Exclusive: Catching up with GE Security's Jim Clark

Jim Clark talks about the changing world of residential security, how the convergence of IT and physical security will play out and more

The company, he adds, stays active in industry associations like the NBFAA and the NFPA, and has worked in tandem with law enforcement agencies on a variety of issues, from alarms to more – it's the kind of support our industry needs to show the value of private security systems and operations to our nation's law enforcement officers.

Of course, what Clark is really focused on these days is the company's technology morph. With the advent of network convergence of physical and IT infrastructure (a convergence that, depending on who you ask, is about to happen, or is already happening), GE's security technology is being converted, redesigned and retooled so that it's IT-ready.

"I don't think we can really look at security any longer as a standalone entity," he explains. "The IT infrastructure has become the community's infrastructure. In terms of technology, all of our products are being IT-enabled. The strength we have and our partners have will come into play when you deploy these IT capabilities."

On that same note, and before the company's June conference, GE announced its commitment to training its dealers and integrators in the latest network technologies, and announced its commitment to provide the back-end support and resources in network technology that the company's channel partners would require when it actually came time to implement these new IT-ready systems. Asked what their commitment to the education of their dealers meant, Clark explained that the dealer community is a vital element to the profitability and success of even the most multi-faceted company.

"We want to make our partners more competitive," explains Clark. "They are the ones that drive our industry."

But when it comes to the network convergence, driving the industry also means that manufacturers must lead with technologies and solutions that live and breathe convergence. As Clark explains, this means "not letting the pipe (the network wiring) be the defining technology," rather it means scaling the technology to plan for the infrastructure that will come tomorrow.

"It's a lot like the HDTV scenario we have right now," says Clark. "Consumers know that it's going in that direction; you would be hard pressed not to buy an HDTV-capable television." It's the same he says with security technolgy; it has to be scaled to the future.

As technology moves further into the direction of network-based connections, it raises new questions in terms of sales. For resellers and integrators, the question has lately become "To whom do you sell a security system if it's a networked system: the physical security director or the IT security director?"

That question also belies the common prophecy of a turf war between IT and physical security. But as someone who spent years in the IT and networking industry before joining GE, does Clark believe the predicted turf battle between IT and physical is a guaranteed event? The answer, he says, is somewhat nebulous.

"I don't think there will be a turf war if we don't make it a war," says Clark. "As an industry, we have to make it a cooperative effort. The skill set that physical security directors have in terms of risk and safety is not going to go away. What we need to do is to make sure we're working cooperatively with the IT staff. We have to get away from an 'Us vs. Them' approach."

He cites the disastrous consequence that turf battles can create, noting that the telecom vs. IT battle of the '90s was tough on both industries, and that in the opinion of most, the telecom industry was forced to succumb to the IT industry. In order to avoid such events in our industry, companies like GE have been involved in organizations like the Open Security Exchange (OSE) which brings together leaders from both IT and physical security manufacturers.

The final take? If security products manufacturing leaders like GE can help transition our industry from being one that sells standalone systems one that sells integrated parts of today's business networks, then the industry and its dealers, integrators and resellers stand to see a strong future selling, designing and installing the security systems of tomorrow.