It's an extension of capabilities that rules

Straight from the show floor at the recent American Society for Industry Security (ASIS) convention in Dallas is this revelation: new isn't the buzzword for voice/data/video, security and life safety products-a maturation or extension of current capabilities is.

Sure, there were new products and proclaimed innovation, but what has become evident in this growing field is that manufacturers have seen the light. They ha ve taken existing products and fine-tuned them, adding capabilities to fit the market or the application. They've partnered with others to invest in existing network and Ethernet capabilities and have continued to look for and provide a solutions-oriented package. They've extended their reach to offer new capabilities-all within a familiar package.

They recognize, too, that the electrical contractor is increasingly a force in not just installing, but designing, specifying and maintaining low-voltage. In the 2004 Profile of the Electrical Contractor, published by ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR in July, nearly 20 percent of electrical-contractor respondents currently working in security systems installations, including closed-circuit television surveillance and access control, said their volume of business will increase in the coming year. Similarly, a slightly higher number of respondents, about 21 percent, said their activities in fire and life safety systems will see a rise in coming years. And, for those doing work in data and communications, nearly 40 percent expect that business volume will continue to climb.

In the old days, security companies designed new products that only worked with their own systems. Today, manufacturers have focused on system flexibility-offering hardware, software and other scenarios, so that customers have the systems they need.

One after the other, manufacturers refined their products so that they could be extended or integrated into other applications. For example, long-time access control manufacturer International Electronics Inc. (IEI), Canton, Mass., introduced eMerge 5000 Security Platform, a browser-managed security platform that provides a custom-tailored package to a business without having to install or maintain software on a PC server or client, instead eMerge uses a company's existing LAN, WAN and Internet connectivity, said Jim Lynch, director of Product Management, IEI.

“eMerge integrates access control, alarm monitoring, video, intercom and temperature monitoring applications. It's all managed from a Web browser so the end-user can monitor, control and maintain the system from any computer with Internet access,” he said.

Another product extension emerged from the fire side. NOTIFIER, a Honeywell Company, introduced a software-based product designed to increase the graphics capabilities of its fire system. Building on the graphical user-interface capability of the existing UniNet 2000 Network Monitoring System, UniNet Lite allows users to view events from a central command station, monitoring the system's activities in real time. It also lets the user import graphical floor plans from existing building plans, allowing control of devices throughout a facility.

GE Infrastructure Security, headquartered in Fairfield, Conn., announced a new strategy that lets users who already invested in legacy analog systems create an IP-based video network while continuing to use their existing analog equipment.

“We are creating the building blocks, both internally and working with other leading technology companies, to provide integrators and users with full-featured network video solutions,” said Darren Nicholson, marketing vice president. “Users will be able to bridge the gaps between analog and digital systems by connecting soon-to-be-announced GE IP-platform cameras, digital video recorders, PCs and servers directly to their networks.”

On the traditional hardware locking side, Sargent & Greenleaf, Nicholasville, Ky., announced its move into biometrics. Phil Pitt, Sargent & Greenleaf's marketing manager said the company is taking the “next quantum leap” in the evolution of its products. Early in 2005, the company is slated to introduce biometric keypads as an upgrade for its electronic locks. “By focusing on fingerprint identification technology-regarded as the lowest cost and most widely accepted form of biometrics-and by configuring the new keypads to function with their existing electronic locks, we feel we can make the technology available to a wider range of users than ever before,” Pitt added.

Finally, Digital Acoustics Corp., Lake Forest, Ill., announced an upgrade to its ii3 IP Intercom Series, which feed audio over the Ethernet, wireless and fiber in a local or wide area network. The company recently introduced Power over Ethernet (PoE) TCP/IP intercoms that allow system installers to use single, Category 5 or 6 cabling to carry both power and audio to any number of ii3 intercom stations. This allows greater flexibility and significantly lowers installation costs, said Chris Coffin, chief operating officer. “Our objective is to make digital audio available anywhere the customer wants it,” he said.

Flexibility and an extension of the capabilities of existing products are moving the industry closer to integration and it's a sure sign that voice/data/video has a “can do” attitude. EC

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