October 30, 2013
Host: Ted Simons
AZ Technology and Innovation: Strongwatch Security
Guests: Category: Technology
- Headquartered in Tucson, Strongwatch is a company developing technology for the national security market. Strongwatch has pioneered and developed mobile and fixed surveillance technology that is targeted to meet the needs of border security, law enforcement and the military. Drew Dodds of Strongwatch will talk about his company and its technology.
| Keywords: arizona
Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona technology and innovation focuses on Strongwatch Security, a Tucson-based fixed and mobile surveillance company that targets the needs of border security, law enforcement, and the military. I recently spoke with Drew Dodds of Strongwatch. Thank you for joining us on "Arizona Horizon."
Drew Dodds: Thank you for having me today.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about the company's focus. What exactly do you do?
Drew Dodds: Well, Strongwatch is a surveillance innovations company, founded in April of 2008. And we create solutions that protect people and assets.
Ted Simons: And it sounds like it's mobile surveillance technology here. What does that mean?
Drew Dodds: So we have two core offerings. One is our mobile surveillance solution, aptly named freedom on the move, which is a very rugged and robust surveillance system Mounted in the back of a pickup truck. And it has different capabilities such as infrared cameras, color cameras, laser range finders, DVR streaming capabilities, it's a GYRO stabilized system so it can be used while you're on the move. And second to that we have our autonomous fixed surveillance solution, which is called freedom 360.
Ted Simons: So mobile and fixed as well.
Drew Dodds: Yes, sir.
Ted Simons: Now, was this used in the Yarnell hill fire?
Drew Dodds: Our mobile asset was.
Ted Simons: How so?
Drew Dodds: Well, it was really a two-part story. By day we were assisting the firefighters with detecting hot spots using the thermal imager and being able to relay that information by a cellular network so we could stream that information to a firefighter's smartphone. And they could utilize that connection with their smartphone and our thermal imager to walk themselves onto something they can't see with the naked eye.
Ted Simons: Was this the first time it's been involved with this kind of situation?
Drew Dodds: On the fire side of the house, it is. And that was what we were doing in the daytime. By nighttime we were basically marring up with the county sheriff to do patrols of the evacuated areas just to picture that no looting was taking place. People were staying on their property if they had stayed.
Ted Simons: You were recognized by a congressman by this particular activity.
Drew Dodds: I was, and we were as a company.
Ted Simons: And that must have been a good feeling, you were contributing to a situation that turned out to be pretty rough, but you were doing a good job up there.
Drew Dodds: We were trying to do anything we could to help.
Ted Simons: As far as Strongwatch is concerned, it sounds as though there's a security aspect obviously to this, talk about who your customers might be. Obviously with this state and local government and the feds, is that basically who your customers are?
Drew Dodds: Our customers are public safety in general, both state, federal level. We also have commercial opportunities. But it's predominantly state level at this time.
Ted Simons: Border security?
Drew Dodds: Everything from border security to homeland security, emergency management, first responders of all types. Even on the fire side of the house as well.
Ted Simons: I was going to say, law enforcement and border security in general, the use of technology, it's really increasing, isn't it?
Drew Dodds: It is. We have to keep up with the challenges that are faced every day by the folks that are doing the dirty work.
Ted Simons: And emergencies management, we saw the Yarnell hill fire, give us other examples of what this freedom on the move could work in certain situations.
Drew Dodds: If you had a catastrophic event, say a large earthquake or whatever you might have, you can utilize a thermal camera to detect human heat signatures for potential survivors of a catastrophic event. It gives exact geo spacial information, so forces know where a threat or somebody might needed help might be. A lot of different use cases for the emergency management folks.
Ted Simons: We talk about state, local, federal government being clients. What about overseas clients? What about overseas governments? What about folks you may not be too sure what they're going to use something like this for? How does that work?
