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by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, May 20, 2008
So I was just checking out this company, uControl, who just released a touchscreen control panel that can either works as its own wireless alarm system or with an existing installed alarm system. Frankly, I don't know that much about this company yet (interviews are pending), but I was struck by an eerie similarity to the company, iControl, who is also developing a similar touchscreen alarm system and I guess the similarity in name is fairly obvious. Despite the uncanny similarities, the touchscreen panels seem pretty cool and innovative. I had a chance to try out iControl's panel at ISC West and it was definitely snazzy, yet intuitive. You could do the typical alarm things like arm/disarm as well as view video cameras from the panel. It also had some "fun" features like rotating pictures, and Internet access for checking sports scores, stock numbers, weather and traffic updates. It also had the home automation element which included controlling lights, temperature and such. And even though the company names may be confusingly similar, these companies are making security cool.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, May 16, 2008
So in my search for news this morning, I ran across this "security product." It's called the Safe Bedside Table and converts from a table into, well, duh, a club and shield so you can protect yourself from an intruder. The accompanying text gives some explanation: While an alarm system will let you know if someone has broken into your home it won’t do much to stop a determined intruder once they’re inside. So instead of sleeping with a gun under the pillow try this Safe Bedside Table instead. When not in use it looks like a normal bedside table with modern design stylings but in the middle of the night if you think there might be an intruder the table turns into a club and shield giving you somewhat of a fighting chance."Somewhat" of a fighting chance? I guess that's better than no chance at all. Well, if you were getting all excited about this product, I hate to tell you that the last part of the Web site reveals that it's not actually for sale, but "anyone with a lathe, bandsaw and basic carpentry skills could probably just build their own." Geez, thanks, I'm sure you'll all get right on that. Until then, I guess you'll just have to settle with the gun under the pillow.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, May 15, 2008
I've seen several news reports recently about people who thought their security system was being monitored (and were often paying for monitoring services), but in fact their system was never reporting to a central station. Not a very positive security message. Well, one company, Urban Alarm out of D.C., has recognized this trend too and is marketing its systems by focusing on its testability. This article (actually, it's a press release) urges customers to regularly test their alarm systems to verify transmission and, just so you know, Urban Alarm is willing to help alarm system users out even if they aren't customers. I bet they are. I know this picture doesn't exactly capture the testing procedure, but you get the idea.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Tuesday, May 6, 2008
So, I just happened to come across this "security" product (and, you're right, this has nothing to do with monitoring). The product is called Door Jamb Armour and it's advertised as a way to repair broken door jambs following a break-in and also a way to secure your door to prevent future home invasions. Interesting. The company's Web site includes this line: Intruders know that kicking in the door is the easiest way into your home. I guess. Breaking a window must be a close second, though. Regardless, this product could certainly be considered a deterrent to a very lazy thief, but I hardly think it warrants the company's logo: "Because you can't afford false security." Frankly, without any kind of security system to detect that, say, someone's trying to kick down your door, I'd say that Door Jamb Armour isn't exactly providing me worry-free nights.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, May 2, 2008
Just got off the phone with the vice president of licensing for Smith & Wesson, Bobbie Hunnicutt. Smith & Wesson, for those of you non-gun loving types like me, is one of the (if not, THE) largest gun manufacturers in the U.S. Yesterday they announced their entrance into the electronic security marketplace with a partnership (or, in legal speak, "licensing agreement") with NationWide Digital Monitoring. The two company's will develop Smith & Wesson-branded security systems that will be sold and installed by specifically recruited dealers ("We are only looking for professionals," said Wayne Wahrsager, president of NationWide). NationWide, which is a division of New York Merchants Protective Co., will have a separate monitoring division in its central station dedicated solely to customers with Smith & Wesson branded systems. Both company's talked about the importance of protecting and building their brands. Hunnicutt talked about the extensive research Smith & Wesson did to understand its brand, its customers and the expectations and potential of the company. They discovered the Smith & Wesson brand was synonymous with "security and protection" and so their entrance into the electronic security market was a "natural step for us." The Smith & Wesson brand will be rolled out by 2009. I just hope part of their marketing strategy is lawn signs that jive with their bumper stickers.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Thursday, May 1, 2008
