Do you ever get the feeling you're being watched? Most people have had that feeling at one time or another - and these days it is entirely likely that someone is watching.

It seems cameras are popping up everywhere - good news for security dealers, installers and systems integrators. As the demand for CCTV continues to grow, so do sales prospects. Traditional markets are thriving and new opportunities are presenting themselves every day.

The Market Is Open

"It seems like everyone wants CCTV now," says Jack Menke, sales manager, Northwestern Ohio Security Systems Inc., Dayton, Ohio. "If they don't have it, they want it, and if they did have it, they are upgrading."

The traditional CCTV markets - banks, airports, retail facilities, and casinos - still thrive. However, new markets are making a strong showing thanks to recent demands for tighter security.

"One of the most interesting developments in the video security market is that new vertical markets are popping up every day to complement the traditional variety of security applications," says Joe Freeman, CEO, J.P. Freeman Co. & J.P. Freeman Labs, Newtown, Conn. "In the U.S., cameras are increasingly being installed in public schools to monitor potential violence problems. Cameras are also being installed in police cruisers and public buildings. The public is now being increasingly served by cameras in addition to private applications, and these are new opportunities for dealers and integrators to pursue," he adds.

"Schools are a growing market, as well as large corporations and small ma and pa shops," says Matthew Sickman, president, Mobile-Tel Radio Inc., Evansville, Ind. "Gas stations are now watching people at the pumps, the oil industry is watching people on-site, even prisons, which were always a large market, are upgrading."

According to STAT Resources Inc., CCTV end-user expenditures have risen steadily since 1997 (see chart on page 64). It is projected that they will continue to climb in the next three years.

"Government facilities and government contractors, and schools are two markets that are growing," Menke says. "I have also seen large manufacturing companies and corporations using cameras to monitor their parking lots and offices and prevent workplace violence."

Mike Horgan, vice president, Horgan Sales & Service, Inc., Stevens Point, Wis., notes that his company is doing a lot of work in an area known as "process" monitoring.

"The market segment is fairly widespread because it includes any industrial operation featuring automated assembly or processing lines," Horgan says. "Three vertical markets we have had success with are paper mills, cheese factories and wood manufacturing plants."

High-end retail, healthcare institutions, pharmaceutical companies and hi-tech corporations also look to video surveillance as an answer to their security needs. The question is?why?

"This market is hot right now because cameras have gone digital, become less expensive and can produce instantaneous, storable in formation - which, in legal terms of evidence, is not readily available from other mechanisms," Freeman says.

The success that the CCTV market is experiencing can also be attributed, in part, to society's changing views toward crime. In the wake of mass school shootings and the rise in workplace violence, courts are coming down hard, placing responsibility for safety in the hands of employers.

"In effect, these rulings are encouraging others to be proactive rather than reactive," Menke says. "More and more employers are incorporating CCTV into their security plan to prevent incidents from happening in the first place."

Sickman adds, "There is a sense of deception out there. "People are trying to get into buildings; people are trying to scam people. These days, people want to cover themselves from being held liable and from being sued."

According to John Stevens, account manager for Trans-Alarm, Inc., Burnsville, Minn., "Corporate facilities are trying not only to protect their employees, but also to protect their assets."

Meeting Customer's Needs

CCTV fits nicely into most security applications because of its ability to meet a variety of needs.

"Banks want to protect against fraud and unauthorized withdrawals, retail is worried about internal and external theft," says Ron Waxman, vice chairman, Frisco Bay Industries Ltd., Montreal. "Other markets, such as healthcare, are concerned with liability. There's always something to be watched."

A continuing problem for many business owners - both large and small - is theft, both internal and external

"In one instance, a shop was losing between $13,000 and $14,000 per month due to retail theft," says Sickman, in reference to a local small convenience store. "These small shops are usually a popular hang out, and it's hard to monitor everyone at one time."

Finding cost-effective security is also a concern for most business owners. One advantage to CCTV is that it can cover more area with fewer people.

"The systems installed today have capabilities that make for an easier sell because we're able to show potential clients how to improve their bottom line," Horgan says. "For example, in paper mills digital technology allows us to capture high-speed paper breaks with the clarity needed to pinpoint the cause. Paper breaks cause downtime at an incredible cost.

"We view these systems more as management tools. It's a change of pace because you are dealing with a more tangible benefit that isn't necessarily grounded in fear or mistrust. These clients are trying to minimize downtime, waste of raw materials, quality defects, damage to plant assets and sometimes internal sabotage (disgruntled employees)."

According to Menke, "The investment in a CCTV system is a money saver in the long run. You can eliminate the need for bodies. It's wiser to have one or two guards accompanied by video tours than just several guards. There is less chance of people getting hurt, and you eliminate the cost of salaries, benefits, etc. The payback in the end is so much more of a reward," he says.

"The trend toward digital video and Web-based access, and a proactive approach to protection has made the markets more accessible," Waxman says.