Drew Dodds: Obviously we have to be very careful and we have quite a bit of due diligence that has to be done when we're working with people, whether it's in the states or abroad. We're currently supporting many more stateside opportunities than we are internationally. But we certainly intend to grow in that direction as well.
Ted Simons: But you -- Are there state departments requirements when it comes to things like that?
Drew Dodds: There are. There are export regulations to make sure that somebody that shouldn't have the technology doesn't get it.
Ted Simons: I hear you. How did the company get started?
Drew Dodds: Well, originally we had a pretty deep fundamental basis within the video analytics world, and this is predominantly on the backs of three gentlemen, Mark Howell, Mike Powell, and Andy Griffiths. And they had originally come together to do some very interesting video analytics work, and that basically morphed into the hardware side of the house when we were successful in securing an opportunity to basically build these systems for the U.S. army and the government.
Ted Simons: So was there a particular idea, a particular spark that got things going from the theoretical, the design board to hardware and ready to go?
Drew Dodds: I think a lot of it was just what was driven from the operators' needs. Like a lot of technologies, we saw a fundamental gap in the situational awareness that both war fighters and public safety has in general, and we wanted to create a system that would help them maintain situational awareness and realize where the threats might lie with actionable intelligence.
Ted Simons: How difficult was it to get from idea, again, from drawing board to marketplace?
Drew Dodds: A lot of blood, sweat, and tears. We've spent a lot of time in the field with operators, getting direct feedback on system features and what's helpful, what's not, taking that feedback from operators and going all the way through the engineering process to get to a fully baked product.
Ted Simons: As far as the cost of this fully baked product, what are we talking about?
Drew Dodds: It depends on how it's built. We don't have any one system that's built like another. They're all suited specifically for the end user. So it's really a pretty broad range of pricing. It also depends on whether it's federal, if it's state, if it's international. It's a little bit of a difficult question to answer.
Ted Simons: OK. I can understand the situation. Based in Tucson, why?
Drew Dodds: Tucson is home. Everybody on the team was raised in the area, with the exception of a couple of folks, but we are a hometown company, and Tuscon is where we live.
Ted Simons: We do a lot of technology and innovation stories on "Arizona Horizon," and we're always trying to figure out where the action is and why the action isn't in certain spots. What do you see out there as far as technological development? This is obviously security concerns, surveillance and this sort of thing. But overall, what's happening out there?
Drew Dodds: Well, it seems like there is definitely a growing need for what the law enforcement and public safety arena would call a common operating picture, being able to share information in real time, and that's something they're pushing to the forefront for first responders, whether it's an event like the Boston Marathon attack, or it's just a simple crowd overwatch event being able to share intelligence in real time is critical for maintaining situational awareness. Not only at the operator level, but also at the command level. So they can make the appropriate decisions.
Ted Simons: What's next for Strongwatch? Is it refining what you have? Is it moving on in a different field?
Drew Dodds: I would have to say sticking to our core competency is going to be our strength, moving forward. With that said, there's always the need to integrate new features, new components, new technologies into the already existing technology to create what we call one-off solutions.
Ted Simons: Will that mean staying in Tucson, or does that necessity maybe moving somewhere else?
Drew Dodds: Tucson is home for us. That's where we're staying.
Ted Simons: All right. It's good to have you here. And it's good to have you joining us on "Arizona Horizon." Thank you so much.
Drew Dodds: Thank you for having me.
Medicare and Social Security
- Cheryl Mathei, AARP national senior policy strategist, will discuss the status of proposals currently being considered in Washington for changing Medicare and Social Security.
- Cheryl Matheis - AARP, National Senior Policy Strategist
Ted Simons: A new report by the AARP looks at social security's impact on Arizona's economy and the nation's economic prosperity. The report comes at a time when many in Congress are calling for changes to social security and Medicare. Joining me now is AARP national senior policy stragetist Cheryl Matheis. Good to have you here.
Cheryl Matheis: It's great to be here.
Ted Simons: All right. Before we get to this report, I know that the AARP had this initiative, this, you've earned a say initiative.
