The IP network is evolving into the central nervous system of every organisation. Audiovisual (AV) systems, access control systems and surveillance are joining voice and data on Ethernet cables and WiFi connections.
These are huge markets with massive new opportunities for the IT channel to grow and help its customers achieve more for less – always a popular message. The surveillance market is even bigger and expanding, analysts have predicted.
Resellers with strong IP networking expertise can take advantage of these major markets. Surveillance, access control and AV have very distinct characteristics both as segments and as applications in the eyes of the customer.
Surveillance is normally a grudging purchase; customers normally introduce or enhance it in response to an incident or under pressure from insurers or customers.
Most security installers are smaller companies that have been around for a long time, are quite set in their ways, and are taking a long time to transition to IP. This is encouraging manufacturers to produce dumbed-down IP offerings.
This approach can result in users inheriting separate networks for just one section of a buildings system.
Access control is a major component of intelligent building management systems, and includes features such as tail-gating and people counting, visitor management, time and attendance management.
It can have security aspects, and can also monitor dwell time, footfall, resource utilisation, and more.
End-points include biometric sensors, cameras and card readers that can be integrated with face recognition or other security software. Access control has essentially always been computer based, so IT resellers are probably the furthest up the technology learning curve.
AV contrast is often a champagne sale; by which I mean that customers fall in love with the idea of large screens in reception areas or store windows. AV resellers are good at using jargon to present themselves as experts, especially to customers who speak the same "language".
For the IT channel, understanding the technology is the easy part: it's all data. Once you understand IP, it is no longer necessary to have someone focused on one discipline.
What will come as a shock is the need to climb a ladder to install some of these systems. Yes, you heard right. Computers, printers, phones and other end-points tend to live at floor level. AV, access control and surveillance kit is often hung higher up, in the corners of buildings.
IT and AV channels will converge: be sure about that. Customers will gravitate towards a single-solution approach, rather than sourcing products and services from a list of different IT, surveillance, access control and AV suppliers to get the network up and running.
In some cases, installers are each fitting their own network, giving them three or more networks to manage, with discrete sets of parts in a rack. IT resellers alone have the expertise to amalgamate them to reduce infrastructure costs, giving the customer more for less.
AV, access control or surveillance installers are unlikely to totally master the complexities of installing and managing a computer network. For this reason, the IT channel has the whip hand.
IT resellers can offer so much more. There is strong potential to take market share from rivals that aren't identifying or seizing the opportunities available. A narrow box-shifting approach is the kiss of death too. And if IT resellers choose not to get involved, someone else will.
Carl Hayesmore is networking and IP technical sales manager at Midwich
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