The Morphing Integrator

I have noticed, and I’m sure most will agree, that over the past 20 years the electronic security industry has morphed.

And, while change is good, and the whole should, in theory, be greater than the sum of its parts, in practice we’re clearly seeing gaps that I don’t believe are getting closer to being filled. Let me explain.

At one point, we had security integrators. They knew video surveillance, access control, alarm point monitoring, and the physical aspects of those disciplines:

  • Where to position cameras for effective coverage;
  • What type of access control credential was appropriate for each particular application;
  • How to program alarm responses for effective escalation.

They knew what could be squeezed out of every kind of technology — and that in and of itself was a mixed blessing.

While this often got us surveillance cameras run over 2,000 feet of RG59 cable and twist-on BNC connectors, it saved a lot of people a lot of money, and delivered a picture when “good enough” was the key requirement.

The IT Crowd
We also had IT people. They were on the periphery at first, often involved in access control because these systems were server-based and ran on their networks. As video surveillance became server-based as well, recording on computers instead of VCRs, they still tended to stay on the periphery.

I remember large CCTV projects where the IT people were brought in during the planning process and backed out gracefully when they learned that we were talking Petabytes of data — they didn’t want to deal with that scale.

But the die was cast. As IP video started gaining traction and the Internet led to larger and larger data silos, the IT person stopped leaving the security meetings. As everything became networked, and DVRs began to give way to NVRs, the skill set became more disciplined and training and certifications became more important. And, in many cases, the IT person became the security person as a natural extension of their duties.

Training for converged skillsets
But, unfortunately, the skillsets have not merged as effectively as the technologies.

Today, we see many integrators that know how to hook up an IP system but can’t tell you where to put a camera, leading to extremes — huge coverage gaps or way too many cameras. We also have integrators that can put the system in but have no idea how to handle static IP addresses, port forwarding, or the other intricacies of remote access. In fact, it’s hard to find someone who is relatively well-rounded, and when you do find that person, they tend to be extremely busy and hard to pin down.

For the most part, the industry’s answer to this problem has been training. This is great in theory but difficult to implement in practice.

People learn by doing, and pulling people out of the field and putting them in the classroom often gets pushed aside because of business demands. No one is running with a surplus of staff these days and training is the first thing to get kicked to the curb.

Consider supplementing training with mentoring. Putting an experienced IT person on the same team as an experienced security person is wasteful at first, but may ultimately create two well-rounded people who can pass along both skillsets to others.

And, even if the cross training isn’t completely effective, at least each person will know who to call when they get into a jam!

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