Subscribe to


Murphy, Forman lauded by industry

Wednesday, June 3, 2009
News from the CSAA informs us that Vector Security president John A. Murphy and Altronix Corp. president Alan Forman are deserving of some applause. The most recent edition of CSAA's Signals reports Murphy received the Triton Tri-Association Award in recognition of his industry statesmanship and his efforts to promote good working relationships among the three associations--CSAA, NBFAA and SIA. Established in 2004, the Triton Award recognizes an individual's commitment to advancing the industry through the work of the three associations. Past winners include Stan Martin, Charlie Darsch, Marc Mineau, and Ralph Sevinor. Forman won SIA's George R. Lippert Memorial Award in recognition of his contributions to SIA and the security industry. Congrats to both for careers well-led and well-recognized.

What will they do with the lingerie?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Okay, so there's nothing really interesting about this story concerning a Victoria's Secret store getting robbed. It's pretty standard stuff:
Police said the pair stuffed dozens of bras into bags about 4:30 p.m. May 27. The security video shows the suspects walking between tables of merchandise. The woman carried a large purse. The man had a large bag that appeared to get fuller as the minutes ticked by.
However, I found this paragraph amusing:
Police suspect the stolen merchandise will be sold on the Internet or the black market. Victoria's Secret's loss-prevention staff will monitor the Internet to see if the items are posted for sale.
That's crack police thinking there. What, you don't think those dozen bras were stolen for personal use? Hey, the economy's tough out there!

IPhone apps hit home security (somebody's fibbing)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Well, okay, there's a Blackberry app, too, but Blackberries are booooring. Anyway, both the new iPhone and Blackberry app are the creation of, so that and GE Security dealers can now offer their customers all kinds of sweet remote control of their systems, along with remote reporting features, etc. And yes, it's a free app that you can download if you're an security customer. That's a nice little bonus you can offer your customers, no? Here's the problem with the release, though: Um, you're not an industry first, Either your PR guy got ahead of himself or you gave him some bad information. Here's your headline, to be clear: Launches Industry-First Home Security Apps for iPhone and BlackBerry
And here's the reality: Honeywell's My Keypad App (also free) was released on April 3. Your iPhone app was released May 8. See how April 3 is before May 8 on the calendar? Sorry, I just hate how people use superlatives in this industry without even checking to see if they're right. It ruins things for everyone because I just basically think you're all liars. Sorry. (It took me exactly two minutes to search "home security" and discover Honeywell's app, even if they didn't put out a press release about it or anything. I'm trying not to pick on you, - you're not the only one making claims without checking, believe me.) So far, on iTunes, there are 73 ratings and 17 reviews posted for the app. People generally seem to either love it or hate it: There are 43 5-star reviews, but also 21 1-star reviews. I'd give you samples of the reviews, but there's no way to link to them and you can't highlight/cut-and-paste from iTunes. So Apple's not perfect. There, I said it. For Honeywell, there are 16 ratings, with the same love/hate relationship: 7 5-stars, and 7 1-stars. Generally, the 1-stars come from people who think you can just control any alarm system with the app, and then are disappointed and mean spirited, even though it says pretty clearly you need to be a Honeywell Total Connect customer with AlarmNet service for Honeywell and have service for the other. (Also, I love how people get ragingly upset (we're talking 15 unsmiley faces) when a FREE app doesn't do what they thought it would - yeah, sorry you wasted the 20 seconds of your life downloading that FREE app!) I also think it's interesting how the two companies have chosen to categorize their apps. puts theirs under "Lifestyle." Honeywell went with "Utilities." Different places to be searching, for sure. Also, for whatever reason, when you search "Home Security" in the App Store the app comes up on the first page, but Honeywell doesn't come up until the second page, which will work in's favor. I'm not sure if that's ranked by most downloads or what, but it would seem judging by reviews that is pushing more apps out there. Oh, and while I'm talking apps, there's an app from AVAI, which does "fusion" systems that bundle AV, lighting, security, etc. Guess how much their app is: $149.99. Stupid. So a customer buys a multi-thousand dollar system from you and then you tell them they need to shell out $150 to download the iPhone app that controls it? Stupid.

