Hot Seat: Interoperability and the Systems Integrator’s Role
InsideIQ Building Automation Alliance (insideiq.org) is an international coalition of independent building and facility automation companies representing common automation and security system platforms. Paul Strohm, president and COO of Lenexa, Kan.-based C&C Group, serves as vice president of the Alliance. He joins the conversation to discuss the state of interoperability in the physical security arena, including its challenges and opportunities.
Are there tangible ways that we see interoperability trending in the industry?
There is certainly movement toward standard-compliant products but it is slow. I attribute this mainly due to engineers reusing portions of old or outdated specs along with their lack of knowledge of the current product offerings. IP cameras will help move the standards along since more and more clients are aware of megapixel technology and it forces the engineers to become more current.
Where do you see underserved or untapped opportunities for security systems integrators to provide integration and automation expertise in the marketplace?
Video and access technology have the potential to be integrated well beyond the traditional Big Brother stereotype applications. One example is warehouse distribution and processing applications where repetitive tasks performed incorrectly can slow production or cause injuries. Video analytics could be modified to monitor physical movement and monitor improper technique that could lead to injuries.
These videos could initiate notifications to HR and management staff to alert them to potential problems before they occur. Access to machines and forklifts could be controlled through HR records. Integrating the access system to training and safety certifications could help reduce unqualified employees from accessing and enabling critical operational systems. Security could monitor the traditional video footage, HR could assemble incident reports tagged with the video and management could build and expand training programs with real world examples.
Another area of potential growth is the smart building. A fully integrated structure including security, lighting, HVAC and building controls that provides a return on investment along with the ability to remotely manage a site. This market will develop as pricing becomes more reasonable. I also believe we will see growth in cloud-based access control and video solutions. Hosting these systems looks quite promising.
How can a locally-based or small regional company have successes in enterprise-level organizations?
Local companies can have a distinct advantage over the national integrators. First, the small or regional company must be technically advanced and focused on cutting-edge technology so they can provide a value to an enterprise-level client. They must also network with similar dealers with related product lines so they can establish an installation network throughout North America or the regions they are required to service. They can also become an agent for the enterprise client and coordinate all installations and manage that system for that client.
Compare that level of service to the big integrators. Yes, they have a handful of talented individuals that truly get the big picture and these men and women travel the country and the world implementing systems. But once the job is completed, they’re off to the next one and you may never see them again.
In what facet of their business can smaller integrators differentiate to compete?
A commitment to service is the local integrators greatest strength. Through continuing education of its technical staff and building working relationships with clients, a local integrator can react quickly and see the big picture of their customers’ needs and requests. As the IT department begins to dominate the physical security industry the local integrator can help be a bridge between the security professionals and the sometimes frustrating “smartest man in the room” syndrome of the IT staff.
Most integrators have a great respect for the current and former local and national law enforcement professionals we work with every day. Their knowledge of where and why a camera is placed and how to implement the concentric rings of security, lighting control and placement is invaluable. The human element of security beyond pure technology is something that some IT professionals do not always grasp. Integrators can successful bridging that gap when they strive to clearly communicate with both departments.
Will traditional security integrators continue to have a niche role in enterprise-level systems or will their services and expertise be phased out by companies that can provide a holistic, automated solution?
I believe there will always be a role for the traditional integrator, but they will need to evolve. The successful integrators will be the ones that grow into the role as the holistic solution provider. Integration program developers will come and go, but it’s the integrators that will take those solutions, tie them to HR records, integrate the building automation critical alarms, and connect the analytics packages and process control systems.
The integrator will acquire the IT, physical security, HR and operational knowledge and fine tune it to their client’s needs. The services the large organizations can offer will also be available to the traditional integrator through third-party vendors, which will help level the playing field.
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