Editorial Note: Dave is on hiatus while he fulfills a secret mission he will no doubt update us on in a few months. Meanwhile he selected one of his all-time favorite columns from the past to share with SDM readers.

Against my wishes on a September weekend I found myself, wife and daughter at a little soiree called “RiotFest 2014.” Seven stages, four inches of mud and 120 dB of 30+ punk rock bands for three days in Humboldt Park in Chicago. The crowd was huge, over 20,000 people on Sunday. I had managed to get out of going on Friday and Saturday, but my attendance was mandatory for the Sunday Cheap Trick show. The attendees sported bizarre hairdos, lots and lots of tattoos and apparently some people think that they can now self-medicate since Illinois recently passed a medical marijuana law.

As a former punk rocker, I understood what I was getting into by going to the show. However, I haven’t been in such a large crowd in a long time. At one point, my daughter and I had to move from one set of stages to another to see Cheap Trick. My daughter is quite brilliant but is also of compact stature, and I was afraid I would lose her as I bulled my way through the crowd. So I said, “Grab my shirt,” and I towed her through the black leather riptide to the relative safety of the “VIP viewing area.” Moving 120 yards through this sea of humanity took about 25 minutes. The VIP area could also double as an AARP recruitment center, but had decent food and no crowd at the drink stand. It was there I met one of my pro wrestling idols, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, who looked like Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” while burning up some of the “free” beer tickets that were provided for those of use who had the coveted “VIP” wristbands. We watched Cheap Trick, who are always good, and then used the tag-team “grab the shirt” technique to exit the venue.

As the father of a teenager, sometimes I feel pretty useless. The child is smarter than I am, is learning things in school like computer programming that didn’t exist in my educational years, and the general reply to opening questions like, “How was your day?” is a single syllable. While taking my daughter through the crowd, I felt like I was actually serving a purpose, that being the protection of my child from the potential unknown threats that could have come from the generally unwashed multitudes at the show.

riot crowd

Welcome to the muddy jungle that was Riotfest. // IMAGE COURTESY OF JOAN ENGEBRETSON

How does this experience apply to our business? I believe that while we are all concerned about the financial progress of the companies we work for, we should never lose sight of what is our real mission. Simply put, we protect our customers’ property and, in some cases, their lives by installing functional intrusion detection and surveillance systems. The value and importance of fire alarm devices and systems is obvious.

Can you think of any other service that is more important to your clients (and their family/employees) than what our business provides? Insurance companies only pay off after the event, accident or disaster occurs… They can’t stop a bad event from happening; they can only provide assistance after the fact. I believe that the electronic security industry, our business, ranks with airline pilots in the critical services we provide.

Which brings us to the September 3, 2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal. In the “Home and Digital” section there is an article titled, “Home Security as a DIY Project.”

“While we are all concerned about the financial progress of the companies we work for, we should never lose sight of what is our real mission. Simply put, we protect our customers’ property and in some cases their lives by installing functional intrusion detection and surveillance systems.”

In the article, the author, Geoffrey Fowler, describes his experiences testing four different direct to the end user IP cameras, their setup requirements and how they worked for him. As is typical with the WSJ, the writer is a professional and provides a pretty thorough explanation of how to connect the cameras to his internet connection at his home.

In the prelude the author says, “The question is, can a webcam really keep me safe?” Let’s think about this for a minute. A surveillance camera will gather images of the scene it sees, and the cameras reviewed were indoors only, so therefore a potential intruder is already in the house if they appear on an installed webcam. By the time the subscriber receives an email/text that something is amiss in their home, it’s way too late. Better protection from home invasions would be the liberal sprinkling of pepper spray canisters around the domicile, with a flashlight and a Glock 19 for backup.

In another section of the article, the writer states, “The cameras’ alerts struggled to differentiate between my family’s daily routines and anything more sinister, instead annoying me with a constant string of non-alarms. I’m ready to take them down.” (Emphasis added.) Can you say, “False alarm fever?” The DIY cameras created so many false alerts that it sounds like the author ripped them out of his house as soon as he emailed in his article.

While this article seems to promote the use of DIY IP cameras, the bottom line is that the author ran into the same set of problems that all DIY video surveillance systems produce. Self-installed IP cameras can’t “protect” people or provide “home security.” Only the companies in our industry can provide these critical services.

It takes the professionals in our electronic security industry to design, install, monitor and service security systems and video surveillance that will work reliably and help deter criminal acts either before they occur or shortly after an intrusion is detected.

I believe that there is a huge opportunity for our industry to provide IP cameras with smart device internet access. There are a number of software and hardware combinations available to security dealers such as Honeywell Total Connect and Axis Communications Camera Companion (and many more options since the publication of this article in 2014) that can be configured to provide a very reliable and functional service for end users. These systems/services will provide the live and recorded video that can deliver real peace of mind for your clients while eliminating the nuisance of receiving unwanted email alerts.

IP cameras are great for checking in on the family, watching household employees (babysitters, home cleaning personnel) and keeping the kids out of the liquor cabinet. I know from personal experience that the IP cameras in my house provide me with true peace of mind when I’m on the road. I want to see my family at home and safe. The feeling of seeing my family at home on my smart phone when I’m on the road is the same as when I could feel my daughter’s grip on my shirt as we navigated through the RiotFest crowd; I knew she was safe and with me. That’s a feeling that’s absolutely priceless.

And only our industry can provide it to our clients. Real security isn’t a DIY deal.