A New Type of Cloud: Exploring this technology tool for new services

Technology tools.

The world is changing. Electrical contractors have real opportunities on the horizon beyond cabling, lighting and traditional connectivity. They need to look past their current project mindset and get involved in new and valuable services. The cloud makes it easy for them to capture more business in areas they may not have considered.

Businesses large and small can benefit by leveraging cloud-hosted technologies. It can make contractors more agile and shorten the system implementation and commissioning timeline. With the cloud, there is greater access to technology tools and ones that are ready to roll out with no back-end development necessary.

The cloud is the perfect technology for security contractors. It enables them to scale customers’ security needs easily, which brings new capabilities to the current system. It also provides users with easy access to add or manage other users from anywhere with an internet connection. It can address the large base of installed legacy access control solutions currently deployed by offering migration paths with open protocols and seamless integrations. It’s a great way to start offering an array of exciting services and move the needle on your business and its visibility as a top-tier physical security provider.

Get more with the cloud

Security and access control may already be core to contractors’ low-voltage specifications, but they need to look beyond these offerings to add tangible value, boost profitability and future-proof their companies, said Mike Simon, managing partner of Connected Technologies LLC, Monument, Colo.

“For example, if you are already wiring freezers and coolers for customers, who’s monitoring and recording the temperatures for food safety compliance and regulations? That’s something that’s easy to do with the cloud. What about HVAC and energy management—which can lead to considerable cost savings and a substantial return on investment for the end-user? When you can help the user manage HVAC through the cloud, the user potentially saves thousands, while the electrical contractor gains monthly revenue for these services,” Simon said.

“There are many more examples that can be easily and quickly implemented. For those companies who already have an established customer base and have become a trusted vendor, why not think of offering greater controls and management beyond traditional electronic wiring—made possible by the cloud?” Simon said.

The flexibility of the cloud makes it an enabling technology for many different services that brings benefits to the user and assists the company in becoming better prepared for the future.

“With the cloud and an integrated security management platform, it’s simple to offer turnkey intrusion, access control, critical environmental monitoring, energy management, video surveillance, smartphone credentials and geolocation services,” he said.

“Leveraging the same platform and a single interface for every customer and vertical market allows electrical contractors to become more nimble in their business practices, [which is] especially critical during economic downturns or when another area of the business has dried up. We all know the economy is cyclical, so the cloud actually prepares them and gives them the ability to focus on new services to offset any downturns,” Simon said.

As a service model

For physical security, the cloud has become essential to delivering access control, video surveillance, automation, fleet management and an array of other “As a Service” models.

Access control as a service (ACaaS) was one of the early adopters of cloud technology, as it met the needs of the small business owner who didn’t have the time, money or resources to purchase a server or install the software on their existing server.

“Now, cloud-based access control can replace a traditional server-based installation that is deployed across hundreds of locations around the world. The cloud has opened up new verticals no one would have believed possible, such as banking, healthcare, municipalities and federal government,” said Paul DiPeso, executive vice president, Feenics Inc., Ottawa, Ontario.

“When it comes to servers, the cloud is really just moving those from a local deployment to a data center,” DiPeso said. “However, on the end-user side, the advantages are enormous when those servers are no longer on-site, such as lower capital expenditures, reduced maintenance costs, automatic system backups and redundancy in the event of a catastrophic failure. In addition, reallocation of IT resources allows the organization to maintain a stronger focus on business continuity rather than managing the on-site access control solution.”

Diverse capabilities

The scalability and flexibility of cloud computing is ideal for the delivery of new features and cost optimization in security system services, said Dean Drako, CEO of Eagle Eye Networks Inc., Austin, Texas.

“Users of cloud-based systems benefit from a continuous delivery methodology, which routinely brings new capabilities and integrations, while they only pay for what they use and nothing more. There are dozens of examples of new applications or improvements in applications using the cloud. A great example is the deployment of analytics. Before the cloud, end-users and systems integrators had to do a great deal of planning, project management and field labor to even trial an analytic-use case. Now with cloud systems architecture and control, a video analytic can be turned on, monitored for a few days and turned off—all remotely and at a cost of a few cents per camera. Deployment of analytics for business intelligence (BI) is only one of many advantages in a cloud-based system,” he said.

Drako said cloud surveillance systems are actually easier to install and remotely service than on-site systems and may also lessen dependency on hardware.

“A true cloud system utilizes an architecture with small, intelligent devices on-site. The intelligent devices analyze the site’s network availability and utilization. The device should also buffer surveillance video for a period appropriate to the site type’s requirements. Some sites have limited bandwidth or limited periods during which it can transfer data. But cloud systems prefer to store the video in the cloud to make the video available to BI and artificial intelligence integrations,” Drako said. “Internet bandwidth is rapidly becoming more available and less expensive. So users can stop deploying large numbers of hard drives. Systems contractors can also stop worrying about hardware vulnerabilities with the cloud. A cloud storage subscription should cover lifetime replacement of the on-site device. You pay a setup fee and subscriptions and never worry about hardware dependencies again.”

DiPeso added that for the systems provider, servicing the customer is much more effective when server hardware is eliminated, as it takes one variable immediately off the table when issues arise.

“Inevitably, reduction of truck rolls is a good thing for both the contractor and the end-user,” DiPeso said.

He added that security contractors need to change their overall mindset to kick off a strategic ACaaS plan and cautioned that it should not be treated as purely adding another new product offering.

“Systems contractors need to get educated about the cloud from multiple sources to adapt and embrace the evolution of access control and the advantages and efficiencies it provides. If the other departments in your organization (order entry, finance, operations, engineering) don’t understand ACaaS, it’s like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic,” DiPeso said.

When you learn to leverage and embrace cloud-hosted solutions, your customer benefits and you add a wide range of new services that move you squarely into sophisticated technology and greater profitability.

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com...

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