A look ahead
SP&T’s editorial advisory board talks about the year ahead
On Nov. 21, 2006, SP&T News met with several members of its editorial advisory board to get a sense of the direction the industry and the technology it employs is going in 2007. Participating in the discussion were Mike Boyle of VSI CCTV in Richmond Hill , Ont.; SP&T News publisher Frank Shoniker; Peter Garnham of PG Security Associates in Brampton, Ont.; SP&T editor Jennifer Brown; CLB Media editorial and production director Jackie Roth; account manager Mike Neeb; Steve Ballantyne of Fire and Safety Technologies Inc. (FAST) in Erin, Ont.; SP&T managing editor Andrew Wareing and, by teleconference, Mike Jagger of Provident Security in Vancouver.
SP&T: What do you see as the top technologies for 2007?
Boyle: I see the technology evolving on the marketing side but tying in the security value with public view monitors. We’ve seen flat screens at a number of different grocery chains and financial institutions front entrances and at ASIS I saw some high resolution flat screen monitors that allow a camera to integrate with marketing, whether uploaded through Ethernet or a flash card sent through the mail. That’s one of the major technologies.
One buzzword for it is digital signage. I was in the states a few months ago and I saw a football game being shown at Nordstroms (department store) in Los Angeles, showing football games on screen in the ladies’ shoe department. The next natural progression, as the technology evolves, is to put a camera in those screens and, as you walk up to them, the camera comes up half screen and the propaganda stays on the screen.
It ties the marketing and the security together so we’re going to get the marketing budget to pay for half of what we need it to do. You see it at the gas pumps…it won’t be long before, at the high-risk gas stations, you see those screens at the pump with a little window showing you pumping your gas.
Garnham: From what I see, everything is going IP based — every camera sold within two years will be a network-based camera. We’re already telling people to run Category 5 cable along with traditional coax cable.
Cameras will be doing POE (power over Ethernet) so we will be powering the cameras down the cable. We talked about video and integration with advertising. I think the big thing that’s going to happen is video in the transportation area.
They have already integrated GPS technology into the recording so that, as a standard feature of a bus ride down the street, as you get near one of their advertisers, up in the public view monitor in the bus or subway, there will be an advertisement from that advertiser. There’s also probably going to be a lot more integration of video and biometrics access control. We’re starting to see the manufacturers of access products integrate their systems with video recording systems.
Video and fire protection and smart video technology allows the system to determine if there is actually a fire that has started and to alert somebody that there is a problem.
We’re also looking at moving away from traditional to digital cameras and that means you’re looking at megapixels with two, five, eight or 10 megapixels. What does that do to the traditional network? If we put a five-megapixel camera onto your network now, it would try and take it over. So, it’s going to mean we’ll be transferring to gigabit networks and maybe parallel networks in some facilities where it’s totally separate from the rest of it.
Boyle: I think we’re going to be seeing more of that; security is going to have its own network infrastructure because it’s video and it takes up a lot of bandwidth.
SP&T: Do you see IT getting involved?
Boyle: IT is a big part of where we’re going and security directors and loss prevention directors don’t understand it.
Ballantyne: On the video transmission side of things, you’re going to see lot more bouncing video off satellite as a cost-effective way of doing business.
I’m involved in a few projects now: remote applications where you need security fast so you’ll see more modular security solutions where you can pop in and feed it back to a secure area.
In fire detection, you’re going to see fire departments more actively involved in how fire systems are going together, regulations and how fast you can get the signal to their dispatch so they can respond faster.
That’s done through Internet and better technology, including more reliable sensing.
Garnham: Traditionally, we’ve been selling systems to the security director and I think, in the future, we will be selling to that person but we will be selling to other people in those organizations. There is education needed for the supplier to be able to talk intelligently with customers about their IT issues. The average security person doesn’t have that knowledge. If you are going to start talking to someone about the establishment of a Gigabit network, you‘d better know what you’re talking about.
Boyle: It used to be the integrator and the security director and now it’s going to be the integrator and his talent — the marketing people will be there, IT will be there and security will be there and, maybe, the president.
Garnham: The sooner people get accustomed to that and more accustomed to working in a boardroom or group setting to justify the products and services they are selling, the longer they can hang on to it and the better off everyone will be.
Boyle: So what does that mean for our current industry? There are a lot of little independent companies that don’t have those resources or don’t have the vision to tack on.
Garnham: What I have seen is there are companies out there that specialize in the computer area: networks and systems. Those people are getting into our business.
SP&T: How do you feel about that? Do you see yourself as a competitor to someone like Cisco or are you able to work with them?
Garnham: We’re going to work with them because they’re the ones that are going to get you to the dance. Other people may not be able to do that. Sometimes it’s the big player that has to come in to get everyone onto the right page.
