The state of the intercom market

Looking across the vertical market landscape, a common theme is emerging: end-users are doing more with less and looking for ways to upgrade their existing systems and services and piggyback as much as possible on the network.

The healthcare and hospital market is no exception. While new construction may still exist, especially for those jobs that were funded and shovel-ready prior to the economic downturn, current activity is in upgrades and add-ons. Building managers are leveraging previously installed systems, while new construction planners want a standardized infrastructure to save costs. Users are repairing and refurbishing systems which a few years ago would have been replaced. This is causing a ripple effect in the sales of new systems, but more importantly, is hindering the system integrator's ability to get new technology into the hands of end-users.

Everybody wants to ride the network

New buildings are being wired for network capability and integrators are being asked to incorporate security and communication. Aiphone recognizes this shift in the market, releasing network communication solutions. For example, with Aiphone's JKW-IP intercom adaptor, winner of the 2010 SIA New Product Showcase for "Best in IP Devices," both new buildings and existing structures can leverage their networks to answer and unlock doors. The JKW-IP comes with free software to use on any PC that provides the same functionality of the master station. When a visitor arrives and presses a call button, PC users are alerted. They can see and speak with the caller, determine what they need and, if appropriate, activate a door strike without having to leave the work area. In essence, this product leverages the infrastructure to extend the use of the system and its functionalities to multiple locations at a lower cost.

Additionally, the new technology gives integrators the opportunity to upgrade current systems in less time and at a lower cost. The same is true for new construction; a smaller remote communication system can become a more robust security system with minor costs associated.

In the healthcare market, we are hearing of new opportunities. In the past, non-nurse call intercoms were generally only seen at gates, parking garages and other exterior entrances. Now, hospitals are limiting access to on-site pharmacies, nurseries and other areas. Verifying identity remotely with a video intercom before granting access is critical. Live video provides additional security for employees, patients and physical assets. Our current IP system allows users to combine video intercoms and monitor multiple systems from several PCs. The next-generation of the product, set for a 2011 release, will allow point-to-point IP video communication.

An intercom system can also greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of those facilities with smaller staffs, such as wellness centers.

Intercoms are often overlooked when discussing security-related issues with end-users. A savvy integrator can realize opportunities by asking some basic questions: "How are you going to deal with visitors who don't have a card? What happens when employees lose their card?" To maintain security at access-controlled doors, facility employees need a method of identifying visitors to determine whether or not the visitor should be granted access into their building. Aiphone systems do exactly that. In addition, maintenance and upgrade packages for these systems are a great way for the integrator to extend the relationship with the end-user and keep the system operating to its fullest potential.

Bradley Kamcheff is the Marketing Manager for Aiphone Communications, Bellevue, Wash.,