What else can you do besides provide security solutions?
YARMOUTH, Maine—Integrators know they don’t have a choice. The days of impressing end users with bells and whistles are gone. Now more than ever, installation and application of security technologies confront the big question that turns another page in the industry—and is still as old as business itself: “Can this help us make money?”
The commoditization of security products (can you purchase what you really need at Wal-Mart?) has been developing for a long time. Security insiders, as they have done throughout the industry’s evolution in this century, know they must adapt or perish. They are in the early years of approaching, framing and offering security technologies as sound business investments that help the end users’ bottom lines.
“Instead of talking about security, we talk about business outcomes,” said Tony Varco, vice president of security at Convergint Technologies, based in Schaumburg, Ill. “That is what we sell. Not widgets. The ‘so-what’ is business outcomes.
“So you can by a camera for a hundred bucks,” Varco continued. “I don’t care if it’s a niche market. What are you going to do, cry about it? Do something about it. Let’s embrace it. The ‘so-what’ of business outcomes has to be a return on investment.”
The demand side of the open-market equation, as always, presents needs and wants that suppliers cannot always predict.
“People have their video installed for security reasons and sometimes may ask, ‘What else can I do with this video?’” said Reinier Tuinzing, strategic alliance manager (Americas), at Milestone Systems, based in Beaverton, Oregon. “They’ve watched NCIS, where the guy gets a facial recognition with an image of an eyeball. It’s a little far-fetched.”
Tuinzing offered several examples of more practical non-security applications of security technologies that meet bottom-line business objectives.
At a grocery store, most customers shop in the frozen-food aisle for their final purchases. A security camera can alert the floor manager about the traffic flow on an up-to-the minute basis, whereupon the manager can adjust the staffing of checkout registers for efficiency and customer service.
At a large shopping mall, counting the number of people who enter and leave the complex at certain times of the day “is sort of interesting,” Tuinzing said. It can go from interesting to business-relevant when you begin “correlating weather, time of day, day of week, female, male, turning left, turning right” with the same data, according to Tuinzing. “You can start optimizing traffic patterns” and re-create retail strategies around that information.
Tuinzing also cited examples of farms and airports running their operations more efficiently with data gleaned from security technologies.
Jumbi Edulbehram, regional president, Americas, at OnCam, based in Billerica, Mass., put the retail application in black-and-white terms. “If there is no store sales person in the shoe department able to help a customer in the shoe department, you lose a sale,” he said. Security cameras have obvious benefits in that situation.
Given the buzz surrounding business applications for security technology and data, one might think that end users raise the issue in sales talks. But Edulbehram says “yes and no” when asked if that’s a valid assumption.
“There are people who know security and are less trained in other areas,” he said. “We say [when pitching multi-faceted applications], ‘You should talk to the people in merchandizing and sales, and the light bulb goes off in their heads.’”
It’s a actually a sign of progressive thinking, not standard operating procedure, that customers and end users who do business with security providers encourage their departments to share information with each other.
Varco says his team tries to turn that situation into a sales advantage.
“You have to earn the right to have an entrepreneur-level conversation,” he said of the sales approach. “If you do, they will sponsor you for other departments. Start in IT, then security division, operations, legal, insurance, manufacturing. You need to be sponsored [to show your product/services elsewhere in the company]. You have to earn your stripes. It’s amazing what they can tell you if you ask the right questions. You have to want to know.”
The proliferation of video analytics in the security industry makes value-added conversations essential for survival and success, according to Michael Brown, director of business development - education vertical, Hikvision USA, based in City of Industry, Calif.
“With so many competitors in the market—and the constant threat of more competition— security manufacturers are always looking to ‘add value’ to a company’s bottom line,” Brown wrote in an email response. “Whether the value is in the form of cost, quality, performance, efficiency, ease-of-use, third-party integration or business intelligence, a manufacturer needs to differentiate itself from its competitors by communicating and delivering their own special value. Value varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and can take the form of perceived or realized. If a manufacturer cannot communicate its value proposition to a potential or existing customer, they instantly become a commodity.”
“There are efficiencies galore” for mining big data gleaned from security products and applying them to the business of business, said Tuinzing. “There are all sorts of things we could be doing. We’re at the tip of the iceberg. The technology for security today is technology for operating efficiency tomorrow.” At an airport, he said, that means more efficient ways of not losing a flyer’s baggage. At a casino, he said, it can mean “identifying high rollers as soon as they pull in the parking lot. There will be people waiting to greet him. That’s a business efficiency. He will be taken care of. And he will be back.”
“The challenge,” said Varco, “is to convert big data into actionable intelligence. The ‘so-what’ is providing customized solutions for business.”
Security experts see business and security intelligence in a relationship that is still new, just beginning to expand. It’s market evolution, according to Brown. “As new companies are established, and existing companies continue to evolve, their business strategies that exist to help promote their products or services in the marketplace will continue to include more rigorous security-related standards and initiatives,” he said. “These initiatives will allow their employees to work more efficiently in their day to day activities while realizing a more safe and secure workplace environment.”
Adapt or perish? Jumbi Edulbehram of OnCam said, “If you go online and click on a tab from your browser, and then you go back to Yahoo, you might see an online photo advertisement tailored for you. They know who you are, what your favorite items are and what companies you shop. They know your online behavior and they cater the shopping experience for you. Within brick-and-mortar businesses, that hasn’t happened yet.”
But the pieces are in place for crossover use, and there is evidence of demand.