Ooh, I hate those meter reader guys. You know, the ones who spend their days driving up and down city streets in their golf cart-size trucks trying to bust people for running to the bank without depositing adequate change in the meter (can you tell I've been busted a few times?). Well, perhaps I would've been able to find a parking space in the bank lot if they had employed this company. Basically, the company uses security guards to monitor parking lots via video to ensure that people who are parking there are indeed conducting business at the respective owner's place of business. My take on this article is two-fold: One, yes, it's a way to keep people from parking in private lots where they aren't doing business and, two, it keeps those security guards from dying of boredom. Based on the article you can tell these guards are excited to have something to do, too. The example they cite is about a guy who parked in a bank parking lot and then didn't go into the bank (!!).Although the driver insisted he had done business in the bank, Houle said he had the whole thing on camera. "(He) came back 40 minutes after (parking) without any proof that he went into the bank," Houle said. The guards booted his car and charged him $75 to take it off. Apparently, it's working and freed up a number of available parking spots for bank users, but really, $75? That's a wee bit steep, in my opinion, but I guess somebody's gotta pay for those meter maids, I mean security guards.
Here's a little blurb about a Swiss company working to integrate "analysis modules for biochemical sensing" into textiles for health monitoring. It made me wonder how prevalent true health monitoring was in the industry and the logistics of central stations to incorporate it into their offerings? Granted, this isn't your average PERS monitoring, it involves the analysis of sweat, blood (and tears?). Per the company's Web site: This allows for the first time the monitoring of body fluids via sensors distributed on a textile substrate and performing biochemical measurements. I imagine the development of the specialty "sensing textiles" would be fairly complex, but I wonder about the requirements for monitoring? Could companies that already specialize in PERS and have medically trained operators easily incorporate this high level of medical monitoring into their systems? It's obviously a new technology, but the concept seems plausible to me. And frankly, I'm curious what these "sensing textiles" will look like. I have a hard time believing these techie guys will have even a remote sense of fashion (people have to wear these things, after all).
At ISC West I had a chance to talk with Mike May, the president of iVerify, a dedicated video monitoring company in Charlotte, N.C. They just bought a 40,000-square-foot building in Charlotte on a 15-acre secure campus. Here's a good article from the Charlotte Observer about the company. (There will also be an article in our May issue about the purchase, by the way). The Observer piece was interesting because it included alternative uses for video in the retail space and the potential for video to be used for more than just security. May talked briefly about video as a marketing tool for stores to evaluate how much time customers spend at certain displays and the flow of people through the store as a way to better market products. Yet again, another example of additional services that can be incorporated with security. What's the buzzword for that again? Oh, yeah, value-added services. I bet those crazy marketing people pay good money for those kind of statistics, too. I hear there's a new conference that focuses on educating security companies about alternative value-added services to add to their offerings. Check it out: Security Business Development Forum (and yes, SSN, is coordinating a large part of it and, yes, it's certainly worth your click).
Everybody wants a piece of the remote monitoring pie. Here's an article about SureWest, a California communications company, launching a remote monitoring service. Sounds like a plug and play system where they send you a camera, some sensors, a little bit of hardware/software and, of course, instructions. I'm always curious if these companies have dedicated customer service for new ventures like this, because frankly, no matter how simple it sounds, most of us are mildly-to-severely technologically challenged and setting up a system is probably at least a little tricky. The system appears to be completely self-monitored and I'd say only has a security application in passing, (you get alerts when your front door opens, for example, and can access video on-demand), but the concept of remote monitoring is something the security industry should take note of. The concept itself is fairly appealing. I spoke with Bill Diamond from Xanboo (they're the company that designed basically everything for AT&T's Remote Monitoring system, from technology to service) and he said the real driver for residential video, specifically, is the revolution of the cell phone. When people really start using their cell phones to check-in on their home, turn on lights, regulate temperature and who knows what else, the remote monitoring market will explode. And shouldn't security be the natural driving force behind remote monitoring? Anyone who doesn't at least dabble in home automation seems to be missing out on a significant opportunity to sell more than security to their customers and even if it's not full blown remote monitoring capabilities, at least it's a step in the right direction. I wonder if it could save me from stressing about whether or not I left my coffee pot on?
Next time you find yourself trying to defend the amount of false alarms in the industry (yeah, yeah we all know somebody said 97 to 99 percent of all alarms are false), cite this case to prove that SOMETIMES, false alarms can be a good thing. After all, they do get the police out there and in cases like this, cause them to hit the jackpot:PHOENIX Ã¢â‚¬â€ Officers seized 900 pounds of marijuana, thousands of dollars in cash and three firearms at a Phoenix home after responding to what turned out to be a false alarm. Sgt. Andy Hill said Sunday that patrol officers responded to a west Phoenix home after a burglar alarm went off at about 2 p.m. Saturday. While investigating, Hill says officers spotted a man jump a wall by the house. Not knowing if there had been a burglary, the officers chased the man into the backyard of a nearby home. While arresting him, officers saw a storage room door open with numerous bales of marijuana inside. They found a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and about $10,000 in cash inside the house. All I have to say is 900 POUNDS of marijuana?! In bales? Really? I sure hope the police waived the fine for that guy's alarm.
