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Frost & Sullivan makes me want to take a shower

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I know this is something akin to flogging a dead horse, but for those people who wonder about the value of Frost & Sullivan’s “reports,” today provides an example of just how ridiculous and slimy they come off to journalists of my ilk.

Across PR Newswire, which is theoretically a vehicle for companies to announce “news” (a concept getting harder and harder to define), came today this headline:

(Here’s where to find a copy of the release, on Earth Times, since the PR feed I use is password protected.)

“Customised Services and Innovative Solutions Give Security Integrators a Competitive Edge in the Retail Market, Says Frost & Sullivan”

Huh, I says to myself, that’s maybe an interesting study. Perhaps something we could use in our “stats” feature or something. (Note: I may have not actually said that to myself. That was for illustrative purposes and dramatic effect.)

So I kept reading (that part is true):

LONDON, Aug. 17 /PRNewswire/ — The retail sector continues to face many volatile risks that jeopardize its bottom line. Although always vital, security is now being increasingly prioritized as an integral element of business operations. Many security solution integrators utilize their technical, risk-management knowledge and offer customised, advanced solutions to gain a competitive edge in the retail sector.

That’s basically true. We’re seeing the same thing, surely. Nothing new here, but it’s just an opening graph. No reason to expect anything revelatory. “Volatile risks!” That sounds scary. Let’s see what’s next:

In a recently conducted survey of 100 retail security managers, Frost & Sullivan, global growth consultancy, found that managers are very much aware of the importance of creating solutions well-tailored to their specific operational and security requirements. Matia Grossi, Frost & Sullivan Research Manager for Physical Security group and author of the survey, notes: “The majority of retailers, when asked about unmet needs, points out that customised services, innovative technology and the integration of old and new security systems are all value-added services that retailers are starting to expect from their system integrators.”

Well done with correct subject-verb agreement with the “majority points” there. Lots of people screw that up. Otherwise, I don’t think it takes 100 calls to end users to discover they want systems “well-tailored to their specific operational and security requirements” and that “innovative technology and the integration of old and new security systems are all value-added services that retailers are starting to expect from their system integrators.”

I mean, that pretty much goes without saying.

I’m sort of imagining how those calls went:

F&S: “Howdy. So, do you want systems that are customised to your specific needs or do you just want a generic system that may or may not actually solve your problem?”

End user: “Hmmmm. That’s a toughie. But, after much reflection, I’m going to go with the customised one. That generic option sounds pretty sweet, but I really liked how you spelled customised, with the s, so that’s what I’m going to pick.”

F&S: “Right then. Next question. Do you think your integrator should use innovative technology and work with the system you already have in place, or do you think they should use a bunch of old crap and that they should just rip out what you have in place before installing the new crappy one?”

End user: “Geeez. I didn’t think this would be so hard. Let’s see … innovative or old and crap … use my existing infrastructure or just scrap it and totally screw myself … dang. It’s really hard to pick. But I’m going to go with innovative technology that works with and builds upon my installed technology. That seems like the better choice.”

F&S: “Awesome. Thanks for your input. We’ll let you know if you win that iPod.”

But, hey, they did the study. Maybe there’s some other worthwhile stuff they found. I’ll keep reading and see what else there is:

Many integrators have already sharpened their security skills through activity in heated markets, such as banking and critical infrastructure. Now, with this experience, they are prepared to increase their market presence in the retail sector. This trend has been confirmed by the recent announcement from the security integrator, Niscayah, regarding a substantial new contract involving 350 retail outlets in the Netherlands. Niscayah introduced the “Niscayah One-for-All” retail concept, which includes implementation, maintenance and system operation, offering remote operation and single point of contact for the customer.

Um, what? Where did that “trend” come from? I thought we were talking about an end user survey. How would they know what integrators had been up to before they entered the retail vertical? Nor do I even think that’s true, considering the integrators I know who are in the retail vertical. Maybe they go from financial to retail, but critical infrastructure and retail are pretty much apples and oranges, and the retail vertical has been death for 18 months or so, so it seems unlikely that anyone was like, “hey, we’re rocking this government funded critical infrastructure, but let’s take these skills and go hit that retail vertical, which is dead in the water.”

Further, critical infrastructure and financial are “heated,” but retail’s a cupcake? Have they not heard of organized retail crime (somewhere, Rhianna is swooning)?

And Niscayah just happens to come to mind as an example? They’re the only ones who’ve nailed down a big retail contract lately? But maybe it’s just one example? Others will surely follow (hint: I don’t actually believe that will happen).

Frost & Sullivan’s survey also shows that retailers are interested in the alternative benefits offered by newer security technologies. A good example of this is video analytics. Matia Grossi explains: “Over 70 per cent of those we interviewed declared an awareness of the utility of video surveillance for applications beyond pure security, such as customer counting and demographic and queue monitoring, with varying percentages for each application. Roughly 80 per cent of those aware of this possibility suggested they are also looking actively into the potential deployment of video analytics.”

So, 70 of the 100 end users have heard of video analytics. That actually seems low to me. That capability has been pretty common knowledge for more than five years, at least. And of those who know about analytics, 80 percent “suggested they are also looking actively into the potential deployment.”

Isn’t that a lot of hedging of bets: suggested, looking into, potential.

Coupled with this market demand, customer interests abound, as Niscayah promotes the use of security solutions to optimise the business. Some of the company customers have been using video analytics to adjust relations according to customer flows, as seen and identified by surveillance cameras.

Market demand? That’s putting it strongly. Nor does that first sentence make sense. Abounding interests are coupled with demand? And Niscayah is involved again why? I’m sure “some” of just about every major integrator’s customers are using analytics that way.