Be careful what you ask for

Monday, June 1, 2009
I came across this story today, which is your basic local-paper coverage of a new security system that's going to be installed over the summer in the Nashua, NH, school system, assuming city officials approve the proposal (which will happen, I'm sure). So, why is it interesting? Well, a couple things really. The first has to do with the role of consultants in the industry. There are some who'd argue they work against integrators, as consultants puff up their own importance at the expense of the eventually installer, while integrators always grumble to me that they have to completely re-jigger the security plans once they actually wrest them away from the consultant. But, in this case at least, it seems like the consultant did pretty well for everyone. Check this out:
In 2007, school district officials went before the aldermen’s budget committee to request $554,00 for security upgrades. But the aldermen asked the school district to hire a consultant.
Okay, that makes sense, I guess. I mean, they could have just put out for bids at that point and seen what an integrator would tell them about their plans, but I understand the desire for a professional's opinion at the starting point. Let's see what happened:
“That’s what has happened and this is what they’re coming back with,” Jim Mealey, the school district’s chief operating officer, told members of the Board of Education on Tuesday night. At the meeting, board members voted in favor of asking the Board of Aldermen to take the $2.21 million out of the city’s school district capital reserve fund, which has about $7.3 million in it.
Thank you, consultant (or, in this case, W.L. Bliss)! The job just went from a little over half a million to more than $2.2 million. Brilliant! That's the kind of consulting this industry needs, I'd say. So, who's going to get the installation gig? Surveillance Specialties (they go by Surv, we wrote about them here). Why did they win the gig?
According to a memo from Smith, the district received 11 bids for the work, ranging in cost from $1.7 million to $2.9 million. Smith wrote that Surveillance Systems was chosen because it was the lowest bidder to provide a Web-based system, which allows access to the system from remote sites, such as the police department.
So, here's point number two: I hear over and over about schools being a great vertical right now, and I can certainly see why. I see stories like this at least once a week, and there's stimulus money still to be spent. But if you're not putting in IP-based systems, wireless locks, and the newest technology in general, good luck. The ROI and increased utility of these new technologies is extremely attractive to the education vertical and I'm not surprised SURV, which clearly gets the web and IT-based security architecture, got the job. But maybe the schools could have saved themselves some money. SURV offers a free consultation service, after all. But maybe SURV wouldn't haven't made the job quite so big...

Five Diamond milestone & cert renewals

Monday, June 1, 2009
The CSAA has announced its Five Diamond program has reached an important milestone. Acadian Command Central, one of the central stations of Acadian On Watch, was the 100th central station to receive Five Diamond certification. Also this week, Per Mar Security Services of Davenport, La. announced it had renewed its Five Diamond certification. Congrats to Acadian Command Central and Per Mar! The CSAA’s Five Diamond Certification program is designed to create standards of excellence for the industry. In order for a central station to earn its Five Diamond Certification, all its operators must undergo the online training course and pass a test, demonstrating proficiency in: alarm verification (reduction of false alarms); communications with public service answering points such as 911; electronic communications equipment; the codes and practices of such standards organizations as Underwriters Laboratories, Factory Mutual, and the National Fire Protection Association; the handling of a wide scenario of emergency preparedness situations. And for those central in Canada or South America who speak French or Spanish, the training, as I noted in a recent story, is now available in multiple languages with the cooperation of CANASA and ALAS. According to the CSAA, there are over 2,700 central stations in the United States, and of this group there are now a little more than 100 central stations that have undergone the process and achieved certification.

A multi-college security department

Monday, June 1, 2009
This is a new phenomenon: Three colleges in Massachusetts have decided to combine and consolidate their public safety departments, to do more with less. I've heard of integrators recommending that security departments work with marketing and operations to try to grab more money for budgets, but, in this case, I wonder if integrators should be asking small campuses to think about working with other local small campuses to get a better and more flexible surveillance system, for example, where 1 plus 1 would really add up to a better IP-based system for both parties, as they could split the cost of the monitoring facility. Looks like that's what they're doing at Smith, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke:
As part of the merger, the dispatch operation will be located at a shared facility at Mount Holyoke. Otherwise, the officers currently stationed on each campus will stay in place, except in case of emergencies or special events. Officials said the response times for calls will not change.
Basically, they're keeping almost all the people, but reducing duplication of technology and increasing the ability to have a lot of officers on one of the three campuses should there be a large event of some kind that would otherwise require hiring out for help. Really interesting, I think.

Was airport security really okay?

