If you catch yourself thinking more about convergence of low-voltage electrical systems with computer and information technology (IT), you’re in good company. The rest of the industry is, too. According to a new Web poll by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), convergence solutions such as voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephony and unified messaging will have the greatest impact this year.

Findings showed that 34 percent of the nearly 2,200 voters in the Web poll selected convergence, and 33 percent of respondents who noted these technologies as having the most influence in 2006, chose security solutions.

Perhaps you have already made the move to learn more about IP addressable hardware controls and networking, information technology, integration, and convergence. Or maybe you have taken that all-important step and hired someone with IT credentials or have begun gearing up a special department in engineering to handle the growing discipline.

In the security and low-voltage contracting industries, others are poised to help electrical contractors take advantage of the burgeoning market by educating them with the necessary know-how to stay cutting edge.

IP Institute

At the International Security Conferences and Expositions (ISC), the need to address this market was launched under a new program called the IP Institute, a roving educational session that gets to the heart of new technology and how to apply it.

According to Cynthia Holloway, director of Industry Development, ISC Events, Reed Exhibitions, Norwalk, Conn., the IP Institute offers real-world security training that opens business opportunities.

“As the worlds of physical and IT security converge, it has never been as important for professionals to stay ahead of the learning curve. The day-long sessions provide the answers to many of the questions and issues the industry will face in the technologically rich future,” she said. 

For more information about the IP Institute, visit www.isceducationonline.com.

The IP sessions, which run concurrently with ISC Expos and in major cities throughout the year, provide electrical contractors, integrators and other security professionals with current information and answers to frequent questions. For example, a recent IP Institute provided practical information on how to implement advanced integration and IP convergence; analyzing the effectiveness of IP systems; determining cost and return on investment of different systems; and network routing, basic security and shared database solutions.

In the field, end-users, integrators and manufacturers are coming together to leverage technology and tailor hardware and software specifically to the facility and its applications.

Seize the market

One of the strongest areas of convergence that fosters use of the network and Internet is closed circuit television (CCTV) and IP addressable surveillance cameras.

“IP cameras are really making a big run now because they have improved so much,” said Dennis Charlebois, vice president of Marketing, Broadware Technologies Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., and McLean, Va. Charlebois was a panelist in the inaugural Web conference integration panel discussion held by Security + Life Safety Systems magazine, an ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR publication, earlier this year. 

“The first couple generations weren’t very good but they’ve improved. However, the problem they are going to run into now is the combination of IP cameras with the intelligent video and the algorithms and things like that.” Charlebois added that there has to be more work “at the edge of the system” to improve technology.

“There are bandwidth issues that you have to manage intelligently. As you put more video in the system, you want to store it for longer periods of time at high resolution and high frame rate and you end up with costs of storage in terms of disk drives that can get overwhelming very quickly. So there is a thought process that has to occur to intelligently deploy these products in a network environment that requires some new skills, certainly a lot of cooperation from IT and in the end, if you do it right, the installed cost of a total IP based system will provide you substantially more functionality at a much lower cost.”

It is exactly those networking issues and bandwidth solutions that the electrical contractor will be called upon to solve, as the physical security side of the business continues to merge with information and computer technologies.                 EC

Editor’s note: Security + Life Safety Systems will hold its second Web conference in conjunction with ISC Expo East in New York, Oct. 24–25; the session “Integrating Systems/The Emerging Integrated Building Systems Contractor” is scheduled for October 24 at 3 p.m. at the Javits Center.   

 

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916.