The security week that was: 1/4/08

Turning from POTS to Broadband for Monitoring

I was reading about a new service for one alarm firm that gives the option of broadband-based monitoring for residential alarm systems. Curiously, the company was charging an extra $10 per month (nice boost in RMR, I guess), but I was wondering -- With so many homes on broadband connections, why charge extra for broadband-connected monitoring?

Sure, I can see why there might be a slight up-charge if a broadband connection to the alarm system is used as a back-up to a traditional telephone line connection, but with so many homes turning to IP telephony (phones that connect over the homeowner's broadband connection), a POTS connection doesn't seem to even necessary anymore.

I did a little price checking online and it seems that most alarm firms (whether they outsource their central station operations or whether they do it in-house), seem to be turning toward a price structure where broadband monitoring connections are at the same rate as the traditional phone line. And that seems to make sense.

As one of our regular columnists, Bob Harris of The Attrition Busters, advises, today's alarm firms are going to have to provide added value to their customers to keep from losing accounts to competitors. By going to broadband, you get that always on, high-data-rate connection that can start to enable added value services (web access to panels, status checks from a remote laptop, etc.). If you're still charging extra for broadband alarm monitoring, this might just be the time to stop.

Rancho Cordova's odd alarm proposal
California alarm dealers raise eyebrows at city's proposed rule

I'm off my small soapbox now, so let's turn to some headlines making waves this week. To stay focused on the alarm dealer market, I want to address a proposed ordinance change in Rancho Cordova, Calif., that would be part of an overall attempt to reduce false alarms. The town already has in place an annual alarm permit fee ($50) and fines for repeated false alarms. Now, it seems, they are floating a proposal that would require all alarm companies doing business in the city to turn over full customer lists along with personal customer data like name, birth date, driver's license number, type of alarm system equipment, and other info that normally wouldn't be submitted to a city.

Alarm company managers and owners are rightfully shocked; after they turn that information over (even if their customers were OK with it), they end up on a slippery slope of identity theft protection. Fortunately, even the police chief recognizes that the city's proposal is a bit bone-headed and that much of that data is unnecessary. Let's hope common sense prevails.

In other news...
Long-range passports, Building ethernet cables, Fertilizer security, more

We learned this week that some of the technology for the new U.S. government e-passports (the passports that can be digitally read using a smart card chip) has been specified, which should speed the process. The report claims that the passports could be read up to 20 feet away, which I personally believe is highly doubtful, but if true, that could create unique security problems.

A new video from CablesToGo/TigerDirect shows how to build Ethernet cables. This is one case where the watching of online videos by your employees isn't a bad thing. ... Petards sold its video surveillance management software unit to BAE Systems. ... Spanish security and integration services firm Prosegur picked up more of a handhold in the Argentina market with the acquisition of security systems integration firm Xiden. ... A new bill that has been signed into law by President Bush seeks to control purchasing and manufacturing of ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer used as an explosive in the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing by Timothy McVeigh.

Finally, we close with a look at our most read articles of the week: