Convergence among security, lighting, energy management and other disciplines is growing in a host of financial and retail institutions; As more security integrators appear on the scene to solve retailer and banking problems—both from the physical security and information technology (IT) side—contractors have the choice to step back or jump in.

That means going beyond low-voltage installations to the maintenance and service contracts that follow. Many contractors already offer services such as alarm monitoring and troubleshooting after the installation is complete, but service, maintenance and other routine follow-ups will continue to play a critical role in the business function, especially as convergence comes on strong.

“If I were an electrical contractor, I would look at the disposable items,” said Severin Sorensen, chairman of the Physical Security Council for the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), Alexandria, Va. Those items include providing data collection, remote ‘reads’, even knowing and being able to alert a retailer or bank when the lights are turned on.

Security companies, systems integrators and technology vendors are scrambling to provide retailers and banks with more services, designed to meet our mobile, global consumer and economy. As this trend continues, providing installation alone might not keep a contractor in the low-voltage business.

Access control is a market segment that continues to rise. And, the federal government is expected to release a uniform access control standard for businesses that would require a large percentage of those businesses to replace their access control readers and other hardware. This is an opportunity for some of them to integrate their access control with other security technologies, such as closed-circuit television surveillance or other network-based systems.

“Maintenance agreements and alarm services will be the life blood of a business,” Sorensen predicted. At the same time, integrators are coming onto the scene with their own computer design experience along with understanding of the networks, installation and the handling of logical security from the IP side. Low-voltage contractors stand poised to either lose business or gain it, as retailers and banks look for contractors that can provide one solution.

“A wise contractor will increase his education and awareness of convergence technology,” Sorensen said. “The creative contractors are the ones who are going to stay in the game.”

Some security vendors are extending their own services as well. Diebold Global Security is one example. “Diebold customers in both the retail and financial markets are deploying open-market products to leverage installation and service providers for best of breed in both technology and service,” said Vince Lupe, director of Product Management and Planning for Diebold Global Security, North Canton, Ohio. “Diebold has a national footprint with more than 4,000 service professionals, which enables us to respond to and satisfy nearly any customer requirement.”

Retail surveillance
Like banks, the retail world is using security technology prominently to capture images both in front of the store and inside.

“What’s really hot in retail is digital camera usage and the ability to monitor lots of sites from one location,” said Daniel Butler, vice president of merchandising and retail operations for the National Retail Federation Foundation (NRF), Washington, D.C.

According to the National Retail Security Survey, the majority of shrinkage comes from the store’s employees and other employees across the supply chain. Stores are looking for security all the way from the manufacturing site, and the manufacturers are cooperating in that effort. Increasingly, trucks are being monitored and tracked, Butler said, using GPS tracking and radio frequency identification technology with readers and antennas installed at distribution centers, warehouses and storerooms.

Biometrics still interest retailers, but the technology has not evolved to the economies of scale necessary to make it affordable or realistic for most stores, Butler said.

It’s not just the threat of shrinkage that is fueling the retail and banking security industry.

“So many businesses have security systems today because of the threat of terrorism,” said Bill Lozon, vice president of Sales and Marketing, UltraVision Security Systems Inc., Salem, N.H. That and the fear of domestic crimes have led businesses especially in retail and banking to go one step further into fortifying the perimeters.

“We’re seeing more and more defensive perimeters and first alert alarms,” Lozon said.

Shipments of wireless products, including sensors and alarm panels will double in volume in the next five years. Wireless PIR sensors are expected to dominate the wireless intrusion industry by 2009, according to SAIC, a San Diego-based systems, solutions and technical services company, with 80 percent of products being the wireless PIRs designed to speed installation for security and alarm dealers. Wireless glass break sensors are also expected to be popular.

Astute contractors are already working with retailers and financial institutions to install and maintain security systems, many of which have converged with various types of technology. As technology evolves, maintenance and service opportunities will continue on the upswing.

Digital nation
Digital signs display content and messages on a screen and can be changed electronically. Retailers typically change thousands of prices in a day, for example, and it can be done in a matter of minutes usually via an Internet connection. Digital signs also can be scrolling message boards, LCD or plasma display panels, electronic billboards or projection screens. Digital signage screens can offer a wide range of text or images or even full-motion video with or without sound. Retailers often use these signs as if they were television channels displaying entertainment, advertising or product information.

Expect to see all these changes slowly applied to your next retail or financial project.

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.