Video Systems for Safer Schools, Facilities

May 4, 2020
Getting over the fear and loathing of CCTV can provide locksmiths with a new market base and added revenue.

Locksmiths looking to expand their business horizons can capture new market sectors and the recurring monthly revenue (RMR) that comes from working in venues, such as small to midsize public schools, by adding CCTV. At first, venturing beyond the comfort zone of door hardware might seem daunting, but adding video surveillance and detection capabilities can be accomplished by working with the right vendor and investing in the proper training and certification.

In this month’s technology roundtable, three of the world’s largest video surveillance vendors provide their insights into the opportunities proactive locksmiths can achieve by jumping into the CCTV market as knowledgeable video solutions providers. Joining Editorial Director Steve Lasky for our panel are William (Bill) Brennan, president of Panasonic i-Pro Sensing Solutions; Mitch Mershon, the medium business program manager at Axis Communications; and Mike Tabola, a senior product manager with Johnson Controls.

Locksmith Ledger (LL): Considering many locksmiths might not offer video security as part of their business package, discuss the basic business principles required to add CCTV, including what you might have to learn and how to become certified, knowing your market and how that community can best be served, and the process for choosing a vendor that fits your business and your staff’s skills.

Bill Brennan: For the locksmiths who are already involved in some form of electronic access control, the migration to video surveillance won’t be dramatic, as many of the same technical principles apply to both legacy analog and newer IP video system technologies. For those locksmiths who may be looking to make the initial leap to electronic video and/or access control systems, Panasonic i-PRO can assist them by providing a myriad of support tools and training options, which can lead to certification as an authorized Panasonic i-PRO reseller. We have several requisites to become an authorized reseller, and our sales representatives work hand in hand with prospective partners to understand the business plans and guide them through the certification process.

Regardless of current technical capabilities, locksmiths who are thinking about expanding their offering with video surveillance can take advantage of tremendous new business opportunities, specifically with small and medium-size businesses, which they may already be servicing, and with new potential customers in their area. To help ease their point of entry into the surveillance business, Panasonic i-PRO offers a comprehensive portfolio of solutions that are easy to install and operate yet offer exceptionally high levels of performance at the right price for this growing market segment.

Mitch Mershon: The first step in incorporating video security solutions is choosing the right vendor as a partner. With numerous solution manufacturers to choose from, it’s important that installers do their research and identify a manufacturer that will help them achieve their goals, especially if this is their first installation. When considering a vendor, it’s important to choose one that best aligns with the installer’s company culture and needs to ensure they’ll successfully grow alongside them as their business requirements expand. 

Next, we recommend that installers start with simple solutions first and incorporate more-complex solutions later. By starting with smaller, more-basic installations, companies can refine their processes, hone their skills and get their team comfortable with new solutions before incorporating elaborate analytics and networks. Finally, take advantage of vendor offerings and on-site/off-site sales and technical-support teams. Most video solution manufacturers offer sales, installation and technical training to their customers. Installers who use these resources will ensure their customers get the most out of their solutions. These trainings will also inform installers of important details about their state’s licensing requirements and expectations for state and local certifications for video installations.

Mike Tabola: If locksmiths have limited knowledge of the video security business, one of the most important places to start is by acquiring the knowledge needed to service this industry. The most expedient way to is to hire someone who has knowledge of the industry or to work with someone who has security-video industry knowledge. Going it alone would be extremely time-consuming and not very cost-effective. Finding a vendor to work with is largely dependent upon the market the locksmith wants to target. Assuming the locksmith wants to target small, low-camera-count deployments, they’ll need to find a vendor partner with the equipment and technology to match their market needs.

LL: After a locksmith decides to become a video security solutions provider, most will be looking to sell and service smaller systems of 10 or fewer cameras and even provide analog in addition to IP technology. Please discuss how a locksmith should perform an initial security assessment for small schools or businesses and how to manage the project after the job is secured.

Brennan: The zones of protection start with peripheral areas, such as parking areas, warehouse/delivery areas and all points of entry and exit to a facility, or restricted areas within a facility. From there, an assessment of internal areas that require surveillance needs to be conducted. For example, retail establishments would want to have cameras trained on any areas where cash is exchanged, as well as shopping areas that may include store aisles, exterior nurseries or lumber yards.

For professional businesses, such as medical, accounting or legal offices, they should consider placing cameras in waiting areas and lobbies, and any open spaces, such as lunchrooms, supply rooms, etc. The amount of coverage is dependent on the perceived threat for specific areas or previous areas where there have been documented or suspected problems. Once the zones of protection have been defined, the technicians responsible for planning the system can then begin the process of selecting the specific camera models and recording and management solutions that best meet the user’s specific needs and budget.

