people breaking the law," she said.
Um, maybe you want to keep a log of those things? Seems like a pretty easy thing to do, and it should fall under public right to know laws, anyway. If you can show the tangible benefit (the ROI, in today's speak), you can make a better case for getting the security funded. For some time, I've been hearing that transportation security and government-funded projects in general are a safe bet for an industry looking for new markets. But if security is suddenly seen as an unnecessary expense by any large portion of the the political population, that market could begin to dry up, especially on the state and local levels, where budgets are especially thin and they can't just go borrowing trillions of dollars, like the feds. I think this is a very interesting case to watch.

Unmonitored camera liability?

Friday, April 10, 2009
Busy finishing up our May issue, but had a down minute and went over to check out VideoIQ CTO Doug Marman's blog, something I'd been meaning to do for a while. Check out the top post. There's an interesting discussion of the potential liability for corporations deploying cameras but not monitoring them. This isn't something I've heard of before and I'll be checking into it for a potential trends story.