“If we look at Large Box Retailers, although they are price and brand conscious, they assign the same degree of importance to case studies that integrators use to demonstrate their solutions’ efficacy and their ability to prove the Return on Investment (ROI) of the proposed solutions,” concludes Matia Grossi. “This places Niscayah on an even footing with other, more traditional players in the market.”

Huh? Who’s a more traditional player than Niscayah? They’re a company that was created by buying smaller traditional security systems integrators and mashing them up into Securitas Systems, then renaming itself using a Sanskrit word. I don’t think the Sanskrit makes them progressive or non-traditional.

After the word “Niscayah” in that paragraph, you could insert the words “or any other systems integrator that’s using even moderately new technology” and be just as accurate.

And then here’s the end of press release.

If you would like to receive more information on Frost & Sullivan Retail Survey - “End-User Study: 2010 EU Physical Security, Retail Segment” - or would like to learn more about the Physical Security Market in Europe, please contact Joanna Lewandowska, Corporate Communications, at Joanna.lewandowska@frost.com. Please include your name, surname, job title, company name and contact details in your query.

This is just so skeevie. Frost & Sullivan pretends like they’re promoting this end user study, when, in reality, they’re promoting Niscayah, which has surely paid them some sort of consulting fee. In place of Niscayah, there could have been Diebold, or ADT, or Convergint, or any of a dozen large integrators comfortable working in that retail segment (and, yes, I understand this is a European release, so change the names to make them European companies - whatever), mentioned in this release.

Who won’t see through this? What’s the point? Are there people now so non-media-savvy as to think, “gee, Frost & Sullivan thinks Niscayah are great at providing innovative retail security solutions. I’ll call them up first.”? And if the point is to highlight Niscayah, why don’t they just put them in the title and the lede instead of being all deceptive and sneaky about it?

“Oooh, I know. We’ll pretend to put out a release about trends in the integration marketplace that we discovered - naturally - through interviewing end users, and then we’ll slip in some stuff about Niscayah, and people will think they’re just the prime example of this trend we’ve noticed through exhaustive study! Ha, ha!”

“Next week, we’ll give them an award!”

It’s all just so icky. Someone make them stop.

As for Niscayah - I guess I can’t blame them for giving it a try, but I hope they don’t pay much for the service.

The Thrill Is Gone

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What? You thought with that title I was on my way out and considering a career outside of the security industry? You should be so lucky.

No, as I travel down to Pitt-town for ESX (seriously? Am I going to watch game 6 of the NBA finals in Pittsburgh? I’m having a hard time reconciling that fact), I’m just getting around to posting a full video at somewhat decent quality of the PSA-TEC jam. This was taken with an actual video camera, though I can’t exactly vouch for my cameramen (ahem, cough, where are the other songs?, ahem).

Anyway, it’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” featuring Paul Michael Nathan on harmonica, Frank DeFina on guitar (the guy on the right), one of the Samsung sales guys whose name I can’t remember on vocals, Daved Levine on bass, Jerry Cordasco on drums, a ringer from Louisiana on the other guitar, and me waiting for my turn on the NEXT song in the wings (at which point the camera apparently ran out of batteries - bad jokes in the comments better be good).

Should you need satellite interception technology…

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Monday, May 24, 2010

…NICE Systems now has a solution for you.

The company announced this morning the purchase of fellow Israeli firm Lamda Communication Networks.

What do they do?

“Lamda’s unique technology addresses the growing demand for satellite communication interception capabilities and enables law enforcement, internal security, and intelligence agencies to fight crime and terror more effectively.”

Hmmm. Sounds cool and all, but private firms with satellite communication interception capabilities? That gives even me the willies. Is there a way to detect when your satellite communication is being intercepted? I mean, what if someone is listening in on my call with my buddy where we’re discussing our brilliant new plan to launch a company that operates drink carts that serve people waiting at their gates in airports and they steal our idea!?!

I’m speaking in pig-latin for the foreseeable future.

Let’s not get carried away…

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Friday, May 14, 2010

I will begin this blog post by saying: I think George DeMarco is a great guy. Super friend of our paper. A humanitarian and someone who cares about both people and our industry. I also think the ESX show is a good idea. We’re sending three of our staff members to the event and two of us will be in speaking roles. I have no enmity nor bad feelings toward either ESX or George.

Everybody got that?

However:

Holy smokes is today’s ESX Pick of the Week hilarious. I just got done reading it aloud in the office (if you were wondering if I was that annoying to work with? Yes I am). I’m all for being your own hype-man, but at what point does something go over the top?

Ahem:

Just imagine the anticipation in June, the ESX 2010 exhibitor hall will soon open.

Ah, yes. Let’s imagine. The anticipation preceding my entrance to an exhibit hall with 150 booths. Hmmm. I’m having trouble quantifying it, really.

How about we put our anticipation level on a scale of 1-10?

Let’s say it looks like this:

10 - Fifth Powerball number about to be read; you hit the first four

9 - Ultrasound’s happening, the doctor says, “You’re having a …”

8 - About to get married to high-school sweetheart

7 - Boarding a plane to Europe for first visit there ever

6 - Game 7 of a seven-game series with your favorite team is about to start

5 - Great meal at your favorite restaurant is about to come

4 - It’s 4:45. Work’s over at 5.

3 - About to unscrew cap to fifth bottle of PBR, and you’ve already got 3 kings

2 - Someone says, “knock, knock”

1- Waiting to see if sun will rise today

So, using that scale, where would you put “doors of ESX show floor about open”?

I’ll give you some time to think about that one…

I don’t want to prejudice you with my vote, so I’m putting in lots of returns…

Maybe a 2.5?

Let’s just say I can imagine the anticipation.

There’s other funny stuff in the pick of the week (150 booths=”priceless”? Really?), but I couldn’t really do it without being over-the-top mean.