IT-centric players on the rise
Editor / Provider: Hayden Hsu, asmag.com | Updated: 2/26/2013 | Article type: Hot Topics
Advances in physical security technologies and system migration to IP networks have ushered in a new breed of IT-savvy distributors and system integrators, while blurring the distinction between the two at the same time. With a more in-depth understanding of network capabilities and software development and deployment, these “new players” are offering more possibilities in terms of solution offerings, applications and business models, which are particularly appreciated in times of uncertainty and slow growth. This feature looks into one such player that is able to bring more to the table — and perhaps something to be modeled after.
An IT systems integrator and managed services provider in Germany and a value-added distributor worldwide, Controlware made physical security part of its portfolio since 1997 when owner Helmut Woerner invested in a German company called VCS. VCS was a developer of IP video products known for Videojet encoders, network cameras and Vidos management system, so this was a natural progression for the company. IT security and communication solutions are still the core of Controlware; the introduction of physical security solutions was more of an extension to the core products and services than a transitional move, since both sit happily side by side.
Adding value to both worlds is the ultimate goal. Controlware is not a “box mover,” but with value-added services and support engineers. The Controlware ethos is about helping integration and installation partners deliver advanced systems that meet customer expectations on all levels. It is all about assisting partners as much as possible and making them look good in the eyes of their customers and end users. Dedication to IP-based security systems and the specialist IP knowledge and experience developed over the course of more than a decade set Controlware apart from the others. It does not have its own branded product range like some distributors, which allows it to be more agile and provide independent, best-of-breed solutions for installers and integrators.
Not only does Controlware provide products from well-known names such as Axis, Bosch, Cisco, Genetec, JVC, Samsung, Sanyo, Siqura and more, but it also adds value with system design and support services. Controlware also has IT specialists for networks, security, IT management, applications, operation and service.
Riding the Wave
Controlware's internal strategies and policies are highly flexible and constantly adapted to meet actual business requirements and conditions. Inventory levels have not had to be altered as a consequence of the recession, since agility in the back end of the business has been a fundamental ingredient for Controlware from Day 1. Continuity and long-term customer loyalty, as well as varied/extensive know-how in information and communication technologies, are crucial to ensure that it has the flexibility to meet challenges head on.
Building long-term relationships with customers and understanding user requirements allow Controlware to identify the products and solutions that are truly needed. This is achieved chiefly through its value-added services that include design and consultancy. By working alongside installers and integrators and adding value and support services, Controlware gains a better understanding of the solutions that users require than traditional distributors and box movers. Controlware also maintains close relationships with suppliers, by understanding what its solution partners' products can do and how they fit into the overall project while meeting customer needs.
Controlware bench tests hardware and software rigorously in order to understand them thoroughly and identify their strengths and weaknesses. This enables the company to identify at what level to position the products and specify the correct product for clients. It often arranges hardware “shootouts” or soak testing in challenging environments to prove or disprove manufacturers' claims. It actively tests and retests equipment in different scenarios to see how equipment performs and what the limitations are.
Ironing out the Kinks
Obviously, adoption differs from region to region. In high-density markets, such as the U.K., which have large amounts of legacy analog equipment, adoption is slower due to equipment churn. In real life, IP-based systems are not for everyone. For very low camera counts, there is still room for cost-effective DVRs or recent HD-SDI products; but for the majority, IP-based systems and the benefits they bring are the way to go. A couple of years ago, one manufacturer claimed that IP surveillance systems are expensive and unreliable compared to analog/hybrid CCTV systems. According to its marketing material, an IP-based system for 750 cameras would cost US$2.9 million, and the hybrid system proposed would only cost $1 million. Controlware put these claims to the test by developing a new system based on the components and products specified in the article. The result was a much more cost-effective IP system than the proposed hybrid system, with a new control room fit-out on top.
That is not to say everything with IP is fine and dandy. Too often, we have manufacturers blaming the bit of kit that does not have that manufacturer's name on it, like the switch for instance; so, we would like to see more interaction between complimentary manufacturers such as switches and servers/storage on one side and camera manufacturers on the other, for approved/certified compatibility. Also, IP-based video surveillance must become more plug-and-play as sometimes manufacturers make products too complex or add too many features, and they think that is the only way to make the products stand out from the crowd. There should be more interaction with other IP devices, as too often security systems drop into silos of their own fields rather than thinking about how they can work together to better alleviate end-user headaches.
After 2009, the company has seen a few projects put on hold, but continued growth in the physical security sector is still anticipated as the market continues to move to IP-based systems. Positioned with the right business model, the right skills, and the right people and experience, Controlware will continue to incorporate new ways and hardware/software to help installers and integrators take advantage of the benefits of converged technologies.
Revenues are expected to grow in line with the general growth of the IP market share. Users are starting to see the benefits of IP but are not being given clear guidance and direction due to a massive knowledge gap in the industry from some consultants, system integrators and installers. The Controlware IP product line will also be expanded through the additions of IP access control and other IP-enabled technologies, such as ALPR, VCA, intrusion detection and unified management systems, so that it continues to ensure that the needs of its customers and its customers' customers are met.