Friday, June 26, 2009

Pinnacle Security salesman using unethical practices.

Reading this story makes my blood pressure rise. Apparently, salesmen have been knocking on the doors of CastleRock Security in Wichita, Kansas. The way the scam works is they tell you CastelRock is out of business, change the panel, and get a bank check from you so they can start charging you for CSM right way.

The best part is that Pinnacle isn't even licensed in Wichita.

I read about this story on consumer protection blog The Consumerist. The comments are freaking precious, too. My favorites:

The Pinnacle Security salespeople were in Portland about 2 months ago saying that other security systems "were easy for burglars to get around" and started asking intrusive questions.

I used to work for Pinnacle Security out in San Diego, California. I was originally trained to be an installer. I moved over to selling for a short period before our office closed. They taught us to use things like "We are looking for a model home and we will give you a security system for Free." There was nothing Free about the systems. I never lied about a company going out of business, but they do use some pretty Iffy sells techniques. I recommend no one do business with Pinnacle.

Wow! I was wondering if anyone else had been a victim of their predatory sales techniques. About a month ago one of these guys visited my house trying to give away 1 of 5 free alarm systems in my neighborhood. The guy was insanely pushy and tried to push his way into my house to do a so called home inspection.

These [adjective redacted because this is a family blog] came to my neighborhood a few months ago and I called the cops. They knocked on my door at 9:30pm and asked me if I had a security system. They were wearing Pinnacle Security t-shirts, but other than that they looked like gang-bangers. Not exactly the best people to be selling a security product.

Seems like they hire a lot of kids for summer jobs- they even have a MySpace page (I have been blogging here and there since 2003 and so help me this is the first time I've ever linked to a MySpace page. May it be my last). I guess you get what you pay for.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

ESX 2009

So I went to ESX 2009 today, in beautiful downtown Bodymore, Murderland. Next year's event is scheduled to go down in Pittsburgh. Candidates for ESX 2011 include the Gaza Strip, the South Bronx, and a Carnival Cruise ship anchored off the coast of Somalia. I suppose the show's organizers think that security professionals are a rough, tough breed who won't be scared of a little crime. That, or it's cheaper to hold a convention in a town that doesn't usually get conventioneers. Sam Pfeifle is a bit more charitable. But then, he's a better person than I am.

I kid! I kid because I love! I like Baltimore. My wife is from Baltimore. We had our first date at the Baltimore Aquarium, a short walk from where the convention was held. But, still, Baltimore (like Pittsburgh) is not what you'd consider glamorous, like New York, or Las Vegas.

In other news, ASIS 2009 will be in Anaheim. California.

Speaking of Sam Pfeifle, I couldn't help but notice I'm not one of the 20 under 40. Oh, well, always next year, when I'll still be younger than anyone on the list this year. Has a 25 year old ever made that list?

Anyway, on to the show review.

I mainly hit this show in order to attend the Axis vendor training I saw advertised on a banner ad on top of the Security Info Watch forums (which you should sign up for if you like this blog). The training was excellent and totally worth the trip from New Jersey (YMMV). I was worried that it would just be the PowerPoint version of Axis' highly controversial TCO 'study', but they mostly skipped the propaganda and just answered the hardest question anyone in IP surveillance has to address: why go IP instead of analog?

The training was aimed at street-level sales people and dirty-pants installers, and strove mightily to give them a reason to recommend IP cameras instead of analog systems for medium sized jobs. The reasons why you might want to go IP have been hashed and rehashed and hashed further still elsewhere, but suffice it to say that the Axis guy did not hesitate to admit that 1) IP is nearly impossible to implement unless you know networking or can hire someone who does, 2) IP is often more expensive, and 3) in at least some cases, the customer would be better served by an analog solution.

Of course, there is a word for convincing the customer to spend more money than they had planned, based on the salesperson's knowledge of the product and the specific issue the customer is trying to address. Well, there is more than one word, but this is a family blog, and the word we're looking for here is "salesmanship". You may argue that the customer does not want to spend the money on IP cameras, but I would like to point out that to the customer, the ideal security project is completely free and solves all past, present, and future security issues forever and ever. Ain't gonna happen. Sure the customer doesn't want to spend IP money, but if you are a sales professional, it's your job to show them why spending IP money is a good idea.

