The Outlook for Outdoor CCTV Is Outrageous!

There has never been a better time to be in the business of designing and installing outdoor CCTV systems. Security dealers failing to offer these products and services are missing out on a gold rush of lucrative opportunities, while their competitors rake in unprecedented profits.

J.P. Freeman Co. Inc. of Newtown, Conn., projects the entire CCTV market, including outdoor installations, will experience a cumulative increase of 63 percent by 2005. While that figure is indeed impressive, consider this – it was calculated prior to the attacks this past September, and many industry insiders believe such forecasts will double as a result of America’s war on terrorism.

That tragic event eradicated previous patterns of product research and development, marketing, customer adoption, and market penetration. Until that moment in time, American citizens were reluctant—if not downright opposed—to being under the watchful eyes of outdoor CCTV cameras. Suddenly, video surveillance systems are seen as a safety issue and a much lesser evil compared to the grim alternative.

The good news for security installers and integrators yet to tap into this market: there’s still time. That’s because the foreseeable future holds a high volume of business for all the players. However, being a superstar among those players entails remaining current on new technologies and creatively applying them to new applications, thorough training, and installation expertise.

Demand Keeps Pace With Advances in Technology

Technological leaps in cameras, enclosures, miniaturization, lenses, recorders, computers, storage, image retrieval and manipulation, and transmission methods during the past decade have mirrored the increased demand for and penetration of CCTV systems.

Adding to that, customers are getting much more bang for their buck. According to Security Sales & Integration‘s 2001 Dealer Survey, typical systems involve 43-percent more cameras than they did in 2000, but are actually costing end users about 9-percent less.

Perhaps the most revolutionary development of all has been the move from analog to digital technology. More specifically, breakthroughs in camera technology that allow images to be picked up in low-light situations are often cited as playing a major role in broadening the scope of outdoor CCTV applications.

Sept. 11 Attacks Accelerate Security Business

According to Security Sales & Integration‘s 2001 Dealer Survey, these remarkable advancements have led to an astounding 400-percent rise in the annual number of CCTV installations for a typical security dealer. However, that was before the events of Sept. 11, 2001 inalterably changed the face of security.

The 25 industry professionals interviewed for this article unanimously agree that electronic security will experience a dramatic rise in business—particularly CCTV and access control—in government, industrial and commercial environments. Just as significantly the consensus among dealers is that the American people are more open to these measures than ever before. The findings of several recent public opinion polls support this belief, even as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) remains up in arms.

Installers of outdoor CCTV systems may not yet be seeing an immediate impact on their bottom lines as a result of Sept. 11, but the wheels are in motion and it will soon come.

More Cameras Means More Monitoring Opportunities

There has never been a more opportune time for a dealer to become an established authority in the area of outdoor CCTV. Not only is the demand greater than ever, but the margin on equipment is higher than traditional intrusion alarm systems, and users are typically willing to pay substantial labor costs for expert work.

In addition, as the proliferation of cameras increases, so too do the potential recurring monthly revenue (RMR) opportunities as many of them will require monitoring. Hence, dealers with their own central monitoring stations or that use third-party stations figure to enhance their income for some time to come.

Popular Uses Include Perimeters, Entrances, Parking Lots

The deployment of exterior surveillance cameras can serve many purposes and can be used for a wide range of applications, with more emerging all the time. Basically, outdoor CCTV is beneficial anywhere it can provide economic or security value—specifically where it is critical to monitor the movement of people and/or goods, or to ensure public safety.

The emergence of facial-recognition technology could open up even more avenues. Also, outdoor CCTV is increasingly being integrated with access control to help verify the identity of people entering parking lots or buildings.

Of course, no electronic security equipment is beyond reproach. Regardless of the chosen application and despite the gains in technology, outdoor CCTV still has some limitations. Severe weather conditions, such as lightning, continue to be a concern as does the transmission of images from remote camera locations (often requiring buried cabling or wireless signals), lighting and large-area coverage.

Training Is Crucial; Sources Are Plentiful

Breaking into and succeeding in the outdoor CCTV market necessitates proper training and experience. Fortunately, there is a wealth of sources for the former, including equipment manufacturers, dealer programs, industry associations, national training programs, trade show seminars and even collegiate courses.

Equally important to being adequately trained on the installation side is making sure the customer is properly educated about system operation.

Lighting Heads List of Installation Requirements

Some key points to consider when designing/installing an outdoor CCTV system include: when to use color or black-and-white cameras; accounting for variable lighting; the necessary equipment for capturing fine details (such as positively identifying individuals); transmitting images from remotely located cameras; the number of frames per second for recording; and maintenance schedules. Many of these factors are interrelated (see box on this page for more tips).

There is strong evidence that black-and-white cameras may soon slide into complete obsolescence.

Closely associated with camera choice and lighting is having the capability to conclusively identify people or objects. Today’s higher quality CCTV products have made this task easier and more commonplace, allowing images to be admissible in prosecuting criminals.

Smarter Equipment, Software Lay Ahead

The outlook for outdoor CCTV sales and installations is startling. And, while integration with access control and facial-recognition technologies will help supply dealers with all the business they can handle for some time to come, there are even more potential opportunities on the horizon. Meanwhile, the shape of the entire electronic security industry will continue to be molded by the evolving convergence of technology.

Special thanks to the following manufacturers for contributing to this article: Ademco; Digital Video Systems; Kalatel; Panasonic; and Philips.

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