The electronic physical security industry is a tough business. The vast array of technology options, with virtually every application being unique, is challenging enough. Combine this with a very low tolerance for failure, and security companies require a high degree of technical expertise, thoughtful professional analysis, and operational excellence.
By contrast, other industries deploying systems within a building environment simply don’t face the same rigorous demands or diversity of technology. Typically, system components are part of a single closed manufacturer ecosystem, or they conform to well-established and understood technical standards. Further, the functionality of these systems vary little from one facility to the other.
Why then has the security industry seemingly abdicated the “smart building” and IoT movement to the IT providers accustomed to data center deployments? Or to HVAC and electrical contractors with a limited perspective regarding behaviors and activities conducted within the facility?
It’s time to apply our unique skills and professionalism to the building automation market. The opportunity is greater than ever. Some security systems integrators and dealers have already made the leap. The challenge for rest of the industry is to grow beyond our core offerings and applications.
Here is the case for diversifying your business with building automation services as well as some considerations for success.
Why Should Security Lead Building Automation? It’s in our DNA
Like security, the fundamental basis for building automation is a sensing device that triggers a physical or logical output. This is what we do – it’s in our DNA as security integrators. For decades, we’ve been installing systems that are reactive to the environment, such as a door contact that triggers a switch. Security systems and the companies that install and service them are naturally equipped to offer building automation systems and devices. Understanding the convergence across system types is nothing new to us.
While the underlying systems may fall outside of our domain, the security industry typically leads the market with advanced sensing technologies such as video analytics and infrared technologies. However, with the advent of PoE lighting, a low voltage contractor may now be able to offer lighting projects that were once the sole domain of certified electrical contractors. High efficiency, digital LED lighting has been the motivating factor for many building owners to start smart building projects. This is why electrical contractors often take the lead.
A Growing Market with Security Gaining Mindshare and Dollars
As building automation systems advance and IP/PoE/IoT endpoints proliferate, the opportunity will only get bigger. IDC forecasts that worldwide spending on the Internet of Things will reach $1.1 trillion by 2023. According to MarketsandMarkets, the building automation system market will grow to $121.5 billion by 2024, a 10.12 percent increase over 2019. Offering these solutions gives security integrators the potential for long-term revenue growth.
As people go back to work, organizations will likely fast-track security projects and explore smart building solutions to make facilities safer and more secure. “A pandemic has a way of showing your weaknesses,” said one of our System Surveyor customers recently. This director of enterprise security for a large insurance company lacks centralized systems such as video surveillance, access control and visitor management. As a result, he cannot centrally monitor all 20-plus U.S. locations. This has hampered the organization’s pandemic response but provided justification to upgrade these systems.
In other cases, building owners may want to pursue projects such as connecting their visitor management system to a lighting or fire protection system. Taking this a step further, what if they could set up their systems to automatically record the temperature of every person entering a facility and, for those with a fever, restrict their entry or further movement through the building?
This type of solution may have helped another customer of ours who recently discovered that an employee tested positive for COVID-19. This person had been working in one of their facilities right before getting the diagnosis. The company’s response had to be a reactive one: The security director used video surveillance footage afterwards to see where this person went and what level of cleanliness needed to be applied to those areas.
As building owners, facility managers, security directors and other professionals consider how to make their buildings smarter, systems integrators should be there to help them.
What to Consider to Get Started in Building Automation
Evaluate manufacturer partner offerings.
Often, getting up to speed on available building automation technology is as easy as contacting the manufacturers supplying the alarm or other security technology to your company. It’s likely that they already have a product suite focused on building automation, or they are actively working with other technology companies to deliver a compelling solution. You may need to identify alternate new solutions that you can bring to the table, but that’s what the security industry does better than anyone.
Be the customer’s guide, not the hero.
Security integrators who are able to identify their customer’s needs now and anticipate them down the road are well positioned to lead their customers into this burgeoning market segment. Sales professionals must engage with customers on a comprehensive basis to understand objectives beyond physical security. This is a consultative sale that requires keen observation of customer operations, intent listening for organizational challenges, and informed questions about desired customer outcomes.
With technology evolving so rapidly, often customers need a trusted partner or “guide” to explore possibilities and identify optimal solutions based on experience. As systems grow in complexity, a Google search by the customer just won’t cut it. Security professionals can serve in this capacity by continually educating themselves on the available technology and tools.
In addition, they need the ability to communicate solutions in a manner that non-technical people can grasp. This includes helping their prospects understand the convergence of systems and the potential ROI on everything from simplified operations to reduced energy costs.
Moving into building automation requires interactions with other departments and vendor partners of the customer. To ensure success, integrators must be ready and willing to build relationships and consensus with all groups and also provide the appropriate tools and leadership. From building management to security to IT, many professionals will have questions, concerns, and conflicts. Depending on the various personal dynamics, this can be tricky.
In these situations, it’s critical that everyone is on the same page. Professionalism, preparedness, and timely communication of updates are critical. This is no time to wing it. Systems integrators must provide clear objectives and a coherent, thoughtful system plan that includes project responsibilities and schedule. The team must have the ability to quickly and easily update and share information with everyone involved.
Ensure your business operations technologies are up to snuff.
It’s difficult to sell leading-edge systems if your operations aren’t as sophisticated. Customers expect seamless digital experiences today. Upgrading your legacy systems and customer-facing tools can not only improve your business efficiencies but also your interactions with prospects and clients. You’ll be better able to attract and retain customers as well as employees.
Collaborative technologies help deliver an outstanding customer experience, from the initial sales call to maintenance activities to future consultations. Tools such as teleconferencing and cloud-based applications can help provide continuity and efficiency to your business, especially now that your in-the-field activities may be curtailed. These technologies enable staff to collaborate remotely with customers during the sales, design, and proposal processes. You can qualify leads more quickly, sell more services faster, speed up the design and installation processes, and save trips to the site.
Go For It
The security industry is ideally positioned to lead the building automation movement. Systems integrators and security dealers have the technical expertise, professionalism and standards of excellence to truly lead this exploding market. Good luck!