Market Limitations

The CCTV market is not without limits. One in particular is budget. Convincing people to make the initial investment is not always easy.

"All organizations have to deal with a limited budget," Stevens says. For smaller stores, the initial investment can prove costly. However, Sickman notes that once users realize how the system works and the money saved in the long run, they are convinced.

Another reason some smaller businesses shy away from CCTV is that they are not comfortable with technology.

"Many people are still scared of computers," Sickman says, "which causes them to shy away from some of the latest advancements."

Competition can also be a limitation. "With so many companies designing good systems, the prices are becoming more reasonable for the end-user - but everyone wants to get the business. Sellers and designers face tough competition," Menke says.

Government jobs often go to the lower bids. This does not necessarily mean a job well done. According to Waxman, this leads to the installation of inferior products and poor results overall.

"Large corporations and new construction also force the involvement of general contractors, which once again leads to lower prices and poor results," Waxman adds.

Many security directors also face the challenge of determining how much security they need. How much CCTV is enough CCTV?

"Knowing where to draw the line between security and privacy is difficult for some companies to determine," Stevens says. "That's when the dealer needs to step in and examine the specific needs of the client."

Finally, getting paid is a difficulty some dealers face. For example, schools can be difficult to work with since they often take a long time to pay after installations are completed.

"Some larger clients apply for grant money, which takes a long time. If we begin an installation and that money does not come through, we have to go in and remove equipment," Sickman explains. "We have our customers put 50% down. If they want the technology bad enough, they will come up with the money," he says.

Future Outlook

The outlook for CCTV sales looks promising. Integration is one thing to watch for. There is an increasing tendency to integrate all security applications and have them run across a network. "There was a time when people wanted one technology or the other, but now people want a little bit of everything," Menke says.

Often times, companies will turn to systems integrators, who have the security knowledge and the computer knowledge, which might pose a problem to the traditional dealer. However, a systems integrator often comes out just for the first-time installation, whereas a traditional dealer can reap the benefits of ongoing service and upgrades.

Sickman believes there will be growth, but that dealers need to be better educated about CCTV technology.

"Not many dealers look at the market camera-wise, because they are afraid of it," he says. "They are timid when it comes to the DVR technology, so they need to be better educated. A dealer that is educated about the product and technology eases the fears of the client who is unfamiliar, which makes for a smoother sale."

Advancements in technology will continue to keep the market growing.

"Digital storage is hot right now," Stevens says. "This is providing a means for dealers to go to existing customers and upgrade. Better indexing ability is also becoming an important feature. The ability to find a particular frame to prove someone did - or didn't - do something is critical."

"The outlook for the video surveillance market is positive if a few strategies are in place," Horgan says. "First, there needs to be a commitment to keep up with technology. Of particular importance is knowledge about networks. Second, products and services need to be combined in creative ways to address unique applications and avoid the highly competitive situations that eat profits. Finally - and this is especially true for smaller dealers - networking with the right partners is an effective way of covering a market and staying on the leading edge of technology."

SIDEBAR: CCTV Technology: Taking Advantage of Digital Video

What are you trying to get out of your digital system? In many cases, digital video storage is just a replacement or retrofit for existing VCRs. But in many cases, a CCTV system can become a total management package. From storage and retrieval, remote surveillance and networkability, digital can alleviate a lot of time and effort.

"Probably the biggest technology out there right now is digital video/recording," says Jack Menke, sales manager, Northwestern Ohio Security Systems Inc., Dayton, Ohio. "The time savings and quality are unbelievable. And, you can make it as small or as large as you want. You can have one DVR or 64, whatever is most convenient for the job you are doing."

With the convergence of physical/asset security, and IT technology, security is no longer the only concern. Operational control, management's ability to develop new standard operating procedures with less time and travel required and less personnel involved, is also an issue.

"The elimination of high-maintenance VCRs and endless piles of tapes coupled with the ability to review video data from a workstation or even a remote location had made plant manager eager to work more funds into the capital budget," says Mike Horgan, vice president, Horgan Sales & Service, Inc., Stevens Point, Wis.

Mark Young, executive vice president, digital vision systems (DVS), San Antonio, Texas, recommends that there be digital standards, much like the ones DVS uses:
- Present to the industry a product that is simple to use.
- The product should have a very broad spectrum of configurability and be robust enough for integrators to be successful in dealing with the many and varied applications in both the security and vertical markets (fast food, mass retail and convenience stores, to name a few).
- Incorporate security applications and solutions into software design.
- Believe in "open architecture." To survive today, there must be a willingness to interface and share with many other systems and end-user requests.
In the future, digital video will continue to improve. Integration is the thing to look out for. Right now, only a handful of companies manufacture panels that can be integrated. Improved capture rates and increased storage capacity are other things to watch for as technology is refined. Only time will tell just how advanced digital video becomes.