As electrical contractors continue to penetrate the security market, they must keep current on the technological landscape and ensure that they receive the training that enables them to demonstrate vital expertise.

IP video
According to Sergio Collazo, director of sales and marketing for Toshiba Surveillance and IP Video, Irvine, Calif., (a part of Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.) Internet protocol (IP) video is the biggest growth area in the security market.

Until recently, IP video was used mostly in larger projects and had lower resolution. Today’s megapixel technology, according to Collazo, is more affordable, and the video resolution is six to 10 times better than analog, making it more desirable to the end-user. Those IP video users, according to Tim Holloway, senior product manager for Ideal Industries, want high quality, relatively small storage requirements, and remote availability and control. But contractors need skills and information to join this market.

“To successfully enter the IP video market, the contractor needs to understand how to determine optimal camera placement and selection based on customer need,” Holloway said.

Although there are no national certification requirements to install IP video, there may be state requirements, and market success requires a number of continuing educational courses that provide the contractor with long-term credibility. Further, manufacturers have training and certification programs that teach contractors to install, program and sell the technology.

Video analytics
Video analytics is a software solution that analyzes video and then alerts security personnel when something unusual happens, based on customer-determined parameters. With the advent of IP cameras, analytics software migrated away from the building’s or facility’s computer server to the camera itself.

“The trend is to incorporate more advanced analytic capabilities directly into the cameras, without increasing the price of the device,” said Dan Cremins, director of product management for March Networks Corp., Ottawa, Canada.

Advanced analytics capabilities, which require more processing power, include alerting security personnel to suspicious behavior, such as loitering or abandoning luggage.

Contractors and their customers need to understand that video analytics is not perfect and cannot be used to replace security personnel.

“It is a tool to assist in determining whether an event is occurring and to provide information for security personnel to use in making decisions,” Cremins said.

To understand the technology, contractors need to take basic training from the analytics software provider and understand camera zones, placement and orientation, motion parameters, and how the camera technology interacts with the building’s information technology network.

Access control and biometrics
Access control manufacturers also are migrating to IP technologies, according to Scott Etess, general manager for Idesco Corp., New York.

“This migration allows the end-user to control multiple facilities across the globe from a single network appliance,” he said.

This results in reduced costs in the access control infrastructure and in scalability.

“This model also eliminates the need for software, as all that is needed to control the access system is an Internet browser or a connection via an intranet,” he said.

The other access control trend is wireless locksets, which can be installed for a fraction of the cost of hardwiring a door.

One of the major challenges to this technology is that the devices operate on batteries, so to preserve battery life, they remain offline except during prescheduled intervals, which can create a major security breach.

Biometric technology seems to be moving toward vascular pattern readers and facial recognition technologies, which appear to be ready for deployment throughout the private sector, Etess said. However, these technologies are still expensive and are not likely to be used, except in areas that require extreme validation for entry.

According to Etess, electrical contractors could partner with a qualified security integrator, rather than try and tackle access control projects alone.

“Electrical contractors typically only become involved in the security area on larger projects, and there is usually a specification that identifies only certain security system manufacturers whose products may be used,” he said.

Even so, Etess has noted that security systems work is being more frequently included in the contractors’ bid package.

“Unfortunately, we have also seen many contractors underestimating the cost of the security system,” he said.

Contractors must learn the right price and also remember that manufacturer certification is required to resell and install all of the reputable access control platforms on the market today. Proper training is critical to keep abreast of changes as access control and video migrate toward IP technology.


BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 and darbremer@comcast.net.