South Florida alarm dealers had a unique opportunity to hear the candid opinions of a number of industry heavyweights at the Executive Forum, held in conjunction with the ADI Expo on Thursday, March 11, at the Coral Gables Mariott in Coral Springs, Fla.

With representation from major vendors including Denon, Bosch, Axis, Pelco, and ADI, as well as industry organization CEDIA, attendees learned how the vendors feel about current market conditions and the future path for the industry.

Addressing the state of the economy and its effects, Tom Polson, president of ADI, echoed statements made by industry analysts that 2010 will be a year of slow progress and reflected that some geographic areas are already showing significant improvement.

“Many dealers and integrators have had to adjust their business focus due to the continued housing falloff and increased unemployment rates felt around the country,” Polson said. “Our response has been to continue to offer training opportunities that leverage technologies like the convergence of IP and CCTV products to anticipate improved business growth”.

Much of the discussion revolved around how systems integrators can compete in this troubled economic arena. The equipment manufacturers emphasized that technology alone will not bring dealers out of a sales slump, and that whatever technology is being used, the direct real benefits must be translated for the end user. John Dolan, vice president of Pelco, said that while their previous marketing was technically oriented, detailing “speeds and feeds,” they have now shifted their advertising and sales efforts to “how our products can help dealers win” in the marketplace.

Some of the manufacturers are providing special features and programs for their volume dealers. Jeff Talmadge, director of product development for Denon, discussed their dealer program, where only those installation companies who have been accepted into their program are allowed access to “hidden features” in their products.

The importance of basic business strategies also plays a key role at this time. According to Polson, it’s critical for systems integrators to keep a close eye on their “income line” and quickly identify and address any competitive threats to a company’s financial status.

Still, it’s a technology-based industry, and the discussion soon returned to it. Utz Baldwin, CEO of CEDIA, detailed three new areas where low-voltage integrators will be able to profit in the future. Those technologies are energy management, which is a current and growing business centered on the concept of the “zero net energy home.” In the future, installing companies will become involved with solar panels, lighting systems, and the monitoring of overall energy usage in homes and buildings.

Home health care is another area where great opportunities will emerge as the population ages and health care costs rise, Baldwin predicts. And another technology that shows great potential is telepresence, the melding of traditional TV/video with social networking.

The industry representatives agreed on the pressing need for certification programs for the industry, specifically for audio/video and IP CCTV technicians. There was also consensus that the current initiative to standardize IP video, which is currently being hammered out by the major IP camera manufacturers, will greatly improve the ability for security integrators to sell and service IP video systems while reducing the cost of IP cameras and devices at the wholesale level.

The meeting was an excellent opportunity for systems integrators to hear the latest “state of the union” from the movers and shakers of the industry. More of these meetings will be held around the country as part of ADI’s “Lead the Way” Expo training series (See related story, p. 20). For more information, visit