Outshine Your Competition: Avoiding pitfalls requires striking a balance with New Technology
From low end residential installations to national commercial accounts, what separates the winners from the losers is, undoubtedly, customer service. Keep this in mind when considering technology trends. There is a direct relation between keeping customers happy and utilizing the latest products. But remember that, while keeping up-to-date on new trends and products is, indeed, important, it is by no means all it takes for you to deliv-er the highest level of customer service possible to your clients.
It's safe to assume that every security dealer in business is looking to get the edge over his competition. You are striving to provide clients with the most effective security possible.
Although keeping up with technology is key to achieving both of these, customer service is just as vital. Part of good customer service is offering the best technology. But, it goes beyond the equipment. Customer service is about attitude and the policies your company follows that tell customers you care about them, do the job well, and deliver results.
Realistically, you may occasionally lose an account, despite your best efforts. Yet, you are far more likely to acquire new ones when you outshine your competitors in all areas of your business. By staying on top of technology and delivering superior customer service, you pack a double punch.
Upgrades & System Expansion Types
A significant portion of your projects may involve providing upgrades or expansion to existing systems. These may come to you from two categories:
CATEGORY A: New customers who are unhappy with their original installer, or are unable to continue to do business with their original vendor.
CATEGORY B: Existing clients who are satisfied with what you installed, and how you've been servicing them. (The clients who feel you've dropped the ball will be your competitors' CATEGORY A).
Upgrades and expansions to existing systems can be challenging in both categories. For example, if you are being asked to upgrade something which you recommended and installed, you have to hope that the system has not been orphaned by the manufacturer, or the manufacturer has not vanished.
Since most alarm dealers expect to enjoy long-term relationships with their customers through recurring monitoring revenues and service contracts, you need to be careful to specify and install equipment from vendors who will be there for you both over the long term. But, in this era of technological revolution and financial upheaval, the dealer can still, occasionally, be left high and dry.
Upgrading and expanding existing systems originally supplied by others can also be tough and may involve a learning curve for you while you figure out what the client has on site.
Video Processing is a Perfect Example
The introduction of digital processing to CCTV has opened the door to some of the most dramatic transformations electronic security has ever experienced. This transformation will be ongoing as new processes and elements are developed. As the technology migrates, it will apply to a broader base of applications. Although some pendants assert the security industry has been slow to embrace digital technology, even more feel this is not the case.
There are several elements involved in a CCTV surveillance system, and many factors which dictate what is deployed:
Cost/ User Acceptance: Most breakthrough technology occurs at the extreme high end, and it takes time for this technology to become cost-effective for small to mid-size applications. User acceptances from both the standpoint of pricing and appreciation of features also plays a big part in the process. This was clearly observed in the buying trends throughout the entire security industry following 9-11. Throughout the industry, it was reported that there was increased interest in security and a great deal of window shopping going on, but that actual sales were lagging.
That lag was attributed to both budget constraints and reluctance to new technologies that the security industry was offering. More systems are being sold now, and the long-term forecasts for the security industry predict continued growth as end users come to the realization that the future is now. The public is demanding better protection against the ongoing threats.
Features: Although digital signal processing indeed promised remarkable features, many of them are not realized when digital elements are integrated into legacy analog systems. It also takes time for the dealers and end users to adapt their procedures to effectively exploit the power digital brings. As an example, one of the most recent product introductions (and one of the last elements of the CCTV system architecture to actually go digital) - digital cameras, illustrate this point.
At this time, the choices of digital cameras available, as compared to analog units, is extremely limited, and the costs are substantially higher. Additionally, these cameras require a digital infrastructure to connect to other system elements, and not many existing CCTV systems are built upon digital infrastructure. As is the case with most digital CCTV equipment, the capabilities are, indeed, awesome. But, they may not be fully operational unless used in a fully digital environment, where signals and data are not required to be converted from digital to analog, or analog to digital, as they pass through the different phases of processing, viewing and storage.
Reliability: While making jokes about the network being down again is becoming a growing national pastime, relying on network infrastructure for interconnecting CCTV surveillance was not immediately embraced by either the industry or the end user.
Fiber was initially the primary material used for network infrastructure. As video applications and network technology have matured, other infrastructures and applications have emerged, but network topography and topology continue to be serious issues for system designers.
Yet, the lure of intelligent digital video is one which will not be denied. Industry forecasts are 24% annual growth; the market will double in size over the next four years. Tools such as video motion detection, remote surveillance, and alarm verification are accelerating this growth, with open platforms paving this information superhighway for further expansion of biometrics, analytics, distributed processing and databases.
Video is a Road Hog
Good video costs bandwidth. A rule of thumb is that DVD quality video expends a 5 Mbps bandwidth budget, per channel (or per camera). Multiple cameras or channels multiply this load proportionally.
The initial transition from VCRs to DVRs, partially propelled by the similarities between the traditional VCR and the DVR, has been superseded by the transition from the DVR (digital video recorder) to the NVR (network video recorder). Where the DVR is generally situated on-site, utilizes analog cameras connected via coax, and offers secondary connectivity and extended archiving features, NVRs sit on the network, use digital cameras and typically use TCP/IP transport protocol. They are literally a video server with substantial throughput, connectivity and feature sets.
The two gating factors governing the quality of digital video are resolution and frame rate. In order to minimize loading down the network and thereby constraining other IT functionalities, and to optimize performance on video dedicated networks, two types of digital signal compression techniques are used.
Spatial Compression (which uses jpg and wavelet type standards, reduces resolution and manipulates frame rate to optimize performance), and Temporal Compression (which uses mpg and H263/320 type standards).
It first spatially compresses the video data then further analyzes it for changes in the image and then transmits the changes only, rather than resending the entire image repeatedly. The amount of compression may be either constant or based upon activity within the viewed area.
Spatial over-compression results in low resolution, over pixilated images. Temporal over-compression results in jagged image sequences within sections or throughout the entire image field. Both compression techniques may introduce Latency into the transmission, which is a delay that occurs between the time the image is captured by the camera and is viewable on a monitor or workstation. Latency is not an issue in analog video.
Non-video security and access control signals and data do not pose bandwidth budget issues because the file sizes and the amount of data are significantly smaller than video. Bandwidth is yet another in the long list of considerations when specifying new technology for your customers. Clog up the network and you will not have a happy client on your hands.
Security Dealer Technical Editor Tim O'Leary is a 30-year veteran of the security industry and a 10-year contributor to the magazine. O'Leary's background encompasses security consulting since 1986, serving as an independent security company owner/operator, and researching and evaluating new technologies and products introduced to the physical and electronic security fields. He is a member of the VBFAA (Virginia Burglar and Fire Alarm Association), certified for Electronic Security Technician and Sales by the VADCJS (Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services), and has served as a judge for the SIA New Product Showcase. Send your integration questions to Tim.Oleary@secdealer.com