Cisco brings 'connected communities' concept to security

Executives discuss company’s strategy, vision for market in video conference


In a video conference with members of the media on Thursday, executives with communications giant Cisco discussed the company’s business strategy for the physical security market moving forward in 2012.

Building on the announcement at last year’s ASIS show that the company intends to focus on large-scale deployments, Cisco officials detailed the specific vertical markets they are targeting and how they’re leveraging their expertise in network architecture to build smarter security systems.

According to Guido Jouret, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s enterprise video group and CTO of emerging technologies, the company has identified four key markets as potential high growth areas including healthcare, energy, education, and government.

Greg Carter, director of connected physical security solutions at Cisco, said that the company singled out these four verticals as growth areas through market analysis and because they align with the company’s goal of creating "smart connected communities."

"We’re going to see a broadening of our business," Carter said.

Carter explained that the company has seen growth in its new and repeat business, as well as increasing demand for its security technologies in emerging markets such as Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, Carter said they are seeing expanding demand across verticals and market segments and a change in the size and nature of projects as end-users want to have more than simply one technology component installed in a system.

Despite economic uncertainty around the world, Jouret said that physical security, particularly large, city-wide deployments are mostly immune from recession. He explained that it can also be countercyclical, with a poor economy leading to heavier investment in security.

"I think this investment in urban security is going to continue," he said.

Economics were a factor, however, for Northwest Arkansas Community College, which was recently able to leverage Cisco technology to cost-effectively improve its surveillance system.

Paige Francis, associate vice president of IT at the school, which has 900 faculty members and around 8,500 students, said that the upgrade was sorely needed as the school was using antiquated technology.

However, Francis said that she wasn’t going to receive “a bag of money” to replace everything at once across campus and that it was important to be able implement a piece of the system to prove its value to school leaders.

"Like most community colleges across the country, we’re underfunded. We’re grossly underfunded," Francis said.

Francis said people in chief technology officer positions in the education sector have to market nearly every network upgrade they need to the leadership at their respective schools.

"There is nothing exciting about a network overhaul," she said.

In the overall physical security market, Jouret said that the convergence of IT with physical security is becoming a big industry trend that the company believes it is well-positioned to take advantage of.

"More and more as we look at this business there is more convergence," he said. "Physical security is becoming an IT responsibility."

One of the challenges created by convergence, according to Jouret, is that end-users need products that are quicker and easier to deploy, which Cisco is addressing by developing complete, end-to-end systems that can deliver these benefits.

Convergence has also had an impact on Cisco’s channel partners, according to Carter. Whereas the company used to primarily work with their own IT integrators and individual physical security integrators, Carter they are now working with large systems integrators.

This change is also indicative of another trend that Cisco is seeing, which is a shift from selling individual products to entire solutions.

Cisco also wants to create more intelligent video surveillance networks that can automatically recognize cameras on the network and eliminate many of the other hassles involved with deploying a large-scale system.

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