State of Commercial Security 2022: Contending With COVID, Supply Issues & More
Like indomitable explorers hacking their way through a thick and relentless jungle, commercial security integrators are continuing to thrive amid a legion of challenges.
What does integration in security mean to you today, and contrasted against five or 10 years ago?
Lonie: Integration to me is how we can integrate into the access control platform as well as all the other systems like visitor management, health-related training, and create one customer service platform. Whereas 10 years ago, everything was disparate and you were using Excel spreadsheets to keep track of it all. Now you can create one complete integration package to put before everyone.
Blake: Beyond access control and video integration, I believe the market is really headed to a whole building management system. We’ve dived into that headfirst. It tells a really good story to customers, especially for those managing huge campuses or buildings, that they can have one product and manufacturer to bring in, in our case Honeywell, not just video and access control but also fire alarm.
Then HVAC controls and management of blinds and some of the new stuff like air quality monitoring. With the pandemic, they can see in real-time what the air quality is like in a certain part of a building. Similarly, someone swipes a badge in a part of the building and the lights turn on, and when they leave the lights turn off, and then HVAC goes down or up. Customers don’t want to manage 10 different systems, they want one interface to see all this information and data. That seems to be the problem, as most electronic building devices shifted from manual operation with say a thermostat, they all went to their own interfaces. It’s almost overwhelming at this point.
I believe the integrated future will be a full building platform. You’re seeing that already with Tyco and JCI as well. There’s a lot going on, especially with renewables and solar too. Anything high or low voltage in your building is going to be under one interface, with all the data and analytics in real-time. Customers want everything turnkey with those different systems, and one throat to choke on the integrator side that can do it all and make it go.
Cooper: Integration on the security side of the house has come a tremendous way. Years ago, if you were going to integrate your card access and video you did it with relays and inputs and outputs. You had 200 cables tied between a matrix and a bunch of relay output boards on your access control. We called that integration. An alarm point goes off and we spin a p/t/z around over coax to get a shot of the door. Now, we look at integration as information sharing.
We have to look at it as more of an overall solution, not just security or fire or building automation. It’s also an integration of building intelligence and people intelligence, bringing in HR systems and tying all that together. Integration for us is doing something else with data in a meaningful manner and doing so in an easy way.
Years ago, if you asked anybody in this industry if your software has a REST [representational state transfer] API, they wouldn’t have known what the heck you were talking about. Now we don’t even evaluate platforms without an open API that we can integrate with. If there is a desired integration that doesn’t exist off-the-shelf today, we want to be able to develop it ourselves. The last engineer I hired had no industry experience, but he’s got software development and electrical engineering experience. That’s a tremendous boost to the rest of the team, bringing in someone with outside thought.
Let’s be honest as an industry, we’re pretty far behind the times in general. We’re not the fastest to adopt new technology. Bringing on somebody who doesn’t have that history can help drive some of the integrations and the market forward. You’ve got a REST API on these three systems, let’s come up with a middleware that makes everything talk together. It’s all standardized, we can control the flow of information and at the end of the day our customer gets a nice integrated, seamless solution.
We want to cut down, touchpoints and take away manual actions to make their job easier. From an access control perspective, if we do that with their HR system, now on a new hire you don’t have to type somebody’s name in. We can automate a lot of that stuff, and that’s what we’re looking at for integration. It’s a cool buzzword but once you’ve integrated your card access and video, what do you do with it? True integration can go further and have a lot more meaning to the end user’s overall operations than just the piece of it we normally deal in.
Haught: From the smart building perspective, we have had some success in specific verticals, but it’s not for everybody. We would love to dive into this further, but to go back to the pandemic, we can’t find enough people to really expand those specific markets. You might be able to go sell it, but then you’ve got to be able to service it and maintain it. I’ve steered clear of some of that. I’m looking forward to this thing calming down so we can go to that next level. I believe in the next 12-24 months it is going to be huge.
I was just dealing with a project involving a large HR integration in the Pro-Watch. It’s been a bit of a challenge because of the HR platform we’ve been asked to integrate into and the way some of those things are done. It’s all about educating that customer, making sure you evaluate those risks and being able to implement what you promise you can do.
How does Honeywell’s Integrated Security Dealer program help you succeed?
Lonie: Honeywell has brought us to the table a lot of times in our area with customers that aren’t quite satisfied with their current integrator. They bring us in and, in turn, we like to lead with that product. When we have an opportunity, a new customer or business platform open to anything, we like to bring Honeywell to the table because their building solutions are something everybody’s looking toward. Honeywell has tied all their different platforms together really well, so it’s a persuasive presentation to customers. It’s a great partnership.
Blake: The thing Honeywell gets right is they understand it’s a partnership, from Rick [Koscinski, Honeywell general manager] and the entire team down. The reason we always go back to Honeywell is the people. They really do make a big difference. It’s good to have a team of people over there that have been doing this not only a long time, but really understand it’s a two-way street. There’s a lot of new entrants to the market and certainly other large manufacturers that don’t really get that aspect of it. They might see you once a quarter and they’ll only want to know how many X, Y and Z widgets you sold. There’s no true partnership there.
Cooper: It’s a great relationship. Honeywell really knows the dealer base and where people’s strengths are. When a customer has a unique requirement, they do a good job with saying, “Hey, here’s the best partner for what you’re looking to do.” On our side, it helps that it’s a 1,000-pound gorilla. Everybody knows the Honeywell name. When you’re proposing a Honeywell system, you automatically get that brand recognition. Even somebody who doesn’t know the space knows it is a big company with a lot of backing. That helps make our job easier.
Haught: I want to echo Tyler’s sentiments; it is from the top down. Our relationship with Honeywell is just that. We have the ability to reach out and touch them when we need it. It’s not just the relationship of Honeywell staff, but it’s the environment Rick and his team have created in allowing us as integrators to be able to reach out to other integrators and work together on projects without fear of people stepping on each other’s toes or trying to steal business.
It’s a fairly tight group at the top, and I’ve not experienced that type of relationship with other manufacturers. It’s beautiful because we will call each other sometimes and say, “Hey, I got a question or a problem.” “Hey, can you do this?” Everybody tries to help each other and that’s not necessarily supported by a lot of other manufacturers. These guys facilitate that conversation, even if it’s indirectly with other integrators, to make sure everybody’s on the same page and willing to work together for a common goal. That is to move that goalpost for all of us as a brand as well as an industry.
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