IP Video And Access Surveillance Control: A Profitable Combination
By Jay McCall
This systems integrator’s expertise selling video surveillance and access control solutions to education and other leading verticals is leading to a projected $8 million in growth this year.
According to research from IHS, by the end of this year the global market for networkbased video surveillance will reach $7 billion, surpassing for the first time analog-video system sales, which are forecasted to be $6.5 billion. As the IP surveillance market continues to grow, VARs and systems integrators like Global Data Systems (GDS) are discovering that achieving success with this technology requires a combination of IT and vertical market expertise.
Begin Your Foray Into IP Video Surveillance With Licensing Requirements
GDS is a $47 million systems integrator that specializes in facilities-based telecommunications, datacenter, cloud computing, and systems integration solutions and services. A couple of the integrator’s claims to fame are that it deployed the first Cisco VoIP phone system in the United States in 1991 and today it’s the only Louisiana-headquartered Cisco Gold Partner with NOC (network operation center) operations supporting its clients with 24/7/365 support.
Although telecom and systems integration have been GDS’ primary moneymakers in the past, about three years ago GDS recognized physical security as a complementary offering to its IT and telecom expertise. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a school, a healthcare provider, or a law firm, controlling access to buildings and video surveillance systems is top of mind for everyone,” says Ned Fasullo, chief marketing officer at GDS. “For example, it’s difficult these days to find companies of any size that don’t require security badges.”
To keep ahead of the IP video surveillance trend, the integrator made a decisive move to become experts in this space. The process, which entailed a complete internal restructuring, took nearly three years and now is finally starting to bear fruit for the integrator.
One of the primary changes GDS made after recognizing the burgeoning opportunity in video surveillance was to certify its technicians, project managers, and salespeople to sell IP video solutions and to market its expertise to the various market segments where it saw the most growth potential, including education, healthcare, manufacturing, and petro-chemical.
Many integrators get bogged down during the certification process, which is one of the most confusing aspects of becoming an IP video surveillance expert. Specifically, learning which licenses, certification, and training are required for state, municipality, and within a particular industry can be daunting. The state of Louisiana, where GDS is headquartered, for example, lists specific “electronic protective system” licenses and examination fees on its website (http://sfm.dps.louisiana.gov) detailing prerequisites for firms to install surveillance systems. For instance, to become an authorized “full burglar alarm, access control, and CCTV” provider and installer in Louisiana, a company needs to obtain (at a minimum) six distinct licenses (types B, C, D, D-T, E, and F) at $250 each, which are renewed each year at $50 each. GDS currently has two post-sales engineers and two cabling services technicians certified to provide installation and support, and it’s planning to train up to six more employees before the end of September this year.
Many municipalities add additional regulations to the state’s requirements, which can require additional licensing or certification. After navigating through all that, VARs and integrators must be aware of still more certifications or requirements imposed by certain markets. For example, casino installations often require integrators to carry special gaming-commission certifications.
GDS simplified this process by first identifying the key vendor partners it wanted to work with — Axis Communications (see sidebar at left for more information about this partnership), Cisco, Lenel, Microsoft, Panduit, and NetApp — and then working with each vendor to attain the necessary certification, training requirements, and industry-specific insights. “We made the decision to pursue system architecture and installation certifications for our technical teams,” says Fasullo. “However, for our sales teams, we took a more holistic viewpoint, and instead of certifying sales reps on individual products we trained them on understanding the benefits of IP surveillance as a whole and how it addressed specific markets’ business goals. We also incorporated a lot of Web training to keep our out-ofoffice time to a minimum.” Presently, GDS has a team that’s dedicated to selling and installing physical security systems and structured cabling infrastructures to GDS’ midmarket and enterprise customers.
Identify Complementary Solutions To IP Video Surveillance
Before selling any new IT solution, GDS’ policy is to understand its key markets’ biggest pain points and then to look at the IT products — or combination of products and services — that can best solve those challenges. Among GDS’ top verticals, the primary business drivers are safety, security, and regulatory compliance. “For example, when we engage with decision makers in the education vertical, who can range from a principal or school board to an IT manager or facilities manager, the conversation is always centered on student safety and security,” says Fasullo. “I would say unequivocally that IP surveillance and access control are at the forefront of business-relevant discussions within education and our other top verticals. Generally speaking, it’s something everyone needs. Having an integrated solution gives school administrators the ability to remotely view activities anywhere in the school building and lock down certain sections within their facility if a threat occurs.”
In addition to the traditional security and safety uses for IP video surveillance, GDS’ clients use it for accident investigations, health and safety training, and enhancements to emergency procedures. “Some of the complementary solutions and services we see being integrated with video surveillance, besides access control, include license-plate recognition, thermal imaging, and direct tie-ins to burglar alarm systems and motion detection systems,” says Fasullo.
Don’t Keep Your IP Video Expertise A Secret
Currently, IP video surveillance-related projects account for only 5 percent of GDS’ overall revenue. However, this technology represents one of the fastest growing IT specialties within the company and is playing a key role in the integrator’s projected 17 percent growth this year. “We began putting a lot of marketing and presales activities into play in Q4 2013 that is beginning to bear fruit for us now,” says Fasullo. “Believe it or not, most of the traction we’re getting has come from lunch-and-learns and traditional sales calls, which is a minimal investment compared to TV or radio advertising.” Since the beginning of the year, GDS has experienced a 50 percent increase in its pipeline for potential IP video surveillance deals.
The integrator is also helping clients apply for state, local, and federal funding for surveillance and access control projects. “In the state of Louisiana, government grants have played a sizeable role in security surveillance and security deals,” says Fasullo. “Parents who send their children to financially challenged schools still expect the same level of safety and security for their kids, which is why the grant money is so critical for these projects.” Not coincidentally, GDS is seeing an increase in opportunities to sell surveillance systems integrated with access control, too.
Ned Fasullo, chief marketing officer, Global Data Systems
Besides the training and certification requirements necessary to become successful at selling physical security solutions, Fasullo has this simple tip to offer: Make a personal connection. “You’d be surprised at how many IT service providers think that email is the best way to grow a physical security business. When it comes to selling security, most companies recognize the fact that the service provider selling, installing, and supporting the solution is as valuable as the solution itself,” says Fasullo. “Some things just can’t be conveyed in an email; you have to be there in person.”
Maintain Your IP Video Expertise
Another important point to keep in mind with regard to making the transition to selling IP video surveillance is that this is not a “one and done” event. “Our technicians are constantly being recertified,” says Fasullo. “Thankfully, we had IP networking experience before undertaking this transition or it would have been a struggle. We were doing large-scale IT networks for school districts even before we became certified to sell IP video surveillance. Cisco has a much more demanding certification process than some of our other physical security vendor partners, which only requires our techs to be recertified every two years.” Fasullo estimates that the annual cost of recertification is approximately $6,000.
Fasullo is quick to point out that the investment in IP video certifications and training has other perks besides landing IP video projects. “IP video surveillance is more than just another device on an IP network; it visibly establishes our expertise with a new client and almost always leads to additional opportunities such as their phone systems, servers, and backup and recovery needs. After all, if we can earn our customers’ trust to protect their physical safety, why wouldn’t they trust us with the safety and availability of their data?