Cheryl Matheis: That's right. We talked about that last year. We have gone out to our members and to the public to give people good information about Medicare and social security, about the fact that both programs need more financial standing to be there for the future. And what are the options for changing them? And we went out and we wanted to give people information, we used think tanks from the left and the right, brookings and heritage, and we had them write up their arguments so people would understand and know where the argument came from, and they could make up their own mind about what they wanted to see done. And that's the whole point of the “you've earned a say.” You pay into social security, you've earned a say in its future.
Ted Simons: What did you hear people say?
Cheryl Matheis: We heard from 10 million people so far. We have a lot more to go. But we really heard that people value the programs greatly, people of all ages value these programs, very, very popular programs, and all political leanings. It really isn't different. And they want the benefits to be there. And when you think about it, it makes sense, because even a young person, young people often say oh, I don't think social security is going to be there. The fact is, that it is going to be there, because we have enough money to pay full benefits for the next 20 years, and after that point, there will be enough money to pay 75% of benefits. But 75% isn't good enough. But it will be there. So we need to change things to make sure that there's 100% of benefits for our children and grandchildren. And they want it, they may not think it's going to be there, but they're going to need it, because they don't have the pensions people have now, and they're not going to have as much savings.
Ted Simons: And I thought I noticed ideas like clamping down on drug prices, improving care coordination, cut overtesting, cut waste, cut fraud. Did those seem to cut across?
Cheryl Matheis: Those are ideas for Medicare. Those are ideas experts have said, you could save a great deal of money in Medicare without hurting people who get Medicare, without cutting the benefits down. There are ways to get better care at a lower cost. And we're promoting those, because that's what people said they want to see.
Ted Simons: OK. That's Medicare. Let's talk about social security, specifically, and the impact on the national economy, the impact on Arizona, especially the multiplier effect. Talk to us about what that means. We've talked about that with economists before. Give us a capsule summary.
Cheryl Matheis: The idea of a multiplier effect, when I hire you and pay you money to work for me, you go home and spend that money. And that money you spend at a store and that store hires more people because you're spending more money. So it's the way that money flows through the economy that actually adds up to a greater amount than the amount that I just paid you to work for me.
Ted Simons: And that multiplier effect as far as social security is concerned is money that comes into Arizona to a social security recipient, spreads out.
Cheryl Matheis: That's right. So this year in Arizona, social security will pay about $16 billion in benefits. That's a lot of money. But that $16 billion is going to generate almost $30 billion in economic impact. So that's almost a two-for-one expansion through the multiplier effect. And that's a lot of money. In a state like Arizona, even Arizona, with lots of people, $30 billion is nothing to sneeze at.
Ted Simons: You're talking a couple hundred thousand jobs, 1.7 billion in taxes?
Cheryl Matheis: Additional state and local taxes, more people being hired, people getting higher wages.
Ted Simons: OK. With that in mind, both Medicare and social security, obviously paramount to the folks you talked to, the folks you heard from regarding this initiative. But how do you balance that with the idea that the country is in trouble, the country can't pay its bills right now, we've got mayhem practically back in Washington.
Cheryl Matheis: We do.
Ted Simons: And we have all sorts of ideas to cut structural body of social security and Medicare, to cut all sorts of this, that, and the other. How do you balance this?
Cheryl Matheis: Well, our members really care about our country and they care about paying the country's bills. But remember that for social security, that's not part of the budget deficit. Social security and people know this, is a program that is completely funded by what people pay in during their working years. And they pay in with the expectation that if they need it when they retire, or should they I do and leave a widow or widower and children behind, they're going to get it. And that's the compact of it, and it's not part of the budget deficit. So we would like to see a separate conversation just about social security and retirement security to make sure that people in the future, that's our children and grandchildren, because they're the ones who are going to be affected by it. People who are near retirement age now are going to be fine. But we need to make it strong for people in the future.
Ted Simons: How do you make it strong for people in the future?
