Make Security Your Business

Whether the economy is up or down, security is a sure thing:

Integration and convergence are changing the face of the security industry; physical security continues to meet logical access control, and the results are good for both information technology (IT) and security end-users who are learning to share knowledge and work together.

Security, it seems, is all grown up.

Those who plied the trade early on learned they could only do so much in the protection and automation of the premises as a stand-alone endeavor. Today, security is more than burglar alarms—it’s all about a robust, high-tech world of integrated systems, sensors and networked communications working together to make the home or office more efficient and safe.

Market madness
According to The Freedonia Group Inc., Cleveland, the global market for private security products and systems is forecast to advance 8 percent each year through 2010, reaching $85 billion.


“Especially favorable prospects exist for digital closed-circuit television (CCTV) recorders, which are now outselling analog types in most countries; biometrics, which have finally entered the access control mainstream and will outsell traditional magnetic stripe cards by the middle of the next decade; and contraband detection designed for border, port and airport security,” according to Freedonia’s 2005 Report, World Security Equipment Study (see chart).

Other statistics from the study include the following:
- The United States will remain the largest single producer and consumer of security equipment, accounting for about one-fifth of total demand.
- The U.S. market for security equipment in 2005 was valued at $13.6 billion, representing 23 percent of the global total and several times the size of any other country.
- In 2005, six firms—ASSA ABLOY (Sweden); Tyco International (Bermuda); United Technologies Corp. (UTC–U.S.); Honeywell (U.S.); Ingersoll Rand (Bermuda); and Siemens (Germany)—supplied nearly 20 percent of the world market for security products and systems.
- The consolidation process, which swept the industry over the past decade, is expected to continue, as firms, such as those noted above, seek to shore up domestic positions, expand into foreign growth markets and position themselves as one-stop shops capable of providing integrated security solutions to multi-national customers.

It is no wonder the electrical contractor (EC) has seen this trend. It directly affects the EC’s everyday projects. Electrical contractors see how software controls the security, which is now coupled with lighting, energy management and other processes and controls. They are talking to the teledata technician or the in-house information technologist, especially as systems and services are piggybacked on the network. They are being called in as trusted partners—contractors who can help the end-user or homeowner achieve a system that serves well and is easy to use.

The learning curve has not been easy to traverse. These specialists need to educate themselves about products and technology and what it can do. And they have taken it upon themselves to do just that.

Electrical contractors who work in security—whether residential or commercial, industrial or institutional—do more than install systems. While virtually all do installations in the categories in which they work, a high percentage of contractors said they also typically specify/select brands and/or design systems if they work in a given category, indicating a far broader role than the limited role of the past according to the 2006 Profile of the Electrical Contractor (see ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, July 2006, page 36).

Numerous independent studies conducted by this magazine and other sources confirm that contractors are increasingly active in selecting, designing and installing sophisticated building systems through the design/build process. Traditional design/bid/build is declining as a favored process.

In addition, the 2006 Profile, conducted by Renaissance Research & Consulting, New York, revealed that nearly 50 percent of contractors handled fire and smoke alarms, and close to 30 percent handled security/CCTV, access control and motion detection. Those numbers are up consistently as polled by the biennial profile.

On the equipment side of the business, products are easier to install, thanks to intuitive software and easy programming parameters. Proprietary protocols have been replaced or supplemented by systems that are either open or provide the means for connection to a legacy system within their communication parameters. Manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to educate their users, so the contractor can install the most effective type of equipment for the application and, hopefully, spark additional installation opportunities from satisfied customers.

“Security technologies, such as CCTV, intrusion detection, notification and others are all coming together under the umbrella of integration,” said Paul Koebbe, national market manager, Graybar, Clayton, Mo. “The speed of convergence is determined by the technology and the interaction level of systems and services,” he said. Koebbe was brought into Graybar in mid-2006 to handle the burgeoning demand for security systems and services at the nationwide distributor. One of his goals is to regularly assess the security industry and the needs of installers while addressing any new or emerging disciplines.

Wear your IT hat
Koebbe said electrical contractors can help themselves and their customers by gaining an education in IT and data communications.

“They have to learn the mechanics of Internet protocol (IP) and transfer that to their security work. They should know and understand the business issues that affect the IT people. For example, in the instance of a hospital administrator, privacy laws dictate that patient data must be protected on the network. That has to be figured into the security equation,” Koebbe said.

According to Koebbe, systems have progressed to new levels of intelligence and can make decisions, depending on preset rules and parameters. Closed-circuit television surveillance (CCTV) provides the perfect example.

“With hundreds of different cameras and images, it’s physically impossible to watch them all, so being able to bring intelligence to the system is what it’s all about.” Koebbe added that CCTV and IP video are two of the fastest growing segments, followed by mass notification and fire alarm systems.

The IT specialist and the integrator/EC are learning they can coexist, but it will take more time for total convergence to take over.

According to David Ting, chief technology officer of Imprivata, Lexington, Mass., a single, integrated approach to physical building security and network/IT access is the way the market is migrating.

“Logical information technology and physical security is a natural extension,” Ting said. “With convergence of IT and physical security, employees can use one card to gain access or log onto the computer. By the same token, now the security people can use this information. Let’s say someone tries to log onto the computer three different times and are denied access. That can also be tied to surveillance cameras, which will record the location and the person trying to gain access. Now that’s robust security. They know who is accessing what, when and from where, under a single view of credentials across physical and logical systems. Let’s get the information out of the physical access side alone, so we can use it to reinforce the IT side as well.”

Convergence around the card
As another example, parameters known as exceptions can be used to strengthen and fortify both physical security and information technology.

“A person who enters the building by presenting his or her card can then gain access to the computer network,” Ting said. “If they didn’t badge in, then when they try to use the computer network, they have to take a few steps to verify who they are, and at the same time, the system reminds them that if they had signed in initially, this would not be necessary. This conditions the user to follow the physical access in the building that’s in place and provides exceptions in processing when they don’t do that. When you tie physical with IT security, it leverages your existing infrastructure and all the information you have.”

One of the hottest security markets rests in the deployment of cameras, especially IP units that operate over the network. The emphasis is on image quality, a critical component to positive identification. According to Dr. Ralf Hinkel, founder and CEO of Mobotix, New York, N.Y., resolutions have bounded up to 960 lines as opposed to the typical 288 lines. And now, it’s gone even further.

“Each of our cameras is a PC all its own. Having a PC in the camera saves in cabling and power and also takes the burden off the network. The recording is done at the camera.” Up to 40,000 images or six minutes of video and audio can be recorded on the M22M’s internal 64Mb memory.

Prime the pump
Access control is another bright spot in security. According to Felix Mira, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, Schlage electronic security marketing manager, Dallas, ECs will do well to help their customers plan for the future while designing their access control systems today.

“Deploy flexible, forward-compatible systems, and when you design an electronic access control system, build it from the door out. Be especially cognizant that customers’ requirements will likely change. If you design a system that will grow with them, you will be the person they call when it is time to make a change,” Mira said. That change, may also include biometrics, as they continue to come down in price and up in popularity. “From single stand-alone to networked access control, there is a migration path, and in a select few systems, both can coexist. Today, you can co-mingle multiple access control technologies in one system. From one database, you can manage online and offline locking systems, integrate other critical security management functions such as CCTV, badging, visitor management and more,” Mira said.

Access control is not simply a choice between strictly mechanical or networked alternatives.

The outlook for security is rosy, but don’t box yourself into a corner—think multiple systems and functions, and let the fun and profits begin. 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





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

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