SIGNET Discusses School Challenges

SD&I magazine queried Gregory S. Hussey, vice president of Estimating and Engineering for SIGNET Electronic Systems, Norwell, Mass., for his thoughts on challenges in the education market. SIGNET provides complete integrated solutions, including design, installation, commissioning, training, service and maintenance.

Q. What are some of the top challenges for the education vertical market when it comes to installing new technologies/upgrading their security?

A. “The greatest challenge over the last several years has been the flood of smaller, less qualified and less experienced competitors as a result of the poor economy. The lack of privately funded projects has had a negative impact on the small security systems integrators. Therefore the owners of these companies have had to look elsewhere for revenue. They hear about or see these large publically funded projects and unfortunately for SIGNET but actually to a greater degree, unfortunately for them, they land these projects. They do not have the capacity to handle these larger projects physically but also do not have the skills or experience to handle the requirements technically as well as the ability to service long term. Many of these companies go out of business and the schools suffer with inferior solutions and inadequate support.”

Q. Is funding still generally available or has it become more difficult for the end user to get this funding?

A. “Stimulus money seemed to have two effects, indirect in that the money being pushed down to the state level resulted in a slight opening of the financial gates to specific large and small projects related to security and life safety. Also, either as an indirect result of Obama’s stimulus package or just the residual effects of the economy improving for various reasons, more state projects started to move forward that were on hold. Our territory was lucky to see a large number of large publically funded school projects with significant security related systems being required. We still do not see a large number of privately funded projects with security related solutions.”

Q. What in general is the trend for security in the education vertical market (ie upgrading electronic access control, installing electronic access control, video surveillance, etc.)?

A. “My response may be regional and the answer will probably be different depending on the area of the country. We see systems not getting simpler but larger and more complicated. The sales pitch in the industry from manufacturers that advertise to schools is that everything is ‘IP this and IP that’, so just hang a camera or door controller on the network and you are done, simple. As we all know this isn’t accurate. We also see many customers being very much involved with the installation. They have to be because of the desire and need to integrate the security software solution into their environment.”

Q. How does SIGNET go about pitching technology to the education end user?

A. “When we have an opportunity to pitch technology we concentrate more on technology being a tool to satisfy a goal. For example we don’t start off talking about the highest resolution camera or such; we take a consultative role and first and foremost find out what issue(s) exists or what weakness exists with the current security related system. We then apply technology i.e. find the right tool to solve that problem. This consultative role certainly typically turns into an educational process and we find that customers that want to make the most informative decision will be our best customer.”