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What AV Integrators Need to Know Before Offering Security

The integration capabilities and recurring revenue model make adding security to your portfolio attractive. But there are many considerations to weigh if it’s the right fit.

Tim Albright

Here are AV integrators who find themselves being asked for security, CCTV, mass notification emergency communication (MNEC) systems, or other life-safety devices.

The role of today’s integrator is unquestionably expanding, and it’s an attractive prospect to further your reach by extending services into the security and life-safety arena.

“Our goal is to integrate the entire space,” says Steven Brawner of Pro Audio Georgia in Atlanta. That can be AV, lighting, HVAC or security.

“We want to be your full-service technology partner,” adds Matt Scott of London, Ontario-based Omega Audio Video. “Helping you manage IT, AV, security and lighting.”

So the big question is, should you offer all of these services? Security is a technology and just like a majority of your AV systems such products and systems live on the network, making the integration opportunity even riper. Let’s take a look at how integrators are working security into their sales and service portfolio.

Giving Customers Added Capabilities

Most business owners realize that one of the most expensive things they do is attract new clients. The time and effort put into prospecting, getting new contacts, presenting your case, and finally landing the first opportunity is tremendous.

Once you get your foot in the door with a new client through an AV bid, how do you convert that to a security opportunity?

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“Oftentimes we want to get to know the customer first — what are their areas of concern, the key pain threshold,” says Chris Wilhelm of St. Louis-based Tech Electronics. “You might choke them if you give them too much information up front.”

“Oftentimes we want to get to know the customer first — what are their areas of concern, the key pain threshold. You might choke them if you give them too much information up front.”  —Chris Wilhelm, St. Louis-based Tech Electronics

The integrators we interviewed all agreed you need to take a look at the system as a whole. Getting into the client’s daily use of each system is key. Then, find out the features they would like in addition to the normal use cases.

Do they want card access or the ability to restrict doors during certain times? Do they have a dedicated security team constantly monitoring the CCTV feeds or will they need a recording device to capture and replay the video recorded at a later time?

“Things are becoming very intelligent,” Wilhelm adds. “We can integrate AV systems into security, card access, mass notification systems, and more.”

This would lead one to look at designing the overall system a bit differently. Take a typical control processor. These devices live on the network now and normally would have a connection point to the other disparate systems. This means your “AV” control system can interface with the other systems.

You can take a feed from the security system to let you know that your guest presenter is on premises. They could have a key card, security code or biometric entrance scan. Once this happens the scheduling software will know that they are using a specific conference room.

This would cause the display to power on, lights to come on, and turn on the sound. It can also restrict access to the system if the presenter is early and doesn’t have the rights to that room yet.

In addition to security you can also add mass notification. “In school alerts or visitors centers, how do you notify everyone from the parking lot to the classroom,” asks Wilhelm. “You have got to protect everybody on your campus, and the right media needs to be deployed.”

Once again, this could certainly mean connecting a control system you are already installing into a mass notification system. This can be used to fire relays that lock doors, announce via an intercom system the threat that has been detected, turn on displays and issue warnings visually, and take over digital signage systems. All of this integration is possible and should at least be considered as part of your offerings.

The Pull of Recurring Revenue

Another major reason integrators consider security is its link to a common topic in AV media, presentations and blogs: recurring monthly revenue (RMR). When you add security to the bucket of technologies you offer you are positioning your company with a ready-made RMR source. As margins continue to shrink on the boxes we all sell, a recurring revenue model is essential to keeping your firm solvent.