Friday, May 29, 2009
Maybe you've seen the story about the woman who faked her own kidnapping and grabbed her daughter and ran away to Florida, flying through the Philly airport by using the driver's license of her friend and coworker. Maybe you haven't. It's a tabloidy thing of no real consequence. But then I saw this story - a good one, in my opinion - where the Philly Inquirer wonders aloud whether this calls into question the validity of airport security. The TSA says, "nope. Not at all." I say, "well, not really, since any smart person knows that airport security is pretty fraudulent, anyway, and isn't really designed to keep a person off of an airplane, just a bomb or other weapon." For example:
Sweeten had a valid Pennsylvania driver's license with a photo that closely resembled her. "It was a real driver's license, so it had all the security features that a real driver's license has," FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaver said.
Which are, well, none, really. Right? It's just a picture and a name. All of the hologram stuff, etc., probably couldn't be faked by some random woman, but it could certainly be faked by a terrorist operation of some kind. But anyone who's ever used their brother's license to buy booze at the local 7-11 (not me - I don't have a brother, which was a real pain in ass at UVM, where it's virtually impossible to get alcohol without a valid ID) knows no one really looks at the picture. They look to make sure the card is real and that you didn't make it at Kinko's, but they don't really look at you, per se.
The 38-year-old Bucks County woman "was using a driver's license of somebody who looked like her, and the ticket matched the name on the license," Klaver said. "This country has decided that your driver's license is your primary form of ID," Klaver said. "Driver's license photos, to begin with, are not very good. Pull out your driver's license picture, and hold it up and look in the mirror. How much does it really look like you every day?"
Mine doesn't look anything like me right now since I'm in summertime no-beard mode and my license has me in full-beard. The TSA guys never even look at me, though. The clerks at the local supermarket are more scrutinous. That's probably because they think I'm using my brother's license and there's a real penalty for selling alcohol to a minor - what penalty is there for a TSA employee who lets through someone with a fake ID by mistake? I've never heard of one and no one's being penalized in this case. Think about that for a second. If a clerk at the grocery store sells me booze when I'm 19 and using my brother's license, the store gets a stiff fine. I think it's $500 or so here in Maine. Do you think the clerk can say, "oh, well, he was using a real license and looked a lot like the picture..."? Um, no. The liquor inspector doesn't care in the slightest. If that happens more than once or twice, you lose your license. But, the TSA lets through someone who is not the person she claims to be and this is the explanation:
TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said, "Our officers are trained to make sure that passengers' travel documents and government-issued IDs are legitimate." "They are looking for evidence of tampering" and "proper state markings on the ID. They do look at the photo," Davis said. "However, law enforcement tells us that the woman in question used the valid ID of a coworker with whom she shares a very strong resemblance." "If the photo bears a strong resemblance to the passenger, and all other markings appear to be legitimate, then the ID would not raise any red flags," Davis said.
Talk about covering your ass! There's nothing about being concerned that this happened, nothing about an officer being punished, nothing about making sure this never happens again. Just, well, "hey, we did our job, right?" What absolute crap. When I think about what the Israelis would say about this, I'm aghast. The Israelis are laughing at us. They are. They think we're idiots. Just think about this:
Sweeten paid cash at the US Airways ticket counter at the airport for two 4:15 p.m. tickets to Orlando. Airlines track passengers who pay cash or buy one-way fares as part of market research, but such behavior is not considered suspicious or reported to security. "You are allowed to pay cash for an airline ticket," Klaver said.
Who pays cash for an airline ticket? Who does that? Have you ever done that? What percentage of people buy airline tickets at the airport with cash? I bet it's less than .000001. No one does that. But that's not suspicious behavior? Of COURSE that's suspicious behavior. That's the definition of suspicious behavior - doing something that no one does! The Israelis talk all the time about profiling actions and behaviors and not profiling people. This woman drew no attention because she's a white woman traveling with a little kid. How cute! It's a mommy-daughter trip to Florida! But, seriously, who, employed in a security role, could watch someone pay cash for a same-day ticket to Florida and not provide a little extra scrutiny to what's going on? But the thing is the person who sold the ticket probably doesn't see themselves in a security role, even though they should. So, they don't care, it's not their job; there's no system in place to flag such actions on the part of passengers; and by the time the TSA screener sees the ticket, it's just a normal ticket, so why would they spend more time on it? This is the explanation we get:
"Whether she showed ID to buy an airline ticket, again, she had a driver's license that looked like her," Klaver said. "They don't ask for a second form of ID. We don't use biometrics - fingerprints, retinal scans. It would be prohibitively expensive. We use a driver's license." "The woman took steps to get away. She was successful at it," Klaver said. "Does this show some systemic weakness in our security process? That's an opinion I'm not going to offer."
Again, an appeal to technology and money, when they don't have anything to do with it. It's about people, systems, and training. I'm sorry, but just how much could those two women look alike? You're telling me if she had been flagged for the cash payment and somebody looked a little harder it wouldn't have slowed things down enough for someone to check if there was anything on the wire about a woman who'd maybe been abducted, probably with a picture attached? A better system would have solved the problem. It doesn't have anything to do with biometrics. There's plenty of technology in place, as evidenced by the quick way they figured out where Sweeten went and so captured her. However, there's no way you could get some kind of bomb or device on a plane if you're going through security. I'm convinced of that. So our system is designed to prevent one very specific thing from happening, but it's not designed to catch criminals flying around the country under assumed aliases, that's for sure. I'm not surprised by that. But maybe my lack of surprise is what should be surprising to me.