Cheryl Matheis: Well, there are a number of ideas that have been put out there, and we put out booklets I showed you last year. You can find them on earnedasay.org, and they have different options. And you can make up your own mind about those options. It will probably be a package of them, but I would like to talk about one option, because it's an option that's being talked about right now.
Ted Simons: Please.
Cheryl Matheis: And it's a very dangerous one. And that's called the chained consumer price index, or chained CPI. You know, social security just came out with an announcement that it's going to have the lowest cost of living adjustment that it's ever had next year. And that is because the cost of living adjustment is based on the CPI, which is a market basket of goods and services that people buy. The problem is, older people buy a different market basket of goods and services than younger people, and their market basket is very heavily weighted to medical care, to utilities, things that they cannot control the price of. Older people, the chained CPI, which is a proposal to even reduce it more, goes under the concept that you substitute. So, for instance, if you usually buy steak for your family on Sunday night, you will substitute hamburger if steak gets more expensive. It makes a lot of sense to people, but the problem is you can't substitute cheaper medical care, you can cut out the medical care, you can cut your pills in half and they won't do you any good and you end up in the hospital. You can turn the lights off if your utility bill goes up, but that’s not the kind of substitution we're talking about. So it's a really dangerous proposal, because it starts out as a small cut, but it's cumulative over time. So it gets added to every single year. Just like when we were little and we learned about compound interest, think about a compound cut. And so if somebody- If there's a chain CPI that cuts a little bit from somebody when they're 65, when they're 85 and have much less income to rely on, they could lose as much as an entire month of benefits.
Ted Simons: With that information, we've got about 30 seconds left, what do you want folks, AARP members or not, to do with this information?
Cheryl Matheis: It's really important right now that they tell their member of Congress that they don't think chained CPI is a fair solution for social security. That's an immediate problem, because even though social security shouldn't be part of the budget deficit, it is part of the talks going on right now in Washington.
Ted Simons: All right. Well, it's good to see you again. This is important information. I know a lot of our viewers are very interested. One more time with the website?
Cheryl Matheis: Earnedasay.org. Or you can go on the AARP website, and type in social security, you will get all the information we've talked about.
Ted Simons: All right. Good to see you again.
Cheryl Matheis: It's been delightful to be here.
Senate Democrats Shake Up
- Democrats in the state senate have ousted Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor and replaced her with Senator Anna Tovar as their leader. Arizona Capitol Times Reporter Luige del Puerto will discuss the situation.
- Luige del Puerto - Reporter, Arizona Capitol Times
| Keywords: senate
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Democrats in the state senate have ousted Leah Landrum Taylor as minority leader and replaced her with senator Anna Tovar. It's a surprise move that's led to charges of racism and sexism. "Arizona Capitol Times" reporter Luige Del Puerto is on the story. Good to have you here. This is a surprise.
Luige Del Puerto: Well, not a complete surprise.
Ted Simons: Interesting.
Luige Del Puerto: We started hearing about this on Monday night that the eve of the vote, the caucus meeting, and we heard that this was going to happen. We didn't think it was actually going to happen. Let me backtrack a bit. Some members of that caucus had wanted to get to oust Leah for quite some time. We've been hearing this on and off during session, after session, and on Monday night. And of course when it actually did happen, it took us by surprise, but not completely.
Ted Simons: Why did she want to get rid of her? Was she ineffective, uncooperative, did she not communicate well? What was the problem?
Luige Del Puerto: There are many theories floating around why they did it. I think the most valid one is simply that there are two wings of the caucus. Basically you had one group of senate democrats who had come from the house, they had served in the house and moved over to the senate at the same time, so there's that caucus of younger group of people, and there's the older guard represented by Leah, and the assistant minority, former assistant minority Linda Lopez. These are the guys who had been in the senate for a longer time, and supposedly wanted to keep the younger ones in a short leash, if you will.