So this morning I found an interesting video monitoring application being used in meat processing plants. I realize it's not exactly the market for the average security installer or integrator, but I thought it was a good example of how security technology is moving beyond traditional applications and is actually being used to improve business operations (and, in this case, the health of consumers). Arrowsight is a company that provides remote video auditing (RVA) technology (a new acronym for me), and installs these systems in meat processing and animal handling factories so managers can constantly monitor "the line" to ensure that employees are following food safety standards. In the wake of this massive meat recall with video surfacing showing unimaginable violations of meat handling compliance, knowing that somebody is keeping an eye on how the nation's meat is being handled is slightly comforting (although the company's who are progressive enough to install video monitoring systems probably aren't the ones using fork lifts to move sick cattle into the slaughter house). For the security integrators out there, this is just another example of how security systems are moving beyond traditional applications and truly becoming a tool to improve business.
I had a chance to tour National Monitoring Center's new central station in Irving, Texas on my way to the airport from the TechSec conference last week. It's housed in a brand-spanking new plaza that, when I pulled up, only had one car in the parking lot (which happened to my host, Stefan Rayner, the central station manager's vehicle, still sporting California plates). Stefan gave me a tour of the new facility, which is nearly complete (minus a few pieces of furniture here and there), but won't be completely up and running until early this summer. Stefan explained all the renovations and additions they had made to the building and I even peeked in a currently unoccupied building next door to see how much work they had put into the space. I must say, I was very impressed with the design: from the sleek glass doors that made the space very open and breathable, to interesting features like the electrostatic glass viewing window that can be illuminated to see operators at work (see picture above). Stefan explained this feature was a way to show clients the central station space without distracting operators with continual walk-throughs. Certainly a good idea. Now, I must admit I've only seen a handful of central stations, but this one is above and beyond what is actually required for a central station in terms of design. It currently has 20 operator stations, (with room for at least five more), a roomy break area for operators (although it too is surrounded by glass, so any snoozing, for example, isn't a secret), a training/education room, conference room (that's the one with the electrostatic glass), a large circular reception area and two offices for management, which, by the way, are also surrounded by glass, so the boss can't sneak in any shut eye either. The only thing I would like to see at every central station is some type of exercise space for operators (and at my office, too, now that I think of it).
Checkers the dog is the scapegoat once again. This Checkers isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t NixonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pooch who took the fall as the only campaign contribution Nixon accepted in 1952, but instead an escape artist pitbull mix from L.A. who is blamed for setting off his owners security system multiple times after escaping from his crate, according to this article in The Los Angeles Times. Police responded to each of Checkers Houdini moves, despite the city's two false alarm limit policy, which should have alerted dispatchers of the multiple alarms and not sent police to respond. But apparently the city's 911 system isn't sophisticated enough to flag these alarms, so dispatchers just kept sending the police and costing the owner, and the city, money. This situation brings to light the administrative reality of implementing false alarm policies: most cities and municipalities are not prepared to track, enforce and collect false alarm fines. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a huge administrative task and, in most cities, requires personnel, or even a separate department, dedicated to the task of managing false alarms. One company, appropriately named Cry Wolf (owned by AOT Public Safety Corp.) has designed its business around false alarm policy management. The company can either completely manage a municipalities false alarm program and take a percentage of the fees collected, or install software programs and train employees to self-manage the false alarm program. Check out this article about about Cry Wolf from our March paper.
I know it seems like September is a long ways away, but this week I'm on a preview trip of ASIS International's 54th Annual Seminar, which will take place Sept. 15-18 in Atlanta, Georgia. So far, I'm very impressed with Atlanta and some of the venue spaces they have here. For example, I'm staying in the Marriott Marquis which boasts one of the largest atriums in the world (47 stories) and is dizzyingly spectacular. The Westin is also pretty cool and is the tallest hotel in the Western hemisphere (74 stories) with a rotating restaurant allowing you to eat dinner with a 360 degree view of the city. Tomorrow we're touring the Georgia World Congress Center where the show will actually be held. We also got an "after hours" tour of the aquarium (i.e. no little kiddies running around), which was amazing. You could tell everyone was very impressed with the scenery. They even built a conference space that can hold 1,200 people with a similar view of the 64 million gallon tank and four rare and impressive whale sharks (left). Smart people. One of the highlights of the aquarium was the beluga whale, and it wasn't just because he was playful and majestic, but I won't go into details and leave that to curious minds and YouTube (and no, I'm not going to link to anything). Let's just say he thought these ladies were impressive, too. And, to top it all off, we had beautiful clear skies to watch the full lunar eclipse. ASIS folks go out of their way to put on a good show.
Only three days left until the Feb. 18 sunset date and the expiration of analog cellular service in the U.S. (and that's counting a weekend, so really after today, it's over). Most people in the industry predict it will be a largely uneventful day, but I'm not so sure. After all, Monday is a holiday and Tuesday is a full moon. With that combo, who knows what could happen? I spoke with Bud Wulforst, the president of the Central Station Alarm Association, and he said he thinks most of the larger security companies are ready for the transition, but he is concerned that the smaller companies either aren't aware of the situation or aren't taking the appropriate actions to change their customers' systems over (here's an article with our conversation). I can understand that there's a cost and time issue with changing out systems, but I can't believe that anyone, especially anyone in the security business, is unaware that analog is on its way out. Frankly, they must not be very good businesspeople because I just did a quick Google News search for "analog cellular" and more than 10 pages worth of articles came up. For example, here's an article about the ending of analog and its effect on security systems from a paper out of Colorado. However, there's not much anyone can do at this point. Like Wulforst said in reference to companies that aren't ready for Monday's deadline: "If theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re scrambling now, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s too late. They shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been scrambling months ago." So, all we can do is wait and see what happens. Get lots of rest over this long weekend - next week could be interesting.