VARs Look at Business Growth as Big Brother Goes Digital

VARs recommended to partner with physical security providers


Imagine yourself at one of Hawaii's largest resorts lounging by the pool, browsing through the shops, sitting down for a fine meal, taking moonlit walks along the beach. Can't you just picture it?

Thanks to some recent technological developments, so can the resort's entire security staff. No longer reserved for airtight military outposts or cloak-and-dagger surveillance operations, physical-security technology is converging with traditional IT security, enabling the creation of systems designed to make everyday people as closely monitored and protected as a cache of weapons-grade plutonium or a vault full of diamonds.

That's why when this particular Hawaiian resort-which chose to remain unidentified-wanted to upgrade its security system, it called on Extreme CCTV, maker of Night Vision infrared surveillance systems. The British Columbia-based company develops digital video technologies that are powerful enough to see through rain, snow or fog at distances of up to five miles and can read license plates from just as far away. These applications don't come into play much at a typical resort, but they do bring considerable peace of mind.

"After we finished installing, we had a military group come in to review it," says Bryan Montgomery, business development manager at Extreme CCTV. "They told us it was second-to-none and compared favorably to the security solutions the U.S. military has installed at its bases."

Such high-level security may seem like overkill to some, but that's where we're headed. Big Brother is indeed going digital. IP-based security solutions and technologies, such as digital video, smart cards, biometrics and behavior-recognition software that are used for both physical and logical (computer) security, are maturing. The result: Vendors and VARs that can assist in the convergence of these technologies could be looking at a huge market opportunity.

According to Steve Hunt, president of Chicago-based security consulting firm 4A International, the entire physical-security industry is worth about $120 billion, half of which is spent on guard services. The rest is split among technologies that track event and identity management and services such as alarm and environmental monitoring. "There's a tremendous opportunity for IT resellers in these areas, because what customers need are systems that collect information from lots of sources and aggregate, correlate and analyze it," Hunt says.

Traditional IT vendors are beginning to recognize the trend and are making deals to get into the game. One recent example was Cisco Systems' purchase of video-surveillance hardware and software vendor SyPixx. At Cisco's Partner Summit, CEO John Chambers said he expects the physical and IT security worlds to converge around data centers and communications systems. "In Chambers' 'Cisco-speak,' that means he expects it to eventually be a $1 billion annual business for his company," Hunt says.

Digital Video: Seeing Is Believing

The most obvious convergence point is video surveillance and IP networks. Other potential crossover applications include mating building access with computer logins, linking RFID price scanners or phone systems to a network, protecting data centers and using video surveillance to gather marketing data.

"Video surveillance itself will become a commodity over time, but by staying ahead of the curve and using the technological innovation to drive services, resellers can create new profits," says Tim Palmquist, an account manager at ISG Technology, an IT integrator in Salina, Kan.

Digital-video surveillance emerged first as a logical extension of digital still photography, eliminating the need for security personnel to record and store VHS tapes. When combined with behavior-recognition software from vendors such as Cernium, it dramatically increases a security staff's productivity. The software learns the background of the image being monitored and cues security personnel if something is amiss-someone lurking outside a school dormitory or in a parking lot, for example.

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