End users at ASIS 2017 in Dallas may feel overwhelmed by all the new technology on display, but often their integrator partners can offer a helping hand. Traffic continued through much of Day 2 of the ASIS exhibition, but the foot traffic appeared to slow considerably as the day wore on.

Convergint seeks closer manufacturer relationship

Integrators are prominent at ASIS and play an important role connecting end user customers with manufacturers' products that meet their need. "We are taking them by the hand and introducing them to our [manufacturer] partners and to the solutions," said Tony Varco, Vice President Security Division, Convergint Technologies. Convergint has a global presence and is one of several large integrators with booths at ASIS.

"We want a closer relationship with the manufacturers we work with," Varco said. Previously manufacturers may have preferred to keep their distance from end users, but not anymore. "They want us to facilitate the relationship between manufacturers and customers at a very high level," says Varco.

In addition to their booth presence, Convergint personnel are escorting their big clients through the exhibit hall, one-on-one, to view the latest products. "It's not about whiz-bang technology, but about the technology that can produce business results. We may spend half a day or several days, depending on the client. We map it out ahead of time, and talk with them weeks ahead about their objectives. They may not be looking to make an immediate investment, but more looking ahead three to five years: These are the things you need to start thinking about."

Digitising building systems

"It's not about whiz-bang technology, but about the technology that can produce business results"

Varco sees a trend in the market to digitise more building systems, including power-over-Ethernet lighting (using low-voltage LEDs), occupancy sensors, HVAC, fire alarms/life safety and physical security. These technologies are being combined in the "digital ceiling," which refers literally to the space above the ceiling tiles of a building and the network and cabling infrastructure that accommodates all the digitised operations for various functions.

As a large-scale integrator, Varco points to managing customer expectations as a challenge, both at ASIS and in general. "What the customer expects and what's being sold to them may be two different things," he said. "When solving problems and creating business outcomes, you have to control expectations so they understand what they're getting, and what they're not getting. If the customer doesn't believe they got what they were sold, it causes problems."

ADT and cybersecurity

Cybersecurity continues to be top-of-mind, both among attendees and exhibitors. Protection 1 (now ADT) is a company that has been talking about cybersecurity and other networking issues for several years now, dating back to before it was such as "hot" topic.

"It's irresponsible to just provide physical security without addressing what that entails in your cyber environment," said Morgan Harris, ADT's Senior Director of Enterprise Solutions. Ironically, security systems are often the cause of vulnerabilities on a network, and ADT's cybersecurity and network management approach seeks to minimise the vulnerabilities.

Cloud services are another hot topic at ASIS 2017
 Avigilon Blue is a subscription-based cloud service that enables integrators to manage more sites with fewer resources

ADT's network operations center offers health management, network services and cybersecurity to business customers. Services that previously targeted national commercial accounts are now being brought downmarket to help smaller commercial customers, which can be even more vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Meeting cybersecurity challenges

The entire market -- manufacturers, integrators and end users -- all have a stake in meeting cybersecurity challenges, according to Harris. "Everyone has ownership in it," he said. "It starts with the products, but cybersecurity also has to be considered during installation, operation and maintenance."

"We try to be out on the edge looking at vulnerabilities," Harris said. "If you are using our managed video recorders, we can push a patch out to the devices fairly quickly." He provided an example of a recent deployment of video systems at a national grocery store chain – more than 300 locations installed over 90 days. A couple of weeks into the deployment, a Windows vulnerability was discovered related to the NVR. Because ADT had a remediation plan in place, they were agile enough to solve the vulnerability problem and continue to deploy on schedule.

Leveraging Protection 1's historically successful approach to customer
service has benefited both customers and employees

Bringing back national commercial accounts to ADT (which gave up the business in a non-compete provision when the company separated from Tyco) is just one of the benefits of combining Protection 1 and ADT, which will use the more familiar ADT brand going forward. New national account business has also been added by recent acquisitions.

Cloud service platforms for video

Since the merger with Protection 1, ADT has been working to up its game by improving customer service, drastically lowering customer wait times, and replacing automated audio recordings with live people. Leveraging Protection 1's historically successful approach to customer service has benefited both customers and employees, who don't have to deal with as many angry and frustrated customers. Therefore, employee turnover is going down. "We are proud of the results we are seeing," said Bob Tucker, ADT Director, Corporate Affairs.

Cloud services are another hot topic at ASIS 2017, and Avigilon is the latest company to introduce a cloud service platform for video. Avigilon Blue is a subscription-based cloud service that enables integrators to manage more sites with fewer resources, and to add recurring monthly revenue (RMR) based on site subscriptions. A twist is use of "self-monitoring”, in effect, self-learning video analytics, to provide alarm notifications to bring attention to events as triggered by analytics. The customer can also view live and/or archived video through a browser. The system is powered by Microsoft Azure.