From green buildings to green technology, the security industry is taking steps to become part of the environmental cause that is currently picking up momentum across the world.
Natural disasters have intensified over the past few decades — blizzards reaching places never thought possible by environmentalists, tsunamis becoming bigger and stronger — we struggle against these disasters which have been exacerbated by global warming caused by pollution. Talks about the necessity of being environmentally friendly have been shoved under the rug in favor of fast and profitable industrialization, but the evidence of the degree of damage caused is forcing many to recognize that the inconvenient truth is no longer be a topic that can afford to be dismissed.
Steps have been taken slowly, but surely. Currently, many companies offer low energy consumption products and software as a form of limiting wasted energy, with an added bonus of reducing energy costs for end users.
Low Energy Consumption
Some may believe low energy consumption products cost more, but this is not necessarily so. "Hybrid has become a popular and important term in video surveillance," said Roger Shuman, Marketing Manager, Exacq Technologies. One NVR produced by Exacq Technologies for the low energy market allows "up to 16 analog channels and 24 IP channels on a small unit," he said. Video processing is not all done on one server, which is why a smaller processor may be used, thus reducing energy consumption. "It uses one fourth to one fifth of the power a traditional IP video would use, saving end users hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the unit."
QNAP's NVRs are RoHS compliant, and the Intel Atom CPU and Linux-embedded platform is "efficient in lowering the power consumption of the system to as low as 18 to 108 watts during operation," said Jacky Cheng, Product Manager, QNAP. They are also "standalone surveillance systems which operate without extra software or PCs," Cheng said, saving users the need to buy extra hardware that would consume more energy and generate waste.
An estimated 40 percent of carbon emissions generated in the U.S. are from buildings. Thus, the need for green construction has risen dramatically and the industry is expected to grow to as much as US$140 billion by 2013, according to a study by McGraw-Hill. This has many security companies recognizing the need for systems that address a very important aspect of green buildings — saving overall energy consumption in a building. "We expect smart buildings to grow in numbers dramatically in three to five years," said Nick Chong, Marketing Director for Converged Building Services, Cisco Systems.
Lenel Systems, a UTC Fire & Security company, uses its software to reduce energy by "utilizing sophisticated security components to track facility utilization and activity, then sharing the information with the building management system in real time," said Eric Joseph, Global Manager for Architectural, Engineering and Consultant Support Services, Lenel Systems. By doing so, a lot of energy can be saved from being used in unoccupied areas, Chong said. "We offer a framework where we can manage the building and allow it to be more efficient in running."
Joseph said, "because of the green movement, people look at existing systems and try to make minor investments in these systems to create major improvements in energy reduction." This makes the software appealing to users because it allows for less waste from the disposal of existing systems, while saving money from the need for new parts.
The software takes advantage of pre-existing IP networks in buildings. "Managing energy consumption in these buildings is done in networks because everything is connected to it," Chong said, "This is all IP-based, which also means less materials are used in terms of cabling."
Not wasting energy also means saving on energy costs. This may mean putting more money upfront at the start of the project, but Chong said, "We have to look past today and look at the long term. So spending money now means saving in the future."
"The intelligence from the security system and the building management system are able to provide a truly integrated green building," Joseph said.
Not all companies have the capabilities or the resources to be a green company, but the ones that can have already taken huge steps, and view green practices as a company's moral responsibility. Companies such as Cisco and Toshiba have intensive company green policies. "Cisco is committed to sourcing, manufacturing and selling all of its products in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. We believe it's the right thing to do," said Edna Conway, Senior Director for Advanced Compliance and Social Responsibility and Customer Value Chain Management, Cisco Systems.
With "Committed to people, committed to the future," as Toshiba's slogan, it stresses its pledge to good environmental management. Almost all of Toshiba's sites of business are also ISO14001 certified.
Compared to Cisco and Toshiba, IQinVision is a smaller company with less disposable resources, but their Megapixel cameras are greener than PTZ cameras to begin with. "Unlike PTZ cameras that rely on mechanical moving parts to cover a wide area, HD/megapixel cameras use electronic pixels to cover the same area with better detail and less power — in some cases less than four watts — whereas a PTZ camera can use up to 30 watts. Combining the power consumption with the high level of maintenance required for PTZ cameras saves a lot of energy," said Paul Bodell, CMO of IQinVision. Their step to becoming greener has also taken them to make the headquarters of IQinVision in California a WEEcompliant building. Beyond just producing environmentally friendly products, these companies are adopting an overall greener lifestyle and company philosophy.
