ONLINE EXCLUSIVE ROUNDTABLE: Security Managers Discuss Adopting New Technologies
August’s Bright Ideas Issue of SSI includes an exclusive roundtable, featuring managers from five leading firms discuss how they are transforming to adapt to new technologies and services. Taking part in the candid, closed-door session were company Presidents Enrique (Henry) Olivares (APL Access & Security, Gilbert, Ariz.), Robert Vezina (Life Safety, Buffalo, N.Y.) and Kurt Will (Will Electronics, St. Louis); and Vice Presidents Jamie Bumgardner (Prime Communications, Elkhorn, Neb.) and Larry Simmons (Tech Systems, Duluth, Ga.).
So expansive were their viewpoints that what follows is only half the story. The first half of the roundtable can be found here.
Let’s talk about technology. Open platforms and interoperable systems and convergence has been talked about forever. We’re not quite there yet. I don’t think any of us will say we’re there. We were talking about this yesterday, Simmons, so why don’t you jump in on where this is at and where the frustrations are, and what would you like to see.
Simmons: We talk about open architecture but what is it really? What does it mean? If everyone that says they’re open, if you dive down into it deep enough, there’s something proprietary they’re doing. When they say they’re totally open I don’t know of anybody that’s totally open. If you dig down into it there is something proprietary. It really makes it a challenge. It’s frustrating because you want to be able to integrate the systems more effectively, easier than we can do today. Getting the manufacturers to cooperate with one another is almost impossible, as some of the silos are being built up the players are getting bigger. You have fewer players in some ways. They really control the market getting bigger, and are less willing to cooperate. As you get the different large manufacturers, they have their own video lines and they’re less willing, it seems, to work with other video manufacturers. So many things that were working before aren’t working. It’s a leapfrog theory. So it’s been this way but seems to be getting worse. Someone will upgrade their system, promote the latest release and it doesn’t work with the existing platform. The communications between the companies seem to be getting worse, not better. To me, I’ve been doing this 38 years, it’s more frustrating right now than any point I can remember. Back in the day nobody did it, OK. Here they say they’re doing it but they really aren’t and yet they won’t cooperate. To me that’s even more frustrating.
Bumgardner: That was good. I came many years ago from the building automation world. They went through the exact same thing and still are very proprietary. But they went on this BACnet protocol and other initiatives. Same thing, where the concept was to protect end users through this open protocol. It’s probably 15-20 years later and in my opinion they’ve created no more of an open system than they had prior to going on those protocols. Frankly from a security perspective I see a lot of similarities in that. There’s always going to be a level of proprietariness to all systems. The question we coach our clients on is you’re never going to get around that but to protect your investment, how can you procure those systems? Can you protect yourself from a procurement standpoint; allow multiple channels of procurement so you don’t get locked into certain manufacturers and vendors? The other thing, we have software engineers on staff so we’re very interested in APIs and SDKs and whether or not we can use those to integrate with other systems. You talk to the big manufacturers and you say give me your SDK and they tighten up: “Why do you want it? What do you need it for? What are you doing?” That goes against the theory of an open system, in my opinion.
Do you believe most integrators really want that level of interoperability or do you think a lot of them are still holding on to the margin and complexity type of mentality?
Bumgardner: A lot of them are holding onto that but I think the end users are going to win, long term, and they’re going to drive that open system architecture. They’re the customer writing the checks so they’re going to drive the open system, the open procurement as far as they can. Ultimately they’ll win. Whether or not you’re holding onto it or not, long term, I don’t think it’s going to matter.
What about interactive services, delivered through mobile devices and that kind of connectivity? Are you seeing increases with that? Are you enabling your end-user clients to do more of that? What’s been involved? Where do you see that going?
Vezina: I would say it’s 100% required today by all clients. All want use of operating their systems, viewing their systems on a smart phone. I’d say it’s actually mandatory.
Do you run into problems with that in terms of things working as they should?
Vezina: Definitely, you have to pick the right stuff that already works and not the stuff that’s going to work someday. It’s a challenge but everybody wants it and everybody demands it, as far as what we see in the marketplace.
Do you get to charge more recurring revenues with that or is it a value-add that’s included?
Vezina: More of a value-add for us.
Simmons: I think it’s an expectation and we really haven’t been able to charge more for it. Henry brought up a point earlier that customers expect things faster than they have in the past. That is true. For us, again with enterprise clients, they really want to manage, know where the calls are, have they been closed, which service calls do they have. Usually they’re international so they want a glimpse of what the footprint looks like. How many calls have I gotten, have they been closed, how long did it take? What we had to do is use an Internet browser and give them access to our service portal, which we’ve done. We set them up so they could view their accounts and see what was going on with the accounts. In turn, we’ve had to then equip our technicians with mobile devices so we can dispatch calls to them on an iPad which is what we’re using today. They get the calls, can complete the call, and they can close it out and upload to the system. That way it’s more real-time, so the end user can see what’s going on in their system. The market has driven us in that direction.
Olivares: I think the manufacturers are making it easier for everybody to jump into this mobile devices viewing. I use it in my house with DMP. I get all my alarms and events and texted to me, even for my temperature in the wine cellar changing. I get that. The manufacturers are making it easier to work with that. We just got the city of Tucson [Ariz.] contract, and that’s one of the requirements, that they have to be able to see live service call status. We have to give them a login, set up a system they can log into our dispatch program and partition it so they only see theirs. But they want to be able to just login to our portal and see what’s completed, what’s pending, what parts on being ordered, barcoding all their readers throughout the city. So every camera is going to have a barcode. The manufacturers are making it easier so that’s where we’re putting it in place.
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