It is a fact of life that we need to secure our homes and places of business. But security cannot rest on its laurels alone. For security to truly fit the end-users’ needs, it has to incorporate many facets of supervision and control. A security system has to be able to work with the telephone, computer, and even cellular and satellite products—for state-of-the-art voice, data, and imaging.

Every low-voltage market is advancing through technological refinement and innovation; prices are lower than ever, and capabilities have peaked to their highest levels. Wireless is prevalent and offers advanced products—everything from closed-circuit television (CCTV) to sensors to keypads to controls.

All this is good news for the electrical contractor, and there’s more. Older buildings require modernization while new construction remains strong. Even better, security sales and installations continue as one of the few bright spots in an unpredictable economy. Turnkey opens the door in every possible way, as the buyer, both residential and commercial, wants one company to perform the design, installation, and service after the sale.

Security is not ‘sub’ work

Just as with voice/data/video (VDV), security customers find they would rather work with one wiring/cabling contractor in a new building or retrofit application. And, according to the EC Security Survey 2000, electrical contractors no longer simply subcontract the significant amount of security work they continue to receive. Rather, contractors report that 86 percent of security work was performed in-house. Another question in the survey asked firms if they had performed security work prior to 1980 and of these firms, an even greater amount (91 percent) of the work was performed by in-house personnel. (See pie chart.)

In every market, there’s a product that can perform a function or fulfill a need. These include access control, CCTV, videoconferencing, building automation, intercoms and paging, communications, intrusion detection, life safety and fire, perimeter controls, supervision, point of sale, and an endless list of different facets of life and business that need electronic assistance today. Integration of all different types of technology is where electrical contractors will succeed if they plan for the future and listen to the customer.

Many current market studies on security and low voltage were performed prior to last year’s terrorist events. Further, most security equipment manufacturers and distributors continue to report a spike in sales, especially for security applications involving government, business, and high-alert locations such as oil refineries, power plants, research and development facilities, etc.

One study that further confirms the growth of the security market is a report by engineering market research firm Frost & Sullivan, which is headquartered in San Jose, Calif. Frost & Sullivan has recently published a number of reports that indicate continued growth in security and VDV, such as the U.S Physical Security Equipment Market report. (See www.Frost.com for additional information.)

According to the study, rising crime rates spark demand for enhanced security systems. “Due to highly publicized incidents, the fear of crime and terrorism is driving demand for security equipment. Technological advancements and fierce competition in certain market sectors have made physical security equipment more affordable and reliable,” stated the report.

The U.S. Physical Security Equipment Market report indicates that CCTV sales will remain strong and propel even higher increased total market share; increased use of CCTV, especially in conjunction with electronic access control and surveillance equipment, will remain a primary industry driver. “About 80 percent of interior segment revenues are derived from the sale of CCTV, [and] its accessories and components. Further, as a result of the CCTV market expansion, the entire interior equipment market is projected to experience significant growth over the forecast period.”

The Frost & Sullivan study identifies another growth spot in physical security equipment as perimeter barrier sensors. Recent developments have led to significant increases in the dependability of these systems and fewer false alarms. According to the study, “Low-end sensors have become more reliable without becoming more expensive, making them more economically attractive to small customers who were previously dissatisfied with their performance.”

Access control also leads

Another hot button in low voltage is definitely access control, according to Deepak Shetty, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan. The U.S. Electronic Access Control Systems Market report states that increasingly risk-prone environments will accelerate market growth to a projection of sales that more than doubles from 2000 to 2007.

“There’s no doubt that the market for access control is up. There’s been a lot of interest generated by current events. Security was always a major issue, especially in the workplace, but now even more so. There’s been a decline in price and increase in application,” Shetty said. In addition, he said that most access control users want multi-function capability, such as incorporating access control with time and attendance or network access, etc. “There’s a convergence of technologies in equipment, with proximity making the greatest move. We expect proximity to overtake magnetic stripe in market revenue in the next five to six years. The cost is nearly comparable to magnetic stripe, and because you don’t have to physically insert a proximity reader in any piece of equipment, it may prove cost effective in durability.”

Automated buildings up

Building automation represents still another bright spot for the electrical contractor. Increasingly, it’s not unusual for sophisticated controls to incorporate lighting, security, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. For the end user, automation and integration of equipment functionality reduces energy costs and drives demand. The bottom line is that companies want to reduce resource consumption, increase safety and security, and enhance the comfort level of those who use the building.

With the exception of life safety and fire, in most cases, the trend is toward the integration of all building controls. It’s not unusual for one controller to receive input from different areas and functions within a building in a seamless approach. The total market for building automation systems in 2007 is expected to reach nearly $3 billion, up from $1.85 billion in the year 2000, according to Frost & Sullivan’s North American Building Automation Systems Market report.

Other insights from the study include the following:

• Interoperability of systems will be key to industry growth.

• Open protocol systems will allow building control technologies to support and manage different networks from common front-end workstations.

• Compatibility among diverse components is expected to reduce the amount of labor required to install new equipment.

• Internet networking will increase efficiency and consumer appeal.

• Study after study supports the growth of security and VDV and its related automation and supervisory functions. All signs point to a true awakening within electrical contractors—a recognition that to be successful, they have to be a systems integrator and more.

No matter what your niche—commercial, industrial, institutional, or residential—there’s an application waiting to be had. Ask your product distributor who sells low-voltage and related physical security equipment if there is more product moving off the shelves than ever—their answer will most likely be a resounding “yes.” EC

O’MARA is the owner of DLO Communications Inc. in Park Ridge, Ill. She may be reached at (847) 384-1916 or domara@flash.net.