The security week that was: 10/10/08

Relearning how to resell security

A number of companies have talked about proving ROI in a retail model. Video analytics companies chatter about how their systems can be deployed with cameras running traffic counting to prove a system's value. Item-level RFID companies (like Sensormatic and its new acquisition Vue Technology) prove that not only can an asset tracking tag be used for loss prevention purposes, but the biggest uptick is in being able to manage stock efficiently. And of course, this week, ABI research predicted growth for video surveillance in the retail sector, noting that cameras could be used for more than simple recording, but could prove ROI through liability protection and even marketing applications where sales/marketing staff might use cameras to study traffic or how well banners and end-caps are engaging shoppers.

The reason I'm bringing this discussion of ROI up is because of the economy. With the U.S. economy suffering and the European economy following closely as well (and many other international economies seeing the same effects), you can't just go to your customer or go to your boss and pitch security equipment just for the sake of security. You're going to have to show some sort of value and maybe -- like the retail examples above -- you need to show how it can partner with another department to split a cost. If you need to brush up on this, I suggest you start working through the last year or two of back issues from Security Technology & Design magazine. That publication's editors have been working with the folks from the Security Executive Council to talk metrics, which is part of proving value. The ST&D editors have also initiated a "lean security" column that you should check out as well.

I spoke earlier this week with Scott Clements from Sensormatic and Robert Locke of Vue Technology. The two companies joined forces this week, and we talked about how they sell item-level RFID technology.

Locke explained: "When a shopper can’t find a product, after two experiences like that, they start to shop someplace else," This technology allows them to drive sales in a flat economy because they stop losing sales to other retailers. They increase sales and lower labor costs [for stock checking]."

I give you that quote not because I think you all are interested in RFID, but because it's indicative of how you have to talk today -- whether you're a manufacturer's representative, or a security director pitching a security upgrade to senior management. Locke and Clements could have probably talked for a half-hour on how their RFID readers differ from other readers, and how the software has a whiz-bang feature that the competitors don't, but instead they chose to speak about the general economics of how a retail company can invest in pricey technologies in such a down economy. Clements and Locke said they were very interested in delivering only exactly what the customer needs, rather than pushing customers towards a cookie-cutter approach. Certainly that speaks to the fact that it is a buyer's market and security and technology sales strategies must reflect market conditions.

Network video standards update
ONVIF kicks off; PSIA promotes openness

We reported on Tuesday that the Open Network Video Interface Forum (one of two North American groups working on a communications and operability standard for network video solutions) had opened its membership rosters during the Essen tradeshow. The initial phases of this group had been coordinated from video competitors Bosch, Sony and Axis Communications. The group is expanding at Essen. There’s no word yet on how many members have joined ONVIF.

As ONVIF expanded its membership beyond Axis, Sony and Bosch, I heard from Dave Bunzel, who heads up Santa Clara Consulting Group. Bunzel is the coordinator for the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) which is seeking to provide standards for network video devices. One of the things that the PSIA told me quite clearly is that they're open to interaction with ONVIF and that the two groups are not mutually exclusive in the work they are doing. Asked whether he thought the industry could support more than one group's standards, Bunzel was quite clear: "Right now the industry is supporting many more specifications when you consider all of the APIs the video management software companies must address to accommodate the wide range of equipment which must be interoperable with their systems."

In summary, two standards are better than none. Even if half of companies went ONVIF and half went PSIA, Bunzel’s point is that the industry would be in a better position than trying to keep up with so many different APIs and codecs.

...And in other news
Partnerships, acquisitions and awards in the security industry

Motobotix is partnering with Overland Storage for a bundled IP camera and network area storage package. ... Integrator/reseller IdentiSys has purchased CardSmart Systems, an ID products reseller. ... Cooper Notification picked up Standard Electronics as a channel partner. .. ScanSource Security will distribute Video Mount Products. ... ACEKA Protection Services was purchased by National Security Systems. ... Agent Vi and Mango DSP are working together on solutions.

Genetec was tagged as one of Canada's faster growing tech companies... Vumii's long-range day/night surveillance technology received a technology innovation award from The Wall Street Journal. The Vumii Discoverii technology uses an invisible laser beam to illuminate objects, persons and scenes at long distances. The technology reportedly can see through bad weather and even glass. ... The Security Industry Association has taken Dean Russo from ISC Expos; he'll now be heading SIA's international operations. Russo was known for his talent in heading up the ISC tradeshows. Speaking of which, ISC East comes up this month in New York: Oct. 29-30. SIA is co-hosting the Tri-Association Awards Dinner which occurs during ISC East.

Finally, we close with a look at our top read stories of the week: