The light up ahead is an oncoming train. New demands are adding to the existing growth in security and safety. The burglar/fire alarm industry continues to grow, fueled by advancements in computing technology and Internet protocol (IP) devices, software, cellular and smartphones. In fact, the new wave of smartphones have created a huge increase in demand for additional fiber optic backhaul facilities to support an overburdened cellular network.

Companies such as AVAYA, CISCO, and ShoreTel continue to enhance their unified communication systems to add features that work with the security and life/property safety systems. Electrical contractors are challenged to expand their traditional skill sets to address the challenges of integrated systems that blend physical infrastructure with information technology (IT). A vast majority of the electrical contractors in the United States have augmented their traditional electrical skills with low-voltage (copper and fiber optic) design and installation services for telecom and datacom. Voice/data/video (VDV) needs have transformed to include wireless support, energy efficiency, lighting control, and the integrated systems that are being introduced continually.

Security has become a boom industry as new technology gives us capabilities to increase our personal and professional security blanket. A substantial increase in cabling is required to functionalize CCTV and access control and other automation functions. Life safety systems also converge with the systems that work with door controls; heating, ventilating and air-conditioning; and energy management. We need to communicate with fire, smoke, and gas detectors with audible and visual signaling.

The changing role—adding service (repair and MAC)
The electrical contractor is also a full service provider of all aspects of the customers’ needs dealing with electrical power, control, illumination, communication, safety and security systems. Many electrical contractors are available 24/7. From a consumer’s perspective, the electrical contractor is usually the most effective and efficient source for design, implementation, and maintenance of these infrastructure systems. Surveys have confirmed that the electrical contractor reduces the total cost of ownership while increasing longevity with proper maintenance.

Energize, enhance, and be environmentally wise
Ron Zimmer, executive director of Continental Automated Building Association (CABA) www.caba.org told us that the growth of smart grids, in relation to intelligent buildings is an area of major focus. Research is available to provide a market size forecast and roadmap for smart grid and intelligent buildings. These growing trends are a significant opportunity for the electrical contractors. Understanding how they work and what they can contribute is necessary to capitalize on investments in smart technology.

In the future, the electrical contractor will lead us through the progression of intelligent buildings toward net-zero energy. There is a growing marketplace outlook that achieving energy sustainability and the growth of building intelligence are interdependent. Smart grid and integrated building systems contribute and exert a collective influence in the progression of high performance intelligent buildings. “Smart cities” may follow.

The smart grid is an advanced power grid for the 21st century in that it adds and integrates many varieties of digital computing and communication technologies and services with the power-delivery infrastructure. Bidirectional flows of energy and two-way communication and control capabilities will enable an array of new functionalities and applications for intelligent building infrastructure. In 2009, the United States smart grid industry was valued at approximately $21.4 billion. It will exceed an estimated $42.8 billion by 2014, according to “Zpryme Research: Smart Grid Market Report.”

Look for the electrical contractor to provide an assessment within the commercial building space of net-zero energy buildings (NZEBs) and their relationship to smart grids. NZEBs are generally characterized as buildings that produce as much energy as they consume over a given time period, but definitions vary. NZEBs are, by design, very energy efficient, and they typically meet their remaining low energy needs with on- or off-site renewable energy.

The net result is a major increase in efficiency and a huge decrease in the cost of waste energy. The ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR is a major player in making this scenario into a reality.

Sensors (all types) add intelligence
Occupancy/Temperature sensors provide easy-to-deploy solutions for energy savings, but these devices can do more than shut down heating or cooling or lighting. They have evolved to sense when someone is in the room and adjust the temperature accordingly. Digital microprocessor circuitry continually analyze real-time occupancy patterns to adjust settings for maximum performance. They can also interface with the security systems to add features, such as individual access to internal information systems by level of authority. In life safety systems, addressable panels continuously monitor the operation of detectors, control sensitivity and perform a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 72 compliant sensitivity check.

Cameras everywhere is the trend
The world market for network video surveillance products increased by more than 200 percent from 2009 to 2012 and is forecast to continue growing strongly for many years to come. By 2013, the combined market for network cameras, video servers and network video recorders is forecast to exceed $3.6 billion. Some industry analysts forecast IP video surveillance product sales will continue to increase between 2012 and 2014, significantly disrupting and overtaking analog CCTV sales. Many experts are now bullish on the growth of IP video, which is driven by recent widespread advances in product offering and pricing.

“The security industry has been notoriously resistant to change, and new technologies generally take time to gain acceptance. The main challenge for suppliers is to educate the market about the many benefits of network video surveillance over traditional analog CCTV,” said Adam Greenblatt, director of Strategic Marketing at Communications Supply Corp. (CSC), a subsidiary of WESCO International Inc. www.gocsc.com. CSC distributes a wide range of data communications and security solutions from the industry’s leading manufacturers.

Camera technology continues to focus on compression techniques, analytics, smart recording, optics and other space-saving techniques as they navigate the network typography and IT infrastructure.

Multifunction integrated systems are creeping into every building infrastructure. Times have changed. Security/fire systems are no longer just separate systems but integrated into a turnkey approach that saves time and money for the user. Systems of all types perform a variety of tasks, and industries continue to merge and converge. Welcome to the new real world.


BISBEE is with Communication Planning Corp., a telecom and datacom design/build firm. He provides a free monthly summary of industry news on www.wireville.com.