The Integrator's Voice

The president of Wilson Home Theater shares what he considers important when selecting a security company to refer business

THIS has been a good year for the security industry. Growth has been solid in many areas, and technology is moving forward at a dizzying pace. But as the end of 2006 nears, the crystal ball will reveal what may be in store for 2007.

During the past year, the convergence of physical and logical security has been one of the hottest topics in the industry. In reality, installers are beginning to work more often with IT departments to run security data over the corporate network. However, the average customer still maintains a dedicated network for its video and access control needs. In 2007 and beyond, the IT industry will find more ways to increase network bandwidth as the security industry further compresses its data. At that point, convergence will become commonplace.

ISSUE: What are some technologies that will become more commonplace in 2007?

SOLUTION: IP cameras that run over a network are hot in the media. But in reality, the cost still keeps most users away. Nonetheless, these units are coming fast. Five years ago, an IP camera sold for $1,500. Prices today are between $400 to $800. When the price gets in the $250 range, there will be a real difference in demand. That will likely come in the next couple of years.

Two other hot areas of technology -- video analytics and biometrics -- are beginning to make strides into mainstream security installations. Video analytics have proven to be a very valuable tool. However, cost issues have forced so-called smart video to only be seen in homeland security projects. That may change somewhat in 2007, but widespread use is still likely several years away.

Biometrics is the fascinating technology of spy movies -- and an increasing number of real-life installations. But the industry still has work to do on increasing the process speed of authentication and setting standards to help end users make intelligent choices. When those standards are in place -- probably in a couple of years -- prices will begin to drop and demand will increase.

ISSUE: What can users expect as far as video equipment in 2007?

SOLUTION: Look for 2007 to be another banner year for video products. There is a lot of money being spent on video, and rightly so, as manufacturers continue to offer more features for lower prices. This is an area where the industry is providing tremendous value to customers.

Manufacturers have been very effective in integrating video and access control systems. One recent trend expected to continue in the next year is the integration of interactive voice communication systems. While reliable voice systems have been available for more than a decade, larger, more far-ranging camera systems have increased the need to speak with employees, visitors or intruders in remote settings.

DVRs are one of the hottest components in the market. But as the capabilities of DVRs increase, so too does the need for more storage. End users want higher resolution and more frames per second from video systems. Fortunately, the price of memory is dropping rapidly. The days of a 64 or 128 GB hard drive are gone. Most installations now start with hard drives with at least 512 GB of storage.

When it comes to the equipment in their systems, customers want known brands -- no knockoffs -- but most users are not loyal to a specific manufacturer. What customers want are systems that work and add value and that typically involves components from multiple vendors. This is a trend expected to continue in the next year.

Among the various markets, the education segment has been growing rapidly. The K-12 school market is extremely competitive and relies on low-bid contracts that depress profit margins to the system integrator. However, colleges and universities are finding the money to pay for some highly sophisticated security systems.

ISSUE: I am on the staff of the security department in the Central Bank of Malaysia. The bank implemented a new strategy which emphasized more customer service. But at the same time, the security department is expected to perform better with no incidents. How can our department function better without compromising its rules and regulations to help give the best service to our customers?

SOLUTION: This is a common situation in a retail-type environment where the course of business depends at least partially upon direct interaction with the public. Management wants a more customer-friendly atmosphere, which creates challenges in securing the physical space to an ever-increasing level. The most important requirement is for security and management to work together in implementing any changes. Without a unified action plan, the solutions from security will be patched together at best.

This requires taking a peek at the direction management wants to go with customer contact. You can then implement the technology -- whether it is access control, CCTV, intrusion detection, or a combination of the technologies -- that is appropriate. You also can employ a procedure policy that allows the implementation of a security system that will grow in scale rather than making changes to its core structure.

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