By Linda K. MonroeUnderscoring its philosophy as a true business partner interested in the needs of its customers, security solutions provider, SimplexGrinnell, Westminster, MA, hosted its second annual Security Advisory Council Summit in Orlando, FL, February 6 and 7. A cross-section of approximately 20 industry leaders, consultants, and security directors from Fortune 500 companies were invited to this year’s event, with discussions oriented around current security trends and issues, as well as the delivery of integrated security.“As a premier systems integrator, SimplexGrinnell is committed to making sure we understand the needs and requirements of customers in this new age of security,” says Dave Baer, vice president, Sales and Marketing, SimplexGrinnell. “Our goal is to be the preeminent systems integrator for high-end security applications – a world-class organization that provides customers with the best and most comprehensive single-source solutions. The input and feedback we receive at the … Summit is invaluable. It sharpens our focus and gives us tremendous insight into what customers are thinking and experiencing today.”Not surprisingly, security budgets have increased, according to those in attendance. “Pretty much across-the-board, there’s a 10- to 25-percent increase in security budgets this year,” explains Kevin Maynard, director of Marketing at SimplexGrinnell. “That is in operational budgets and doesn’t include special projects. Consultant services and the implementation of new types of security, whether it is X-ray scanners or metal detectors, are considered outside the normal operational budget.”Education is ParamountWhile last year’s dialogue revolved around IT concerns in security set-ups – quantifying bandwidth, space requirements on a network, and interaction with other programs – this year’s Summit focused heavily on system integrators. In particular,” notes Maynard, “it seemed to be on what people are not getting from system integrators.“There are a lot of companies that can deliver a $40,000 security system, but not a lot that can deliver a $400,000 or $4 million security system,” he continues, underscoring the fact that SimplexGrinnell has moved from its status of manufacturer to that of product-neutral integrator. “The single biggest area of interest was training – or the lack thereof.” Training, according to Maynard, seems to be required in large systems on several different levels:• For operators. With the single highest turnover rate in terms of staffing, this group needs training that is site-specific, as well as readily available refresher training on demand. The consensus appears that this could be simple, packaged manufacturer-level training available on CDs or the Web.• For administrators. “These are the professionals who are really running the system and they’re applications-specific,” says Maynard. As such, they need training from the systems integrator because they must know how the systems work together and how they can achieve their corporation’s goals.”• For senior managers. Maynard notes that this group needs training on the benefits of integration and how the systems work.• For end-users. In many ways similar to the high-level management training, end-users need to know what’s in it for them, as well as a few basic procedures.The Real Value of IntegratorsThere is no standard defined for integration, because there are different levels of integration in technology, explains Summit attendee Mark Scaparro, executive vice president of Sales and Marketing at HID Corp. (www.hidcorp.com), the Irvine, CA-based leading supplier of proximity access control products to OEMs. “An integrator is often thought of as a company that installs more than one system,” he says. “To me, however, an integrator is not just the company that goes out and hangs equipment, it’s the group that manages the information. The sophistication comes with the ability to design software that manages the information these systems generate.”“In the security industry, most integrators are very good at understanding their products and their technology. But how many can walk into Buildings magazine and understand what your business is all about, and understand your threats? To add value, integrators need to take a very consultative perspective of understanding their customers’ businesses and risks, and how a customer wants the technology to overcome and mitigate those risks.“The other common theme that came out of the meeting,” recalls Scaparro, “is that although technology is great, the customer is not buying technology – they are buying a company. More specifically, the company that can connect all the dots is the one that is going to be seen as one of the top integrators.”Topical TechnologyTechnology continues to drive the industry, and two areas were cited as major trends, according to Maynard at SimplexGrinnell.“One of the trends is toward increased levels of identity verification, meaning there are a lot more access control doors going into place. Whether these are in the form of turnstiles or doors with cardreaders, biometric readers, etc., the amount of identity verification required to enter facilities is increasing dramatically,” he says.HID’s Scaparro concurs with this assessment, noting that access verification is moving from single-level and dual-level verification to tri-level verification. That’s where smart card technology goes beyond the passive technology offered in proximity access control. He explains: “Single-level authentication involves presenting a card to a reader, and means ‘something you have.’ Dual-level authentication indicates ‘something you have and something you know.’ So, you present a card to a reader and then you enter a PIN. Tri-level authentication signifies ‘something you have, something you know, and something you are.’ It verifies that your fingerprint solely belongs to you, and corresponds to a particular card and a PIN.”The second trend in technology is with digital video recording, according to Maynard. “Since September 11, many companies are realizing their [recording] just doesn’t cut it. They can verify that activity is going on, but the resolution in many systems is not high enough for valid identification.“Additionally, we learned that there’s a need for a range of product offerings in this area: low-end digital video recording; a mid-range with some slick, user-friendly features; and then a high-end networkable solution. Digital video recording seems to be getting into a mature phase, where there are probably hundreds of manufacturers. However, it’s going to settle out to a half-dozen [companies] quite quickly.”Convenience, PrivacyBoth Maynard and Scaparro note that security systems and personnel have a greater visibility following the events of September 11 than previously. Where once systems were designed to be non-obtrusive and personnel were trained to fulfill a public relations role, “It’s gone from being very covert to being overt to actually being a tool,” says Scaparro. “The reason it was so overt was that, in a sense, security can be very inconvenient, because security is controlling. Since September 11th, however, surveys among corporations and their employees indicate people don’t mind the inconvenience in order to have a more controlled security environment.“If people accept more degrees of security and inconvenience as we move forward, however, one of the challenges to an integrator or to a manufacturer will be how to manage it so it doesn’t feel like ‘Big Brother.’ ”Scaparro offers the following advice for those seeking security solutions: “Don’t move too fast. Go step by step. Do your research; find a company that understands your business and, most importantly, knows how to apply it effectively and maintain it long-term. In other words, go slow before you go too fast.”Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.