SP&T: Is the initial meeting you have with a client with the security guys who may not know what to do with the network?
Boyle: Sometimes it has to be the security guy who starts the process. You have to have the security director or loss prevention director because they’re going to be upset if you don’t. You’re also going to need the IT department involved, if you’re going to need the network which you will. And if you don’t have that knowledge base to give them that warm fuzzy feeling that you’re not going to crash their network, then you’d better bring in some talent. Having said that, I strongly think security should have its own backbone that’s not on the corporate backbone. They can’t afford to be out of business. That’s where I think the direction is going in the next year to 18 months. We’re going to see more and more corporations having more than one backbone for network.
SP&T: We’ve been talking more about the corporate market but what about the residential security market; what are the technologies they are adopting?
Ballantyne: When you look at the features of an alarm panel, the technologies are pretty similar and that doesn’t matter which manufacturer you have.
The speed of the product is driven by the number of houses being built. As far as features and benefits, there haven’t been any real noticeable changes in the last few years. A touch screen has been adapted from the computer world.
Garnham: I’ve got a word for you and its called “stagnology.” There’s absolutely no money in security equipment for residential so why would someone want to invest money in R and D for a product that they’re not going to make any money at? That’s why we’re not seeing new motion sensors or control panels. Why invest heavily in that stuff if you’re not getting a good return? Where you’re seeing the money being invested (in research and development) is in video and access because that’s where you get the return.
If you look at a standard video camera, the cost of that camera has gone down over the last few years from a $500 camera to under $100. New technology is coming out with mega-pixel cameras. The cost of those cameras is well up into the higher amounts. There are dollars still to be made in those technologies.
With basic security, you will not see too much change, except on the communications side. What’s fueling that is the lower cost of communication and to make it faster.
Jagger: I’ve had the same experience. In a big chunk of the market, we have residential clients who are looking at high-end security technology in their home and finding at one end of the spectrum you can spend six figures on home automation systems down to a basic security systems. We’re trying to find the common ground and most of the basic alarm system are the cheaper stuff so you can get either super highend or progressively worse and worse. There’s very little in the middle that is consistent with use in the residential market.
SP&T: At CANASA we heard about the lack of skilled people coming into the industry. Do you all have a hard time recruiting people?
Jagger: Yes, we do. As the residential market has gone to smaller and wireless systems, you can have the guy who on paper has six years in the industry installing alarms who has never actually installed a real alarm. There’s a real shortage of people who are skilled enough do things properly. We have had to be more creative in finding technicians. We have an easier time finding people who want to be security guards than technicians.
Ballantyne: You’ve hit the nail on the head, Mike. There are people who have been in the industry for a long time and have the experience that are doing well, but the training to get new people is not in existence. There isn’t a program you can come out of that says you are a certified technician where you can fish a wall and say I need this equipment to get this system installed. It’s hard to find those people.
There isn’t a source. The guys who are coming out of the community colleges are really green. That system hasn’t been honed yet so you’re getting guys in the industry for a long time who are the only guys who have the knowledge.
Boyle: We use a number of different levels of technicians for camera installation and access. In the old days, we’d use DeVry and RCC (Institute of Technology) in Ontario as a feeder and then we would train them ourselves for three to six months and then push them out into the real world. That doesn’t have the same value as it did in the analogue world. Changing a head on a VCR took some talent and they would teach you that. You could take a couple of busted VCRs and say ‘go to it.’ You don’t fix anything, anymore; instead, you just throw it out and get a new one so the need for that level of tech is no longer a part of my world.
SP&T: Peter, how about with your company, in terms of finding trained people?
Garnham: Maybe I’m in a better position because I know what I need and I can go out looking for it. There are plenty of qualified people. I think the problem with community colleges is for them to stay current. It’s hard enough for the people in this room to stay current. I can’t imagine how community colleges are able to say they can get someone from off the street to be employable and be current. We have trouble staying on top of the changes in technology that’s happening every day. That’s a challenge.
The other thing is making sure people in our community maintain their knowledge. I don’t know how well it works but, in the U.S., they have their continuing education unit programs. I think that would be somewhat beneficial for the security industry to have people maintain their level of knowledge and be active with it all the time.
SP&T: Is this something CANASA could be more involved with?
Garnham: Absolutely! You’d have to have legislation in place that says you have to have a certain level of knowledge in place and that you have to maintain it. Once you have that, then you can make sure people follow the prescribed route.
Boyle: Maybe we should be talking to the CDIs to develop six to 12-month programs where we show them how to fish a wall and program a recorder and an access control system and get them out the door. There’s lots ofplaces where, under a year, you’re a specialist — you get your accreditation. Maybe some of the corporations should have their own school and throw it open to some of these dealer programs.