After the seminar concluded, I hit the show floor. Unfortunately, Northern Video did not have a booth at the show, so I remained completely sober all day. I went to the Panasonic booth, and despite what I've been saying all over the Internet, Panasonic has not in fact shut down their analog R&D, and in fact had a new analog camera and a new DVR to brag on. The camera, the WV-CW504 (which apparently debuted at ISC West but I did not attend ISC West, grrr) is awesomesauce. Very pretty picture, using the new SD5 .

From here on in, analog cameras will use the new SD5 chip (SuperDynamic 5, replacing the SDiii image sensor) and IP cameras will use the MegaSD chip. Either way, the WV-CW504 will eventually replace the CW484 series. Street date is, like, Augustish. They did not have the DVR to show, but said the street date is something like Octobertime.

I stopped by the Mace booth, which was being manned by Dennis Raefield personally. We spoke about central station video monitoring, and how cool it would be if we could sell it. He told me about an all-in-one DVR Mace is going to be putting out. He told me that returns are down at Mace (which I see myself- we sell a ton of Mace stuff and returns for non functioning and malfunctioning product is way down, not that it was ever anything more than a minor concern, despite our no-questions-asked return policy).

Good for Mace, I want them to do well. Best user interface on a DVR I've ever seen- a retarded iguana can drink a pint of vodka and still figure out how to program a Mace DVR in a few minutes. Imagine how fast your end user can figure out a Mace DVR if they have thumbs.

Also said hi to Geoff Kohl of Security Info Watch. He's a cool guy. Hi, Geoff!

Overall, good show. I like the fact that the focus was on the installer, rather than the buyer or the CSO- I started out as an installer and I'm a dirty-pants kind of guy despite my suit. Freebies were not very impressive, although Wynit gave out thumb drives and Axis had a very substantial notebook. I got one "extra large" t shirt from Canon, and although I haven't tried it on I know that the Japanese define "extra large" very differently than Americans do.

I will probably be back next year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lots and lots of storage!

The second biggest barrier to entry that prevents customers from considering IP cameras is storage. Let's face it, you need a lot of storage. How much? Using Axis' design tool, I figured out that a single Axis 211A, under a moderate amount of motion, recording 24 hours a day, 6FPS at MJPEG, 640x480 at 50% compression, will suck up 10.3 GB a day. A day! Say you've got 16 cameras and you want to save 30 days of video. That's 4TB, 944 GB. besides the expense, you've got to manage all that, too. Don't you?

Well, it just got cheaper, and a whole lot easier, for ordinary, regular alarm guys with dirty pants to add big massive gobs of storage to IP projects. I give you the DroboPro 8 slot hard drive enclosure. I got to take a look at the thing earlier this week, and let me tell you, it is just perfect for medium sized surveillance projects.

Basically, this thing is an idiot-proof hard drive enclosure that will accept up to 8 drives of any type and size. You can mix and match any 3.5" drive of any manufacturer and size without worrying about matching- just slot it in and the DroboPro just automatically configures the thing. If you were on a budget but anticipated expanding in the future, you'd just buy a few drives and add more as you go.

The aforementioned ordinary regular alarm guys will be relieved to know that no knowledge of the various flavors of RAID is required. They've got this thing called BeyondRAID, which should be called AutoRAID (feel free to use that, Drobo), because that's what it is. You throw a bunch of drives in there and the box figures out the best RAID configuration and does it for you. Even adjusts the RAID on the fly for you. It also automatically detects bad drives and spreads the data elsewhere, giving you time to replace the drive.

The user panel is simplicity itself- easy enough that even a Mac user could figure out how to run the thing. There are a bunch of ways to connect the thing. You've got your choice between FireWire 800, USB, or even Ethernet, meaning you can put this drive anywhere along your network.

What about the price? The price is simply awesome. The array itself is just $1,199.95. You can also get it as a kit with 4TB for $1,689.95, 8TB for $2,189.95, or 16TB (that's right! sixteen big, beautiful terabytes!) for a mere $3,189.95! Do we live in a wonderous time, or what?