System integrators and surveillance

CCTV Handbook 2022 Integrated Solutions

System integrators (SIs) are caught in the middle when it comes to catching flack in the security industry. One the one hand they have pressure from channel manufacturers and vendors to sell more products, promote certain brands (even if it takes six months to get stock). From the other side, end users want solutions now that not only work perfectly but should be able to do amazing things out of the box. As an SI noted in the round table we reported on earlier in this issue, “everyone always remembers the projects where you messed up”, no matter the reason.

Some insight into what SIs are experiencing in the market can be gained from this year’s report on the Surveillance round table, but there is more.

In addition, they are required to keep the skill levels of their staff current, which not only includes skills related to security systems, but also networking, cybersecurity and integration with all sorts of IoT and regular business systems. Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked two SIs to tell us how they have pushed through the COVID period and how they are addressing the market.

We spoke to MJ Oosthuizen, director of ESS (Electronic Security Solutions) at G4S Secure Solutions (SA), one of the biggest SIs in South Africa and on the continent, as well as Stallion Security, a company that has made tremendous strides in expanding and improving its technical services over the past few years. Our questions to Stallion were answered by Kevin Monk, the MD of the company’s electronics division; Wayne Schneeberger who runs the offsite monitoring business; and Mark Kane who recently took the helm as MD of Masc Solutions.

Naturally, our first question is how business has been over the past year. Are we seeing a recovery after the economic horrors of the ‘COVID period’?

Oosthuizen says: “Definitely. Merely look at the number of tenders that have been released, and more importantly, awarded. There is definitely a bigger appetite for clients to re-invest in security again.”

Monk says business is still slow, but with an increase in enquiries, However, “prices are being driven hard by budget constraints and also by SIs, vendors and distributors ‘racing to the bottom’ with regards their pricing to win work.”

Schneeberger agrees, but offers a positive outlook, saying more projects are being moved from inception to execution, while Kane echoes that there is more interest, but warns companies are naturally still cautious.

Empty shelves

Of course, it goes without saying that the global supply chain chaos has been detrimental to all SIs (and everyone else). However, Oosthuizen notes that the problems have also “created more opportunity for dialogue and to unpack what the client needs/requires versus availability. It also ‘forced’ the SIs to explore other product offerings, which has brought other (better offerings in some cases) to the table.”

With Kane stating that the outlook is not all that positive at this stage, Monk says the industry has adapted and sourced alternatives. On a somewhat positive note, he expects to see normality to “start coming back over the next two years.”

How important is the surveillance market?

While both companies provide comprehensive solutions that expand far beyond surveillance, we asked if surveillance forms a large proportion of the projects they do or if customers are sweating their surveillance assets and spending on other areas of security? Moreover, given the drive behind enhancing analytics with AI, are companies adopting AI systems readily or do they still tend to rely on the same functionality as in the past (motion detection, line crossing etc.)?

Security as a management tool (access control, time and attendance, and business intelligence) is in the forefront of customer spend, notes Oosthuizen. “We need to keep in mind that security is often a grudge spend, and investment into infrastructure, or at least IT infrastructure, often takes preference.

“While some traditional security measures in place today do have a significant impact in terms of decreasing crime or preventing theft, video analytics gives security officers a technological edge that no surveillance camera alone can provide. If implemented correctly, with a well-trained operator and officer on the ground as response, the combination can bring significant cost savings and enhanced risk management to the client.

“However, as our market is still recovering, a well-prepared implementation plan staggered over a period of time needs to be presented, combined with the risk assessment view in order to assist the financial discussion.”

Kane says clients are sweating their surveillance assets for longer, and “while there is interest in video analytics, we do not see any ground-breaking advances in the basic functionality over the past few years. It’s more about the initial scoping and design of the solution and understanding what the clients really need.”

At the same time, Schneeberger says he sees the “beginnings of a move in smaller projects to leverage their surveillance investment to do more by looking at AI analytics”. To this Monk adds, “Additionally, clients are becoming more knowledgeable with regards to AI and the benefits to their operations, not only from a security point of view, but the camera is now a tool for edge AI. This is turning reasonably reactive systems into proactive systems as we add edge intelligence.”

Changing to a services model?

Following the lead from the ICT market, there are many options in the security industry to change the SI business model to a service-based process. Instead of large projects with irregular paydays, some customers want to pay all-inclusive set monthly fees over the duration of the contract to allow them to budget security as an operational expense.

Oosthuizen says there is interest in the service-related model, however, the fixed (three to five) year budget still rules the land. “Flexibility is the key and combining a tech-driven solution to enhance the officers deployed on a site can bring cost savings during this period, which has led to some very positive interactions with clients and a big increase in the requirements for more detailed site risk analysis.”

From the perspective of Masc, Kane says the market is looking at a combination of both. “We find that our clients do budget for spend every few years and maintenance contracts tend to be negotiated after project completion and the expiry of the guarantee period. Stallion Electronics does offer turnkey solutions for a monthly cost and clients are buying in to the monthly service options at an increasing rate.”

Monk says there has been a huge increase in the opex model inclusive of Stallion’s Platinum maintenance agreement. “The clients want to fix their costs over a five-year period in order to know what their spend is for the next five years on electronic security. With Platinum maintenance, the cost is inclusive of all call outs, service and maintenance and all stock replacement during the period of the contract.”

Looking ahead

One hopes the economic destruction cause by the COVID response is a thing of the past, or that at least there will be no new lockdowns and such. We end by asking how the SIs see their company and the market in general changing over the next couple of years, specifically when it comes to surveillance operations and integration into other security technologies and additional business or IoT technologies.

Integration is a big drive for Oosthuizen, and he notes that “various platforms are in different stages of conceptual trials. However, as with everything ‘new’, the long-term robustness of every solution requires proper investigation and testing. One thing is certain, the days of ‘just a camera, just a reader, or just a door lock’ is coming to an end. How and what data you can derive from these devices, will determine the product mix per application.”

Kane believes this is an exciting space to be in right now. “The Stallion Control Room adds a level of capacity and functionality that very few traditional security businesses in South Africa enjoy. With the ever-increasing cost of manned guarding and the advances in technology, there can be no doubt that this is a service sector that will continue to develop rapidly over the next few years.”

“With Stallion acquiring Myertal and KPI to enhance its offsite facilities in recent months and launching the new S-IOT facility and the Stallion Virtual Security Intelligence Centre (V-SIC), we are gearing ourselves for the future of IoT,” states Monk. “We have been one of the leaders in the field of integrated security between technology and manpower over the last three years. Going forward we see offsite monitoring as one of the pillars of IoT in the monitoring facility, with AI playing an important role in collecting data for the intelligence centre.

“The success will depend on how service providers mine the data and present that to the client. This will also influence how that will benefit the client’s operation as a security, health and safety, and a management efficiency tool. Integrated with the Stallion Asset Reporting and Maintenance Technology, this creates a full ecosystem within our V-SIC.”

While we can’t say the recovery is complete, it does seem like the security market is once again showing signs of life with a cautiously positive outlook from those above. What is clear is that the traditional way of selling and running security operations is over, with technology playing a more important role in the collection and analysis of data to create actionable information. As in other articles in the handbook, it’s not a matter of camera brand or number of pixels, but rather integration, AI and usable information.


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