Systems Integrator Believes Video Integration Can Be a Double-Edged Sword
SCI Inc. is an Albuquerque, N.M.-based systems integrator that designs, installs and manages security systems for government, education, public utility and research organizations. SCI co-owner Daved Levine recently discussed the companyâ€™s strategy in an era when clients are seeking greater and greater synergies between security and information technology.
SDM: What are the sources of new growth for your firm?
LEVINE: They are in the area of integrated networked video. Years ago everything used to be relay-based. An alarm condition would occur because someone held the door open and the PTZ camera would automatically move to, and the lens would zoom to that location. Now weâ€™re doing it in software. And with analytics, search-and-discover tools, and the ability to digitally link alarm indexes, itâ€™s much easier to look up and then evaluate incidents.
The video side of things has really been a boost, but itâ€™s a double-edged sword. Because it is software and resides on the network, the products are drawing the attention of network services people like Cisco. They understand network topologies and system usage, but they donâ€™t understand interfaces to the security industry. Software services people can easily throw an IP camera on the network, yet they look at you blankly when you say, â€œWhat will you do with the video?â€ Weâ€™re increasing business by supporting IT services companies as their partners, leveraging their acceptance and validation of our skill sets.
Customers now are trying to leverage all of their systems across the network to use existing network infrastructure and minimize staff. Our job has increased as we put it all together so fewer people can centrally manage the world and outer space for them. We find ourselves in projects where the customer wants to automate other controls and processes.
SDM: What technologies or market factors are fueling sales right now?
LEVINE: The ability of the network to process more, the available professional staff that we can hire with the right skill sets, and public awareness are all helping to fuel sales. Manufacturers are also finally stabilizing their products and business practices. Right now there is so much more awareness and acceptance of the industry that weâ€™re talking with customers about integrating their systems in ways and environments where they never did that before.
There will be more breakthroughs when the IT community recognizes that thereâ€™s more to the annunciation of alarms than text messages. IT people understand an SNMP trap and sending a descriptive text or e-mail message, but they havenâ€™t yet discovered all the different ways that people can be alerted to an alarm. These are capabilities that have already been developed by the security industry, in some ways responding to traditional guard post orders for clear documentation and routing.
SDM: So there could eventually be a lot of synergies if the IT industry could use alarm industry methods for annunciating alarms, but apply those methods to the kinds of alarm situations that would be more applicable to the IT industry?
LEVINE: Thatâ€™s right.
SDM: What kinds of things are you doing to achieve a satisfactory profit margin?
LEVINE: Weâ€™re consciously not trying to be all things to all people, by limiting our product and service offerings. This increases our skills and efficiencies within those offerings at the same time we manage our costs. Weâ€™re also communicating our sustaining minimum margin needs to our manufacturers, who donâ€™t develop their MSRP strategies in consideration of the integrator minimum requirements.
SDM: What is the most difficult message to get across to todayâ€™s clients?
LEVINE: Clients are more aware of the products and the security industry. But very often the challenge is to get them actively involved in the process of designing the system to better meet their needs. We feel itâ€™s very important to find multiple advantages from a system. The customer is the best resource to identify those benefits as they have the most to gain from the results.