Mershon: Becoming an expert video security solutions provider takes time, product knowledge and a solid understanding of basic security principles. First and foremost, it’s important to understand their end user’s ultimate goals: What are they trying to secure? What areas do they need covered? What technologies will they need — thermal imaging, IR illumination, remote access? By identifying key details, like ideal distance to camera, mount height and camera location, locksmiths can work with end users to use tools provided by solution vendors to determine the best cameras for them. Finally, it’s always helpful to have on-site images of the areas you’ll be working in. Take photos of the site and the surrounding areas under consideration. Not only will this help sales teams determine the best solution, but it also will help you remember key details about the project.

Tabola: I wouldn’t recommend considering an analog offering for these deployments. The security industry has transitioned to an IP-based architecture, and analog systems are becoming commercially difficult to obtain and maintain. A locksmith who is looking to get into the CCTV business also needs a basic understanding of how a security system operates. Assuming a locksmith has limited if any knowledge of CCTV systems, it may be best to work with someone in the security industry who has some knowledge of how to install and operate a CCTV system. In this way, locksmiths can acquire knowledge over time about security systems, while still bringing in a revenue stream that can support the business. Managing a CCTV installation is like other technical installations, from a sound project-management perspective. These management skills will go a long way in terms of having the correct components on hand and scheduling the resources to install the system in a timely manner.

LL: What technologies would you recommend for locksmiths who are playing in this small-systems landscape, and what are some best practices they might appreciate to sell, implement and service smaller CCTV systems.

Brennan: No two installations are ever identical, so the selection of systems components will vary to accommodate various conditions, such as available and changing lighting, physical architecture, available infrastructure and more.

Mershon: For smaller projects with limited budgets, it’s important to start with the basics and incorporate cameras, VMS and recording hardware. From there, more-complex key solutions can be incorporated, including public-view monitors, door stations and network audio. For public-view monitors, end users have a few options for solution type, including all-in-one TVs with built-in cameras, cameras with HDMI output or separate video decoders. As for end users looking to secure their entrances, network door stations with audiovisual identification and remote entry control offer a newfound sense of security and freedom. Lastly, by incorporating network audio solutions, end users can improve overall security with event-triggered announcements, make live or scheduled on-site announcements and offer customers discrete background music.

Tabola: The security industry has transitioned from analog to IP, so the only technology I’d recommend would be an IP-based technology. There are a variety of low-cost IP solutions available in the market that would be ideal for small camera-count deployments. While not quite commercially available yet, a cloud-based infrastructure would also be viable in the future. This eliminates the need for premise-based recorders, while enabling video to be stored directly in the cloud. This business model will ensure locksmiths benefit not only from the initial installation revenue, but the RMR from servicing these installs. In terms of best practices, locksmiths would need to have the talent and knowledge to position, install and service these IP-based CCTV systems. 

LL: From your perspective, how can a locksmith ensure success in the video security market after they did their homework and selected a vendor partner?

Brennan: First and foremost is to work with suppliers who can deliver the guidance, expertise and product reliability they need to build their business and deliver best-in-class service and support to their customers. This can make the difference between a successful ramp-up and a failed attempt in this competitive market space.   

Mershon: For locksmiths looking to expand into the video security market, it will be incredibly important to maintain a relationship with a vendor partner. Their vendor will be the subject-matter expert for all available technology and will be critical in providing unique solutions to specific technological problems. These SMEs will also be a great resource for learning new technology. The video security market is evolving rapidly, with new cameras and products coming out regularly. Fully understanding these products and how they can enhance portfolios is imperative to succeeding in the video security market.

As these new technologies enter the market, it’s important to keep in touch with end users and check in to see if they’d be interested in expanding their existing solutions to incorporate the latest technology. While on site with end users for locksmith-related work, it will be important to learn the art of the upsell. Introduce end users to the latest available video security solutions and inform them of how they could improve their business. Busy end users won’t always have the time to think through every available solution, but as a solutions expert, you can recommend the best available technology to get their wheels turning and eventually expand the project.

Tabola: Success in the video security market is not much different from succeeding in any other market. If the locksmith stays on top of the market and takes advantage of the latest emerging technologies, they’ll be able to offer their customers the most up-to-date solutions. The other aspect to ensure success is to service their customers, so they stay satisfied and comfortable with the relationship. Word of mouth in a small industry is a powerful tool, and as long as the customers of the locksmith are satisfied with the services they receive, they’ll pass this on within the industry.