Contributed by the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association. To learn more about CEDIA membership visit www.cedia.org/join.
Over the course of the past few years Ethernet jacks and/or WiFi features have become ubiquitous across every category of electronic device imaginable and — just in case you haven’t noticed — the security industry is certainly no exception. From IP cameras, to DVRs, to RFID access controls, the number of devices being manufactured that include network connectivity options is increasing at an exponential rate.
This new world of network-connected components has the potential to help integrators increase revenue, improve customer satisfaction, and reduce service costs — all without making major changes to the business model currently in place. However, it also means that everyone in the company, from salespeople, to system designers, to installation technicians, will need new skills and knowledge to successfully integrate these new products and execute future projects.
The opportunities to increase or create new revenue streams that have been provided by network-connected devices are factors that every business should be evaluating. For example, in a retrofit situation, WiFi-compatible IP cameras have made it extremely easy to increase the scope of the project from a few wireless sensors and a keypad, to a full surveillance system without the increase in time, materials, or labor previously necessary to pull coax to every camera location. Consider the RMR possibilities generated by features such as secure redundant backup communication lines to the monitoring system, which are available on network-compatible communication cards.
In addition to increasing revenue, these new devices offer the ability to create ever more intriguing and desirable experiences for the end user. How many customers do you have that would not appreciate the chance to check on their home and property when away on vacation? IP cameras and network-connected DVRs have made it exceedingly simple to provide clients with access to video feeds (both live and recorded) while they are away from home or in a remote location. Also, many network-connected systems now include functionality to allow the client to monitor, arm, and disarm the system from a mobile device through a preconfigured app. These slick new user interfaces not only increase the “cool factor” of the system, but also mean that when the client wants to make sure the babysitter armed the alarm correctly after they left for the night, you’re the hero that gave them the ultimate peace of mind.
Lastly, take a moment to ponder the implications that arise from having the ability to remotely access a client’s system. With the capacity to configure, maintain, and/or service a new or existing installation without the need to roll a truck, a company can greatly reduce operating costs and increase profitability while simultaneously producing a better customer experience — a clear win-win.
It is evident that integrating your security installations with the home network can offer a variety of benefits, for both you and your client. The caveat to this conclusion is that attempting to successfully install these new technologies without a staff that understands how a network operates may lead to an assortment of undesirable outcomes. Some may argue that letting an IT company deal with the network and focusing only on the security side is more efficient than developing these skills within their own staff; in many cases, I would agree that having a division of labor offers increased efficiency. However, based on my experience in this industry, this is not always the case. All too often I have found that when issues occur on a project that relies on multiple contractors who are all responsible for disparate systems that must ultimately integrate together, finger-pointing comes before problem-solving. For this reason and many others, I highly recommend educating yourself and your staff about the network, what it can do, how it does it, and what it means for the continued success of your business.
There are many different options for pursuing this knowledge including online training, community college/tech school courses, and manufacturer training. Here at CEDIA we have seen the need for this skill and recently developed industry-specific courses on network sales, infrastructure, and configuration, all of which we will be offering at this year’s CEDIA EXPO in Indianapolis. (For more information or to register visit cedia.net/expo.) No matter what course of study you decide best fits your company’s needs, I would advise you to take ownership of the networking needs of your clients and offer them solutions, because I have heard it said by a very wise man, “Whoever owns the network, owns the home.”