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-plus punk rock bands for three days in Humboldt Park in Chicago. The crowd was huge, more than 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 because 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 also could double as an AARP recruitment center, but it 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). We watched Cheap Trick, who is always good, and then used the “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 that did not exist during my educational years such as computer programming, and the general reply to opening questions such as “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.

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 never should 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.


Welcome to the muddy jungle that was Riotfest.


Can you think of any other service that is more important to your client’s (and their family/employees) than what our business provides? Insurance companies only pay off after the event, accident, or disaster occurs. They cannot stop a bad event from happening; they only can 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 me to the September 3, 2014 edition of The Wall Street Journal. In the Home and Digital section there was an article titled “Home Security as a DIY Project.” I highly recommend that my faithful readers find this article and study it closely. 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 thorough explanation of how to connect the cameras to his Internet connection at his home.

Here are some quotes from the article. In the prelude the author writes, “The question is, can a webcam really keep me safe?” Let’s think about this for a moment. 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 it appears on an installed webcam. By the time the subscriber receives an email/text that something is amiss in their home, it is 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 as if the author ripped them out of his house as soon as he turned in 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 cannot “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 and video surveillance systems 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 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, and keeping the kids out of the liquor cabinet. I know from personal experience that the IP cameras in my home provide me with true peace of mind when I’m on the road. I want to see my family safe at home. The feeling I get when seeing my family at home on my smartphone 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 feeling is absolutely priceless.

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