Ballantyne: I think what you’re seeing from some of these manufacturers like Pelco is the Pelco college idea. They have a good program but, when you come out, you’re sort of tattooed as Pelco. Other manufacturers should step up to the plate.
SP&T: On the issue of integration, at the Securing New Ground conference, one of the speakers was talking about issues of integration where you have different products from vendors. But they don’t talk to each other. What he was saying was ‘I tell vendors now, make it work for me, make it work together or I won’t use your product.’
Boyle: I think most end users prefer to have one company do it all so there is no finger pointing later.
SP&T: Having that one neck to choke.
Boyle: That’s right and there is some value to end-users to have that one neck because they can get their hands firmly around it. Stepping back a little though, what does integration really mean? What do you want it to do? If you want your camera system, access control system and alarm system to be integrated, what does that mean? When you swipe your card, do you want the alarm system to go on? Do you want the cameras to record at a faster rate when someone swipes their card? All these things are pretty doable just through programming and they don’t have to be wired together. I’ve got one client that wants to tie in their security and their HVAC and they don’t need it, and the cost is way too prohibitive to tie in lighting and heating. It’s the larger places where you can tie in the integration package and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in heating and lighting.
Ballantyne: That represents maybe one half of one per cent of the market out there.
Boyle: It is and certainly, maybe 80 per cent of the companies capable of doing that are 20 per cent of the pot. It’s the huge companies that are going to be able to do that.
Ballantyne: I think the industry is lacking good specification people who can go into a company and say, ‘Let’s talk about your business’ and write a specification and know what companies you need to answer that spec.
Garnham: There are a lot of the specifiers who only want to talk turnkey solutions from one manufacturer who will supply everything, so it’s difficult for the smaller manufacturer to meet the specs because they don’t have the complete product.
Boyle: There is a trap the end user can fall into by entering into an integrator program with one of those corporations. They’re not good at all areas. They may be very good in heating, air conditioning and burglar systems, but they may be weak in CCTV or they’re weak in other areas. If I’m a security director, if I leave my post tomorrow and was hired by, say, IBM, I’m not likely to go with one major integrator. I’m likely to pick and choose all the guys who are great at access control.
If you know what you want and how to get there, and you get them together into a room, even if they’re competitors — leave your hat and your attitude outside the room — this is what we want to achieve and, if you’re not on-side, tell us now.
Ballantyne: A lot of companies get into hot water by submitting an RFP for an integration when it should be a specification. They need to do their homework first, hire a consultant who knows what they’re doing and write a specification. There are too many ex police officers in the security director’s roles saying ‘tell me what you think we should have.’ It should come from an educated security director who knows what they need.
SP&T: So where is all this going? Do you have any predictions or wish lists?
Jagger: We’ve got, for our own systems, a group of web developers looking at how software works and ties in. For instance, if Bosch has something good and you can get a Pelco camera and a Honeywell whatever, if you know they have a common interface that can link them together, that’s great. So the only decision is whether you design something yourself or get someone else to make something specialized, and all you’re looking for is the best stuff because you know that they have a common architecture to bring everything together. The closer security equipment gets to that and further away from proprietary equipment where only one type of equipment works together properly, that is going to have the biggest impact.
Ballantyne: Over the last 10 years, we’ve had the big nationals selling their wares and a lot of independent business guys doing well in the industry, selling security systems in a house for $3,000. Then mass marketing came in. A lot of the smaller guys got bought out by the big guys. Then we saw the evolution of the manufacturers coming in that started getting gobbled up by new guys. Where a lot of the smaller manufacturers were getting gobbled up and the products were changing rapidly, where products were manufactured in U.S. and Canada, now the manufacturing has moved to Mexico and China.
Where did the quality and the bells and whistles go? We’re going to see some of the big guys get out because they came in going gangbusters, buying up things left and right, losing good people and then they started losing the quality. I think you’re going to see the regeneration of the smaller integrated security companies and allow it to become healthier because some better opportunities are going to be there.
Boyle: I agree. I’m already seeing those guys who do specialty work are tending to compete strongly against the big companies. Also, the technology with the mega-pixel cameras and mega-pixel screens is going to yet again give us new life with the budgets that are coming down. I’m reminding people weekly that we can’t do what they do on CSI, at least not yet.
But, with the mega-pixel cameras that we seeing, in time, we will be able to blow up an image and get a
licence plate from 200 or 300 feet away.
Garnham: There’s going to be more dealers or integrators getting involved in niche markets. Saying that, there’s going to be more people focused on security or access or any of the low-voltage products out there. I also think video and access is going to be easier with portable, wireless communications. With your PDA, you’ll have access to that information.
The whole process has to be faster. The images have to be better. Right now, the images you can pull off a DVR aren’t much better than an image you can pull off a VCR. And storage has to be lower cost than it is today.