This article began with the search for a metaphor. In what industries have the Value Added Resellers (VAR’s) been “forced” to seek additional revenue? The best historic example comes from our very own security industry.
It was not long ago that one segment of our industry first became crowded with new entrants only to fall prey to the ills of the economic meltdown—not our most recent recession but the collapse of the “dot.coms” in 2001.
The security dealer saw their business impacted and the savviest of them realized that there was more to the home than alarms. Those companies began offering home automation, audiovisual systems and even whole house vacuums—broadening their offerings while taking advantage of their market presence and their organizational competencies.
Today, the security integrator’s product and business expansion has been restricted to the existing solution space. The integrators expanded their business (albeit slowly) with new integrated software packages and new peripheral equipment. More options were sold to the end user but were limited to the security space. The value add was meager.
Deciding to broaden your market
Consider the security dealer and then the systems integrator approaches to expanding their offering, one main difference in their approaches. The dealers left their comfort zone and entered a new market space while the integrators chose to stay within their current market space by extending existing product offerings to the same solutions. This is not meant as an indictment of systems integrators. Many have ventured outside that comfort zone and have entered into new markets; and the size of the commercial and enterprise markets have made that space more forgiving (in the short term) than the one served by the dealers.
The integrator community already possesses the technical competence to pursue additional opportunities within their existing customer base. These include add-ons to current systems and differentiators to that competition that chooses to stay purely in the security space.
In today’s economic climate it is imperative that Integrators offer solutions that increase efficiency and translate to sound ROI’s and TCO’s (fancy terms we have had to learn). But there is no standard how measure these and each company has a different method and assigns different weights to each financial component. The expansion oriented Integrator is left to learning these by experience.
Technology drifts. It drifts into the security industry later than most industries but it brings opportunity with it. Today, the following technologies present themselves to an Integrator community that is ready in terms of technical competence.
Manage Customer Assets: Cost conscious organizations are deeply concerned with the management of the assets within their facilities. The most basic security integrator offering is access control. Nearly all integrators have been asked about locating assets and immediately think RTLS (Real Time Location Systems).
There is a simpler and more profitable way to provide customers with the ability to manage the location of their assets within their current access control systems. This is “asset tagging;” begin with the creation of choke points using receivers (readers) and active tags (transponders/credentials) which are enrolled in the software as users. The receivers send events every time a transponder is detected so that a report shows where the asset (user) is; this is the same as checking the last door a user opened. This type of asset management is designed for (a) equipment that is not meant to be moved often and (b) for equipment that is meant to move to prescribed locations (additional receivers may be required to track direction).
Based on existing software additional tracking capabilities can be added by associating an asset to an individual. This allows a laptop or a piece of medical equipment to leave an area only if accompanied by an approved user.
Expand Loss Prevention: Retail security customers offer profitable system expansions for both loss prevention and inventory management. The use of RFID in the retail supply chain has been discussed passionately by both proponents and deterrents of the technology. Privacy issues are a critical stumbling block to the deployment of RFID in the retail environment.
The underlying UHF technology has made it possible to design a variety or transponders (credentials) that can be affixed to almost any item as well as receivers (readers) that offer better than good reading ranges and can provide a myriad of options to the retailer.
Imagine a world where the item is tagged at the source, is boxed and put on a pallet, the forklift that picks up the pallet reads each item inside the box to be able to not only tell you the item but also the size, color and date of manufacture. A mobile RFID portal is placed inside the trailer door so that upon loading you know exactly what was loaded. A store employee uses a handheld RFID reader to receive the merchandise without even opening the boxes. Readers throughout the store are constantly letting the employees know which articles, by size and color, are running low and need replenishment.
Imagine there is no need to tag the item with labels, not having to change tags when effecting a price change and most important having the ability to use the same readers to see if an item is leaving the store without it having been paid for; without the need for an additional EAS tag. This world is coming into being today and there are plenty of retailers and manufacturers looking to deploy these solutions. The skills developed by security integrators are precisely the same integration skills required to deploy these capabilities.
Manage Vehicles: A remaining underserved market space is that of AVI (Automatic Vehicle Identification)—the means of identifying a vehicle with RFID. In the recent past the only options available were microwave or battery assisted passive. These work very well but have a high price on both the receivers (readers) and the transponders (tags) with the constant annoyance of battery replacement.
Rapid UHF RFID development in the past few years has opened the doors for a new type of system that is highly reliable and competitively priced. These systems are easily interfaced with current access control offerings and provide a variety of options as to how to handle the vehicle credentialing.
Every organization is looking to manage their assets more efficiently. This means that your customers must have the tools to know where their assets are. End users have been able to cut down their inventory of assets by as much as 35 percent just by implementing an asset tagging solution. Retailers reduce inventory by better understanding what is in stock.
This is not an easy business and market expansion does not make it easier. It is important to learn, understand the challenges, work through them and work to become a subject matter expert. The industry has many technology driven vendors ready to help the security integrator do just that.
This is only a starting point. There are many opportunities for a systems integrator to offer alternative technologies that interface and expand current systems to existing customers. This may be the best opportunity to increase revenue and longevity of the account and to create an early differentiation from the competition.
Leon Chlimper is the vice president of sales and marketing for Deister Electronics USA Inc., based in Manassas, Va.