The Industry Has Accelerated Its Success Since 1979
We’re standing on the corner of Main and Elm Streets, watching cars go by. They pass, and we wonder if they’ll go straight up Main Street or maybe turn and disappear.
We’ve looked at the security industry’s products and companies the same way. We can see down the road, and even up a hill, but there are a few curves that block our view. So, metaphorically speaking, let’s walk across the street to get another perspective.
But first, a look back at the past.
Times Change, Security Increases
In the late 1970s, the industry was still an infant, but as the number of 18- to 25-year-olds peaked, the 1980s ushered in the United States’ highest crime rate ever. Home security accelerated, the digital dialer was born and central station monitoring took off.
As technology advanced, the access control market expanded. Guards and photo identification cards were enhanced by better ID capabilities.
Then the proximity card appeared, making access more convenient. The residential market rose and AT&T attempted its own wireless design, but after a flurry closed shop.
After much discussion of monitoring margins, how to build them and the advertising needed to build a new idea, ADT introduced its mass-marketing strategy and drove past all competitors.
Technology Inspires Entrepreneurs
Digital technology exploded and computing changed. Main frames became minis and minis became micros. IBM tried dominating micros and missed. AT&T did just as poorly.
CCD cameras appeared, and color cameras took off. Access and CCTV outpaced intrusion and monitoring, which started to taper their growth curves.
Fire’s uninterrupted growth neared saturation in the 1980s, but the trend flattened and evolved into a replacement/upgrade market. Biometrics showed promise but always
The 1990s began with Desert Storm and the industry largely remained a collection of entrepreneurs. Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) attempted security, seeing monitoring signals over their phone lines as a new opportunity.
Power utilities attempted energy controls and recurring revenue. Integrated security systems gave rise to a new channel called integrators. The industry’s distribution structure began to buckle under the desire to sell direct to dealers and integrators – even to users. The 1996 Telecom Law was imposed, dealers lost ground to residential mass marketers, CCTV kept growing and prox cards began to take over the access business.
Corporations Move In
The stock market crashed in 2000, and security and IT spending was hit hard. However, it rebounded after 9/11, ensuring us that some were still fighting the Crusades.
Protection emerged as a primary consideration in our society: Security became a great growth industry in the minds of large corporations. Entrepreneurs begin to diminish as GE, IBM, Honeywell, Bosch, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman become industry competitors.
Biometrics Leads the Pack
Back at Elm and Main Streets, the traffic passed and is headed north. Here’s the view from the other side of the street:
The distribution car is having trouble climbing the hill. The Internet, hand-held PCs, and user need for integration communications begin a distribution sidestep.
The technology/education two-seater picks up speed as it passes. The constant development of innovative products and systems prompts everyone to invest more explanation dollars to remain competitive.
The digital technology/software convertible is streamlined and speeds up the hill. It’s smaller than earlier versions but with a bigger IT-enhanced engine and fewer individual products.
The home security hardtop has no trouble accelerating with its newly structured wiring/media center engine. Dealers are drawn to it since installation fees are high, demand is rising, and maintenance contracts can be sold to busy families.
The monitoring sedan pulls up steadily with a modern front but an old-fashioned back as the video trend steadily encroaches upon the old data model. Home cameras grow and rising commercial installations relentlessly drive the business into a more visual model.
The Silicon Valley racer with blinking lights everywhere weaves in and out of traffic as it tries to get other cars out of the way. Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, and other high-tech companies introduce new home products for the networked entertainment-security-lighting-major appliance control market.
The larger systems integration vehicle moves up the hill easily with smaller commercial video, security, and electrical contractor dealer cars trying to keep up.
The video surveillance car is a high- torque sport utility vehicle dominating traffic with its heft and size. Cameras are everywhere and in all types of networks.
The biometrics and smart card automobiles are repainted and look sharp. Biometrics are finally useful, and this is the fastest car in the access control lane.
The consolidation bus is bigger, but fewer passengers get on at each stop. The industry is now largely Fortune 500 corporations.
The radio frequency identification (RFID) pick-up looks like it will explode any minute as it powers up the hill. Manufacturers, truckers, warehouses, retailers, and anyone else with tracking, counting, and control needs will be using more RFID.
The contract guard restored car chugs up the hill, but falls behind faster cars with digital GSP dashboards. The guard business should remain strong because of overall security needs, but its share of the user security budget will fall.
Security Industry Remains Steady
So long as the traffic lights work, we expect the security car to outpace many other industries. Our great concern, of course, is a sudden control interruption that could congest Main Street.
But for now, Main Street is handling the traffic OK.
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