Bart Didden & Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor

Thursday, May 28, 2009
Here's a little six degrees of separation exercise for you on this Thursday morning: How are security personality Bart Didden and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor connected? I had this very thought this morning when I saw a big ole picture of Bart (who's president of USA Central Station Alarm Corp., former NBFAA president etc.) in the New York Times in a story about Sotomayor's judicial decision history. (I really wish I could post the picture...but I can't yet... you know, it's the same old story...our techies just can't get me permission. ) Anyway, here's the link to the story, and you can see the photo here. The story's says that Sotomayor's decisions (while she served on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals) on business and finance are difficult to categorize. Well, some conservatives point to certain decisions and say "danger," while others point to so-called pro-business decisions as evidence that Sotomayor is not an idealogue. As an example, the story cites:
In a 2006 property rights case, she upheld a town’s effort to take private property for redevelopment. But in 2002, she supported property rights in a case involving impounded cars.
And here's the Bart-Sonia connection: The property rights in question in 2006 were Bart Didden's. From the story:
¶And in a key property-rights case, Didden v. Village of Port Chester, Judge Sotomayor took part in a brief unsigned order from the Second Circuit in 2006. The order, which followed the Supreme Court’s major property-taking decision in Kelo v. City of New London, supported a town’s effort to seize property for the use of a developer. Richard A. Epstein, a conservative legal scholar at the University of Chicago, wrote in Forbes magazine that “American business should shudder in its boots if Judge Sotomayor takes this attitude to the Supreme Court.”

Maybe there WILL only be one card someday

Thursday, May 28, 2009
So, HID already teamed with Dell to make it so one card gets me in the door and on the network. Cool. But not nearly as cool as that same card being my debit card. That's REALLY cool. For some reason, HID put out a press release with a bunch of hot links all throughout it, but didn't actually post the link on their web site, so I can't link to it, but here's the news:
IRVINE, Calif., May 28, 2009 – HID Global, the trusted worldwide leader in providing solutions for the delivery of secure identity, today announced that its iCLASS®secure contactless technology for physical and logical access control has been successfully combined with INSIDE Contactless’ MicroPass®contactless payment platform featuring Visa®payWave capability to enable the industry’s first converged card solution that incorporates identity and access control with payment. Recently debuted in a pilot for U.S. Bank, the converged solution enables U.S. Bank and Visa issuers worldwide to create new card programs using this converged solution, providing users with a single card that offers them the ability to gain access to secure buildings and facilities and make purchases. No longer are users required to carry multiple cards or tokens.
Let me summarize that for you, in case you didn't make it all the way through the 57-word first sentence: HID can now make it so one card lets you get in the door, get on the network, and buy groceries. Cool. (Okay, so it's not really your debit card, per se, but it's close to that.) If I worked in a place that had any access control whatsoever or actually gave a crap at all about network access privileges, I would be all over that! I have to actually leave some of my cards at home because they don't all fit in my wallet. If you can make it so I have fewer cards, you are my new best friend. Gosh I wish some of my cards were access card thingees so that I could then take advantage of this new cool capability on the part of HID and have fewer cards. Dang crime-free Maine! I think it goes without saying that this is a killer app for college campuses, where mommy and daddy are constantly refilling the account that goes along with the ID card kids use for getting stuff at the dining hall and vending machines and the laundry. Now that card can be both a picture ID and the only way into the dorm and the only way to get onto the school network/log on to their school provided laptop? Seems like a no brainer. Maine will do something like this with our driver's licenses in 2055, but they'll expect us to be impressed that not only is it an ID card, but it's also great for scraping the ice off your windshield AND removing annoying sap deposits on your hood. How's THAT for convergence?!?

Good Samaritan security Co. saves day

Thursday, May 28, 2009
I came across this story from this morning and thought it was an interesting example of altruism in the industry, the more so because when I called Central Security Group seeking comment, the central station manager I spoke with had no idea what I was talking about. I relayed the story to him , and he checked their monitored account database and confirmed. "We're monitoring them, all right," he said, and promised to escalate my call to higher ups and see if I could get some more commentary on why Central decided to help these poor people out. It sure is nice to see people doing the right thing and not publicizing it; doing the right thing because it's right not because it will win them the recognition of news outlets like 3 On Your Side and SSN, who notice when people do the right thing. It's nice to see people in the industry doing nice things to keep public perception of the industry from tarnishing, even if it means they're eating the cost of some monthly RMR. I called PCA Security to try and get some input from them on what happened, and (actually, this is kind of funny) the same girl who answered the phone for poor Dawn Stapley when she tried to follow up with her alarm company answered my call. Just as in the azfamily story, the girl answered "Security, please hold!" before putting me on hold, which came complete with loud and--to my mind--unpleasant guitar rock music. She did eventually come back, though, and, after hearing why I called, asked me to call back later and speak with the boss, which I will do. I'll follow up on this story as more input becomes available.