Battlefield Verticals-Which Domain Will Triumph?

Niches are booming in many segments

With the current financial crisis, it seems everyone is doing whatever they can to cut costs and limit expenses and vertical markets too may be feeling the crunch. Security professionals in government and critical infrastructure, education, healthcare and security in sports stadiums and public venues concur that deciding which vertical is most profitable depends greatly on who is able to deliver the most value and scalability to the customer.

“These customers are looking for somebody to really understand their business,” said Martin Guay, president of Niscayah, Duluth , Ga. “I think the customer is really focused on the outcome. They are asking: ‘what is the product doing to support their businesses and their future?' It's very difficult to take one product or technology and supply it across all verticals no matter how good it is because some products are just better suited to one vertical than another.”

Some in the industry may purport that government has a definite advantage and better chance at growth over say, the education market. And that may be true since overall profit in a particular vertical does play an important role in the success of that vertical—and how deep their security endeavors actually will be allowed to go.

“From a profitability standpoint, you always have to look at service,” said Steve Birkmeier, vice president of Arteco Vision Systems, St. Louis , Mo. “Surveillance as a service is gaining a lot of momentum right now and it is obvious to see why. The more value to the customer, the more profitable it will become.”

Customer's demands are influencing the need for more technological developments from companies addressing these verticals, and that in return helps providers focus on their customer relations as well as other aspects.

“Return on Investment (ROI), regardless of what vertical you are in, is a big deal,” explained Jeff Floreno, director of Security Operations and Strategy, Wren Solutions, Jefferson City , Mo. “Those are the types of things that start to distinguish the security companies from each other--being able to provide products and services that are going to have strong ROI.”

As it stands, worldwide vertical market IT spending alone is projected to total $2.7 trillion in 2009, a 0.5 per cent increase from 2008, according to worldwide IT research and consulting firm Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn. Utilities, healthcare and government verticals are expected to be the strongest-growing segments of the market in 2009. Still, the utilities industry is poised to outpace most of the other verticals in 2009 with a 2.9 percent growth, following on the heels of a 7.7 percent growth rate in 2008. The healthcare industry, which grew 8.3 percent worldwide in 2008, is expected to follow this year with 2.2 percent growth in 2009.

While that's not direct security spending, because of the state of integration and convergence and the need to put security components and solutions on the network, it's a sure bet some of this will trickle down to the physical protection segment.

“We think the best way to go right now is to specialize in verticals so you can really understand the customer, including all the compliance issues and business drivers,” said Guay. “Some customers aren't spending on new systems or capital equipment, but they always have a need for somebody to take care of their existing needs. We really believe in vertical markets and specialization.”

Critical infrastructure and government

With President Barack Obama on board, security in government is now more important then ever, considering the global stimulus package just signed into law, according to Mark Barry, president of GE Security, Bradenton , Fla. The stimulus package includes significant investment in infrastructure projects and many of the building upgrade provisions provide security-related installation opportunities.

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