Exploring Parallel Universes

As security practitioners we tend to limit our horizons by remaining in the same circles. Particularly as technologies continue to converge and evolve, the lines become blurred among building systems. Audio/visual, real estate and construction are examples of fields crossing more and more into our realm.

I have found through the years that one of the best ways for a dealer, integrator or security industry tradesperson to expand their product knowledge and markets is to visit what I like to call “parallel universes.” An example would be my recent trip to the 2013 InfoComm conference in Orlando, Fla.

So prepare to launch into security technology hyperspace as we look at some exciting developments I uncovered at that convention, as well as others at this year’s Realcomm and IBcon events.

Blasting Off Into the AV Space

InfoComm is the largest professional audio visual (AV) show in the world. This year it attracted more than 925 exhibitors and 35,000 attendees from 90+ countries. It’s the place to be if you want to see the best and brightest of the professional AV communications industry.

Areas of interest to the security industry would be the latest on digital signage for mass evacuation systems, standards that deal with Audio Coverage Uniformity (ACU) and Speech Transmission Index (STI). If you have ever experienced paging systems in which you cannot hear or understand what is being spoken then you know how important these standards are.

In the education arena there is the quest by technicians to reach the status of a Certified Technology Specialist (CTS). The CTS Exam Guide is a document that provides a good, thorough overview to study and learn what is expected of someone with that accreditation.

Tech Talk Tip: Paging speaker design and installation techniques may not be something an alarm person deals with every day. That said it is important to understand best practices for designing and installing paging systems. One good resource is a favorite of mine, the long-established manufacturer Viking Electronics’ reference manual, “How to Design a Paging System” (free download at vikingelectronics.com). Check out that site’s Application Notes library as well.

One particular tip from Viking comes from the “The Rule of Thumb (Speaker) Spacing Model.” It states that sound coverage per speaker is directly related to ceiling height. The taller the ceiling, the more the sound spreads. Place speakers apart by twice the height of the ceiling. For example, if you have an eight-foot ceiling then place paging speakers every 16 feet. In this case, every two speakers would cover 256 square feet of ceiling (16 X 16).

Real Estate Tech Galaxy Grows

While InfoComm featured a large number of vendors the real surprise came at the end of my tour. Tucked in the back area of the exhibit hall were two other smaller events, Realcomm and IBcon. What tipped me off to the possible relevance of these co-located conferences was ADI’s prominent exhibitor presence at the gateway.An oft overlooked area of potential cost savings is lighting control. Systems from proven manufacturers such as Legrand’s WattStopper can deliver an abundance of benefits for integrators and customers. Shown is the LMCT-100, a wireless digital lighting management (DLM) configuration tool. Photo courtesy Legrand.

I wondered, “Just what is Realcomm?” It has to do with real estate technology. The commercial, corporate, government and institutional real estate industry has been under increasing financial pressure the past five years to cut operational costs and eliminate inefficiencies. The realization of reduced costs from building automation has created the real estate technology market.

Realcomm’s opening speaker was Thornton May, a renowned futurist, author and global educator. He referenced the acronym “SMAC” to represent four disruptive forces firmly upon us: social media; mobile apps; analytics for Big Data; and the cloud. He asked, “What has changed, what will change and what are we doing about it?” Commentary was encouraged from the audience, with two of the top concerns being:

  • Too much data, how to handle it, and standards for sharing and integrating it
  • Obsolete infrastructure will not get us to the future

Today, the challenge is not so much with creating the technology but having personnel with the skills to organize it. Unfortunately, schools and universities are not preparing and offering the training and skills to manage today’s intelligent building automation (IBA) systems. We are just now starting to hear terms like real estate building analyst, which should be a very in-demand occupation in the future.

Google Glass was also discussed and debuted at the conference. I am among the many curious to see and hopefully be able report on some of the field tech applications of this potentially transformative technology. We can see how Google technologies such as Google Earth have changed the landscape of profiling large integration systems.

One of the most important warnings industry experts at Realcomm/IBcon offered was not to ignore the trends and movement of the real estate technology industry. The challenges are still great, especially with existing infrastructure, but the demand for truly intelligent buildings is greater.

One of the biggest challenges with system software providers and their customers is “change management.” Integrators need to make sure the management systems are easy to understand and operate. This is a task I have always noticed to be particularly daunting since system interfaces and documentation are designed by engineers and IT specialists. It often amuses me how some basic concepts seem to never change. While many of these systems are large and complex, the common theme for system controls and interfaces was: keep it simple stupid (KISS) for the customer. Let that serve as a constant reminder for all of us in our projects.

Orbiting Intelligent Buildings

IBcon is shorthand for Intelligent Building Conference, which is only two years old and further demonstrates the buildings revolution. Following are some popular software technology platforms being utilized by participating vendors:

SkyFoundry — An organization responsible for the development of the SkySpark software platform that transforms smart device data into business solutions. In a year, SkySpark analytics technology has gone from 100 million square feet to more than 225 million square feet in 4,000+ sites. This type of software attaches “tags” to data items as needed in order to convey definitions and associations.

Haystack (project-haystack.org) — Project Haystack is a popular open source initiative to develop naming conventions and taxonomies for building equipment and operations data.

Sedona Framework (sedonadev.org) — Designed to make it easy to build smart, networked embedded devices. The core Sedona Framework technology uses a flexible academic-styled license and enables a type of programming where prebuilt components are assembled into applications. You can remotely add, remove and modify the components in your application in real-time.  

Bob Dolph has served in various technical management and advisory positions in the security industry for 30+ years. To share tips and installation questions, E-mail Bob at [email protected] Check out his Tech Shack blog at www.securitysales.com/blog.

Tagged with: InfoComm Tech Talk

About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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