So, I finally got around to reading The New Yorker article about the man who was stuck in an elevator for 41 hours. Nicholas White, a production manager for Business Week, spent a weekend trapped in Car No. 30 of the McGraw-Hill building in New York City back in 1999. For 41 hours he paced the elevator, pried open the doors, repeatedly used the emergency phone, laid down to sleep and even smoked the rest of his cigarettes (aren't there smoke detectors in there!) ... but nothing. Nobody noticed him, not even the eight (yes, 8!) different guards who were on duty that weekend. Here's an easily overlooked parenthesized sentence in the 8,000 word article that caught my security-honed attention: (Eight McGraw-Hill security guards came and went while he was stranded there; nobody seems to have noticed him on the monitor.) Check out the video for yourself: I don't know how many screens these security guards monitored, but it was a weekend, people. There's little to no activity in the elevators for the duration of the video, and, there's even elevator maintenance work being done, which should at least garner some attention from the guards. (Of course, there's no maintenance work being done on the elevator car that actually malfunctioned and trapped White inside.) I'd say this is a great example of why security guards alone are not very effective. If it had been one guy who missed this, I'd say fine, maybe he was tired. But EIGHT! I know this was nearly 10 years ago and the analytic technology of today wasn't available, but if I were an analytic provider trying to convince companies to invest in notification-based video systems, this example would certainly be in my arsenal.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, April 28, 2008
So, apparently the concept of "intelligent textiles" is more prevalent than I first thought. Here's a blurb about a t-shirt that monitors vital signs such as heart rate and body temperature. It's a good old cotton t-shirt embedded with conductive fibers that's supposedly washable, too. (Good thing, otherwise wearers of this t-shirt may not be welcomed in many enclosed spaces.) Here's how it works: "A micro controller embedded in the t-shirt digitizes the signals and transmits them via a wireless connection to a remote back-end system for real-time monitoring." The article claims part of the five-year development of this technology was partially paid for by the Department of Defense. Interesting. It also said that the company is beginning field testing for the monitoring of emergency service workers such as police officers and fire service workers. My thought is that some company has to be doing that monitoring, why not you?
by: Daniel Gelinas - Friday, April 25, 2008
So there's yet another player in the plug-n-go security market: Rogo. For $10.95 a month, customers can remotely access cameras from their PC or cell phone using this system. The model is similar to other vendors in this arena: making remote video monitoring a mass market product by making it as cheap and easy as possible. But $10.95/month? That's pretty darn cheap. Rogo is pushing the use of USB cameras, which are so inexpensive they can give them away for free, or so they say at least twice in this article. However, the obvious drawback of USB cameras are that, well, they're USB cameras and they have to plug into your computer to work. Who wants 50 yards of USB cord strung through their house, even if the camera is in the form of a cute puppy? (The picture of the puppy camera has nothing to do with the Rogo system, I just thought it was cute and funny ... plus it's Friday.) To counter this downfall, the Web site explains that the system is compatible with AXIS wireless cameras. Another problem from a consumer standpoint is that all the captured data is stored directly on the consumer's computer. The FAQ section of the Web site says that the system only takes up about 5 GB of space, but still... Something interesting and perhaps new about this system is that the cameras can be set on "motion detect mode" and only record when activated. That certainly seems like more of a security-related function. The article also mentioned the ability for the camera to produce graphs and quantitative results based on the footage, or so says the president of the company: “We’ve also moved beyond just security,” [James] Trimble says. Because the system can monitor 24-hour activity and graph it, a retailer can examine the peaks and valleys of activity in a store. That was a first for me, too. It sounds like there must be an analytic component incorporated in the system, right? No mention of the word "analytic" in the article or on the Web site, but perhaps that word doesn't create the excitement in the consumer market as it does among security professionals.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Here's an article that follows one woman's experience in contract hell. Her experience is specifically about getting unknowingly roped into a contract with her satellite television provider, but could easily be applied to alarm monitoring contracts. From a consumer point of view I can completely understand her frustration (I just changed cell phone providers, which was quite an ordeal). And, apparently, so can the author of this article. Here's my favorite paragraph: Customer service contracts have become the bane of our consumerhood, a modern form of indentured servitude, a spiral of preset spending from which breaking free is almost impossible. We wince and sign, lured by equipment discounts or other come-ons, all with a sense that we'll regret it later. However, from the company's standpoint, the need for contracts is unquestionable, particularly in the alarm industry where RMR is the number that counts. I monitor several industry listserv's and regularly read posts from business owners about their troubles with contracts: how to write them in a way that's legally binding and inclusive, but at the same time easily understood by the consumer. I don't often read about the enforcement of contracts, so I don't have a good perspective on how much of an issue it is, but I imagine it's not something that's in the 'likes' column for many business owners. I think it's safe to say that contracts are nobody's friend, except maybe your lawyers.
by: Daniel Gelinas - Monday, April 21, 2008
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.

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