Ted Simons: Oh, so basically there was a fracture. We hear about the fracture in the Republican party all the time. And of course they're in power right now so you hear more about that. So this was bubbling under the surface throughout the session?
Luige Del Puerto: It was always bubbling under the surface throughout the session. In fact, when Leah was elected as senate Democratic leader, the vote was 7-6. It was that close.
Ted Simons: Interesting. OK. Who is Anna Tovar, was she an ally at all of Leah Landrum Taylor?
Luige Del Puerto: She was among the house democrats who had moved over to the senate. So she's part of that group, though when she was elected as senate Democratic whip she played the independent card. She said I'm going to listen to both sides, I'm not going to try to play either side and I'm going to try and do my best to be the whip and to promote priorities of the caucus. She's from Phoenix. If you remember, the Organ transplant issue a couple years back, she took the lead among the democrats in fighting for that and eventually the democrats got the governor to change her mind and restore funding for that.
Ted Simons: I believe we had her on "Arizona Horizon" on just that particular issue. OK. So we've got house democrats moving over to the senate in sort of a block here, new guard, old guard represented by Leah Landrum Taylor. Are there other fractures here? Are we looking at Tucson and Phoenix, are we looking at Latino and African-American? Are there divides at play here?
Luige Del Puerto: We've been hearing all sorts of speculations about -- Especially about race and ethnicity as potentially one reason. Leah herself said there was a reason she was ousted. Of course there's a Hispanic caucus in the state legislature, Hispanic caucus has been big, it's still very influential. And so that was one of the reasons why she had initially said that I was ousted because- Potentially because of my race and because of my sex. Of course the interesting thing about it is that Anna Tovar is a member of the minority, she's Hispanic and she's also a woman.
Ted Simons: What did that mean, the sexism especially? You mentioned Anna Tovar is a woman, is she suggesting that previous minority leaders, or previous Democratic leaders that were male were -- She is running for a higher office, and there was some concern regarding that. But others have run for higher offices. Is she saying that the men that did it weren't affected like this, I am?
Luige Del Puerto: That's in fact what she is saying. I talked to Linda Lopez immediately after the vote, and she said that- I talked to Leah immediately after the vote and she said one of the things that was raised during that meeting was the fact that I'm running for statewide office, and there were questions as to whether I could run the caucus at the same time run for a statewide office. And of course to her mind, David Shapiro ran for Congress while leading the democrats in the senate, Jorge Garcia ran for corporation commission while also still running the caucus. And those questions were not raised or there was not an attempt to oust them.
Ted Simons: Some of the quotes here, "the most blatant racist disrespectful move I've seen in my life," she also said, Leah Landrum Taylor, "I'll never set foot in that caucus room again." How divided is this Democratic caucus and what does that mean for the next session?
Luige Del Puerto: It's very divided now. One of the challenges that Anna Tovar faces, how to heal that fracturing within her caucus. I'm not sure if that would be completely healed. They've got a couple months, I'm assuming this issue will still be there when session starts, and of course Republicans could take advantage of that division. If you are the ruling majority party, it would be good for you if the other side is fractured, or is weak, because you can take advantage of that, you can pull away votes from that caucus and help you, you know, advance your agenda.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, we know Republicans have more power in the legislature than democrats, but who is more fractured? Which party is more fractured right now?
Luige Del Puerto: Well, that's a very good question. I think the Republican caucus is more fractured than the Democratic caucus.
Ted Simons: Even with all this?
Luige Del Puerto: Even with all this. You have to understand that when it comes to issues that are important to the Democratic party, they're very united, funding for education, funding for health care, the fight for Medicaid expansion, for example. They're united on those big ticket issues, those priorities that they have. The Republicans are not. They are all over the place when it comes to taxation, Medicaid expansion, for example, health care, the budget. So from my vantage point it's the Republican caucus that's stilt more fractured, that still has more factions to my mind than the Democratic caucus.
Ted Simons: Good stuff. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Luige Del Puerto: Thank you.