Opening up to Security: The Big News in the Industry

Forget the new products, consolidation has been the major news in the security industry in recent years with most of the big players snapping up the smaller, entrepreneurial firms that have come out with the cutting-edge technology and a hungry attitude to bite into the security marketplace. That news continued this week with IR's purchase of Recognition Systems, and by now, you certainly wouldn't be surprised to check in with and find of another major consolidation announced next week.

What does that mean for you?

Primarily it's affected where you go to buy your products and get your technical assistance, but as consolidation levels off and security conglomerates have formed, I have another suspicion as to how it will affect you. I'll come back to this.

While consolidation among manufacturers has certainly helped dealers, security directors and systems integrators find one-stop shopping, it's also had the effect of pulling more systems into proprietary formats. After all, what's the need of making your software talk to a variety of access control units if your company offers its own full market of that technology?

But the market always has to come back to the logic that the "customer is always right," and even in our industry, which in the past would be considered far from a "consumer" industry, is rapidly changing. When setting up the booth on the Sunday before the opening of ASIS 2004, Paul Caplan, the publisher, and I happened upon Holly Sacks, vice president of marketing with HID, and Holly said something that resonated with me as I stepped out on the show floor Monday to see what ASIS 2004 had to offer.

Holly told us, "The more we look at this industry, we learn that business-to-business marketing is really the same as consumer marketing." And while her statement certainly speaks in terms of how manufacturers touch their buyers in terms of purchasing and advertising, that statement means a lot more.

To put it in perspective, put yourself as a consumer in a home electronics store on a shopping list to create a home entertainment system. You find the right price on a new flat-screen TV for your bedroom, and it's a Samsung. You need a DVD player, and you find the one with the features you want from Sony. You still have some video tapes of classic movies, so you need a VCR, and you decide upon a Panasonic. Don't forget the stereo amplifier and surround sound unit, a Pioneer, and you also choose a set of Bose speakers. A set of Monster cables and you're all set, leaving the store with your new package. Now if you got home, and you found that your Pioneer amp couldn't play your Bose speakers, and that the Samsung TV didn't accept the signal from your Sony DVD player, which couldn't be daisy-chained with your Panasonic VCR using Monster cables, what kind of consumer do you think you'd be? A happy one?

Put the same twist on creating a security system, and you can see why proprietary systems, while offering a great deal of ease in buying power and expertise, can be an industry headache. Every security manager, dealer and installer can tell you that one company's system will not be a perfect fit for their application. It may be a 90 percent fit, which is rather impressive, but who wants to set up the home theater system and not have the DVD player.