At the Samsung Techwin STEP Partner conference, held March 8-11 in Cancun, Mexico, Samsung declared 2015 to be “The Year of the Partner.” On the surface that may seem like just one company’s take on things; but really, the description could aptly be applied to just about every aspect of systems integration today.

Wikipedia defines “partnership” as an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. As this definition relates to security systems, partnerships — between fellow manufacturers, manufacturers and integrators, manufacturers and distributors, distributors and integrators, and manufacturers or integrators and their customers — are increasingly critical to doing business in this industry.

“When we started our partnership program two years ago, 99 percent of our integration partners had no experience with our products,” said S.H. Ahn, president of Ridgefield Park, N.J.- based Samsung Techwin America. “Today we have grown from 70 partners to 700; and as of last year, our business collaboration with partners represented about 40 percent of our revenue.”

These partnerships include a commitment to open platforms. In fact, some of Samsung’s featured product releases, such as cameras based on the WiseNet III chip, have been purposely designed to use only 40 percent of the chip, leaving 60 percent free for other partners — including video management platforms from Genetec, ISS, Milestone and others; plus partnerships with PlateSmart (license plate recognition), OnSSI body cameras and Agent VI video analytics.

“I believe the Samsung STEP partner program is proving that they are really focusing on partnerships with companies that promote open platform,” said Fredrik Walberg of Milestone, Beaverton, Ore.

In his keynote address, Security Industry Association CEO Don Erickson noted some top legislation trends that included both body cameras and license plate readers, as well as mobile driver’s licenses.

“The industry doesn’t pay enough attention to legislation, but we are seeing an amazing amount of state legislation around these areas, whether authorizing or prohibiting these technologies,” he said. “It is definitely an emerging market and something to watch.”

He also expounded on the partnership theme: “This is a partnership conference. We, too, believe strongly in partnerships. We have relationships with vertical market organizations, non-traditional partners and education partners.”

Tom Cook, vice president of sales, North America, for Samsung Techwin, added, “We are not here just to sell cameras. We want to share how we are getting there and what we are doing.” And the message was clear: they are going to get there through partnerships with other manufacturers, distributors, integrators and end users.

“We are actively promoting and developing relationships with end users,” Cook added. “Selling on price, reputation or legacy is not enough anymore. We want to be an entire resource for every type of camera product.”

At several of the panel discussions, including an Eco-Partner panel that featured manufacturer, distributor and integrator representatives from the partnership “ecosystem,” and was moderated by Samsung Techwin Director of Marketing Janet Fenner, the question was posed, “What is your definition of a good partner?”

Integrator Gary Chavarria, TRL (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), said, “My definition of a good partner, whether manufacturer or distributor, is someone who will work with the integrator to provide the best fit for the customer. What is the best solution for that client? The key thing is to provide the client with a solution today and also five or 10 years from now. We all have to remember that whoever your partner is, the end user is depending on what you provide for him.”

For integrator Ricky Johnson of Design Security Controls, Houston, Texas, partnership meant a manufacturer that would listen to what he and his end users want — in this case, a lower-priced camera (see ISC West Exclusive: Samsung Sneak Peak on pg. 142 for more new product specifics). “It is important that the manufacturer listens to us and provides us with what we want. We have been asking and asking for a lower-priced camera and they listened.”

Distributor John Sullivan of ADI, Melville, N.Y., added, “Partnership means driving to a cohesive goal and understanding the value equation of each side of the business and who is involved. If that doesn’t happen there will be breakdown.”

Distribution is one key partnership that is growing in importance in the security industry, and a huge part of Samsung’s sales model, something integrators definitely had opinions about.

“We are a strong believer in leveraging resources,” said Bill Baroska of Open Systems Integrators, Englishtown, N.J. “Distribution is a greater resource than a lot of integrators realize. We use them for professional services and training. We work very closely with distribution to have a heartbeat on the market, using them not only as a ‘box mover’ but as a true partner.”

Johnson sees distributors as a different yet valuable resource. “We look at distribution as a warehouse in a lot of ways. We did a 1,800 camera install last year. We don’t have the space in the room to do that without their help.”

Scott Hollis of SSD Systems, Anaheim, Calif., would like to see even more partnership moves between distributors and large integrators. “The value-add of credit terms, etc., that they bring doesn’t quite resonate with us the same as it does with the smaller dealer. I would like to see them look at ways to add value to larger organizations. But I agree they are truly partners now.”

Of course, the “meat” of events such as these is for partners to come together, discuss how to help each other and learn about product offerings, as well as to discuss industry trends. When it came to the latter, cloud emerged as a dominant theme.

“Cloud is a huge opportunity for integrators,” said Montreal-based Genetec’s Phillip Ouimette. “For integrators, the cloud is more in line with what we have seen from the traditional intrusion alarm side. Financially the multiples of a company that is built on RMR verses contract sales is much higher.”

Chavarria agreed. “One of the big trends I see, and something we will all have to deal with is cloud services or managed services. The RMR model will become more and more prevalent. But I also see video becoming a big part of that market as well.”

He and others see cloud as tying right back into the partnership theme: “In order to have this we have to agree on open platform,” he added. “We have to be able to choose the right solution. It shouldn’t be closed.”

Patrick Berry of 4Media, St. Louis, added that the very definition of integration is changing as more and more areas even beyond security are merging. “There are a lot of different mediums in the IP space starting to come together and integrators are not shying away from new technology, but instead looking to integrate them into their portfolio.”

And, of course, as they do that, they will need to rely even more on manufacturers and distributors to help them navigate these new territories.

“The service aspect we really see trending is video verification, or marrying video cameras with alarm monitoring,” Hollis added. “Business intelligence and analytics is also trending. Video is not just a loss prevention or archiving tool anymore, but a way to improve operational excellence and increase sales. If we can convey that message, we have opened up a whole new area.”

Cook concluded the event by throwing the ring back to the STEP partners. “Our engineering team can customize literally anything. We can be nimble. It’s all about you. We want to hear from you and what you need.”

 Partnership is a two-way street of helping one another to succeed. As the industry continues to change and expand, get more open and cloud-based, this type of dynamic will only grow in importance.

SIDEBAR: STEP Partner Awards

The STEP Partner conference culminated in the farewell/awards dinner, at which Samsung recognized every level of partner, from manufacturer to employee. The winners were the following:

  • VMS Partner of the Year– Genetec
  • Integration Partner of the Year– OnSSI
  • Open Platform Partner of the Year– PlateSmart
  • Distributor of the Year– Tri-Ed, an Anixter Company
  • Distribution Product Manager of the Year– Lisa Van Leeuwan
  • Outstanding Growth, Dealer– Tie between DSC Design Security Controls and ADS
  • Dealer of the Year Canada– Extravision
  • Manufacturer Rep of the Year USA– R2 & Associates
  • Samsung RSM, Most Growth– Todd Wysocki
  • Samsung RSM of the Year– Lloyd Taylor