More Cameras and Equipment Equal Less Revenue?

One integrator drives to a better solution

One of the biggest frustrations that our CCTV and access control systems integration company faced in our 40-plus years of business was, believe it or not, CCTV and access control.

While our company made solid profit on equipment leasing and yearly maintenance agreements, we watched tearfully as the equipment-only price of a system with 20 color cameras, recorder and monitor went from approximately $30,000 in 1990 to $10,000 in 2003. Quality color cameras and server-based recording are even less expensive in 2011 and the price of access control readers, control panels and software has dropped in similar proportion. For those of us watching the football game on our home HD flat screens, the ongoing price reduction in electronics equipment is a blessing. For those selling electronic and computer-based security systems equipment, those reductions require us to find double the number of customers to generate the same amount of revenue.

Today's cameras and access control readers are extremely reliable and their low prices allow end-users to view them as "throw away" devices. Thus, it became more difficult to sell full service maintenance agreements to many of our markets.

Faced with this dilemma, our company looked to provide and service systems that were complimentary to our existing offerings. As many of our customers deployed access control readers in their parking areas, we began to gravitate to providing and servicing barrier gate arm controllers. We immediately found that our gate customers were willing to pay a premium for prompt, reliable service...because the loudest complaints will come from those who have to wait in their cars to enter or exit a parking area. When you expand your product offering, this can be a very profitable market segment.

The challenges include: training technicians on barrier gate controllers and vehicle detection devices and assembling and maintaining proper spare parts inventory. The benefits: increased service and ongoing maintenance revenue; additions to our building access control systems at our customers' parking areas; more relevance to our customers' daily "lives" and high dollar barrier gate controller sales. For example, one controller, with ancillary equipment is the same price as 20 indoor proximity card readers.

One of the biggest selling points to prospective home buyers in a gated community is security. Everything from the vehicle control gates to the manned guard facilities at the entrances is designed to provide the homeowner with a greater sense of well being and protection.

Partnering for the gated market

In the 80s and 90s our company's CCTV and access control systems integration sales to gated communities increased proportionately with the growth of upscale housing. We installed CCTV at their vehicle entrances, recreation and social areas. We always reminded these customers of the benefits of adding access control to the common areas and gates. The response often went something like: "we do need electronic access control for vehicles, and we'd like the company that installs our decorator swing (or slide) gates to also provide the electronic controls for those gates." That often signaled the end of our access control sale, because the gate provider would be contracted for all items. The gate access software could also control the few common area doors that the community wished to control.

The obvious solution in the "early days" was to form partnerships with the gate providers. Our company did not have the capability to design and install the infrastructure for large swing/slide gates. This includes such tasks as concrete cuts, concrete base installation for controllers and buried vehicle detection loops. We introduced ourselves to the gate contractors, and, for a time, enjoyed profitable working relationships. Much of our partnering success in that market came to an end when the gate providers realized that, they too, could find the purchasing channel for access control and CCTV and that the relatively simple electronic security systems required by gated communities were relatively easy to install.

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