"Cisco has identified what we call the five big 'impactors' that we believe are most critical to achieving our green goal," Conway said. This includes Green house gas emissions; energy; water and land use; and wastes and materials management.
Toshiba is also doing what they can by "making an effort to increase the number of eco-products," said Yasushi Odachi, Chief Specialist for the Industrial Camera Systems Department, Toshiba. "All products from Toshiba are green products that fulfill the guidelines," which includes all the surveillance security products sold in the North American market.
The process for producing a green product is largely different from producing a regular product. Every step taken from the design process, to manufacturing and distribution of the product, must be done in the most environmentally friendly way and met in-house and outside regulations.
For many companies, their products include parts from outside suppliers, thus procurement guidelines are set by companies to assure their final products are green. At Toshiba, they have a procurement guideline which they follow closely in order to maintain their green promise. They request all of their suppliers be active in the green cause by engaging in green practices. Conway said, "Delivering the best possible green results require taking a holistic view across the value chain. Our priority is to reduce all of these impactors as much as possible — from the sourcing process through production and delivery." Bodell said, "Our quality testing and burn-in is done in the U.S., but we use third party suppliers for some of our assemblies. To ensure these suppliers are environmentally friendly, we have a full time staff in the region to audit their operations. Also, our products are ROHS compliant, which forces us to work with environmentally sensitive components."
The manufacturing process itself is adapted to fit environmental objectives. Conway explained how Cisco has eliminated the water wash of printed circuit boards during the manufacturing process, allowing them to reduce water use by 20 million gallons annually. Bodell said about their manufacturing process, "We pay special attention to types of components and finishes used on our cameras, and avoid things like lead that are environmentally unfriendly."
Although company green policies are stringent, one must also resign to the fact that complying to all the environmental derivatives, such as the WEEE, RoHS, EuP, Battery and REACH directives, would be nearly impossible. "Some initiatives change a lot over time and are more difficult in standards to follow," Bodell said. With that being said, companies are still trying to fulfill as many directives as they can, and the RoHS compliant has become something many companies have been able to achieve.
Packaging and transport
Less packaging means less paper wasted and less space taken up in shipping containers. Bodell said, "We have invested in redesigning our packaging to be greener. We also try to limit air shipping by buying several months of inventory at one time and use bulk freight shipment to cut down on our carbon foot print." Cisco has "reduced packaging materials by 32,000 pounds and eliminated the equivalent of 32 transport containers," Conway said.
Benefits from going Green
Low energy consumption cameras, asides from saving on energy costs, also have the added benefit of lasting longer. "Electronic devices don't like high power, especially in hot climates — it is like running your engine at its top speed. Electronic devices that are not running at their limits will last longer and have better long-term performance," Bodell said.
Business-wise, some argue that going green may cost more money for the company, whereas some say it actually helps save company assets. Odachi said, "More money is spent on management of green policies, parts, and manufacturing and maintenance for green products, compared to regular products. We, however, do not reflect those costs in the market price, thus our profit decreased in producing high cost green products." But he stresses that Toshiba's green policy is necessary. "When we sell products,” he said, “the evidence of it being green is demanded."
Cisco, on the other hand, believes that going green has actually saved them more money. "Increasingly, we are seeing that going green is good for business. Just this past year, for instance, reducing carbon emissions, waste production, and natural resource demands resulted in more than US$12 million in annual cost savings," Conway said. Also, "sustainable packaging has netted savings over more than US$1.8 million per year."
Bodell seems to agree with Conway, and reports that "investing in packaging that has less material will cost less to make and ship."
The Future of Green
As is the case with all things that are new on the market, there are skeptics who do not believe the green movement is here to stay. But from what we can tell so far, the green movement in the security industry seems to be moving forward, and it has proven good results. Green awareness has brought on a demand for green technology, and Conway said, "'Green is an increasingly important business opportunity for those companies who can deliver solutions that are competitive in the marketplace.” She invites us to look at the advantages of going green and said, "Green innovation can be a highly effective lever to drive other kinds of product or services innovation," such as when they enhanced the quality of the boards during their search for an alternative to the water-washing process. Bodell expressed his support for the green movement and said, "At the end of the day, it is the right thing to do."