The video surveillance market, like most all of the security industry during the coronavirus pandemic, has become a roller coaster ride for manufacturers and installing security contractors alike. Alan Green, who serves as VIVOTEK’s director of sales in North America, joins the conversation to discuss the market upheaval, new technology opportunities and weathering the storm.
Given the vast economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, what challenges or demands are you seeing security dealers and integrators confront with their end customers?
We have not seen an outright cancelling of projects but rather some strategic postponements. Several national partners focused on retail customers have indicated that new installations are expected to continue in the second half — although at a slower pace — but that retrofit locations will be pushed off until likely next year.
Healthcare seems to be carrying on in general, even beyond the focus on temperature screening and thermal offerings, which we are not participating in. Different areas of the country obviously have different concerns but overall, if one area is underperforming, another area seems to be picking it up.
VIVOTEK is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Describe how the pandemic has altered the company’s strategic focus in 2020 in the United States. Were there particular product releases or other aspects of the business that have been put on hold or delayed?
Unfortunately, it did indeed impact our celebration plans for North America during ISC West and also globally, as we were to have had partners from around the world into Taiwan, in order to participate in our VIVOTEK Distributor’s Conference.
As for product releases, we have just begun rolling out our Crowd Control Solution [CSS] in July. This is a people-counting solution geared for SMB, grocery and big box stores, in order to eliminate the need for personnel at the entry points to the business.
Can you provide some advice for integrators on selling an offering such as the Crowd Control Solution?
While products like our CCS can provide technology tools to help end users in a time like this, it’s incumbent on both our team and that of the integrators to become more consultative in their roles, in order for these products to really act as the intended solution.
Our intent is for this to eliminate the need for an ongoing employee at the door, an ROI scenario, to keep track of people coming and going while letting the customer know it’s OK to come into the business, or to wait until someone else exits. Our CSS solution can also support multiple door scenarios and is capable of aggregating all door counting data from all counting devices, and thus helping business owners to open up more doors and increase traffic flow while still maintaining overall crowd occupancy for the safety of shoppers.
This functionality though is dependent on how the customer sets it up to notify them how their business is reaching capacity and then what to do about it. This is where the salesperson has to become more consultative and help the business owner think these steps through.
How did the company bring the CCS to market in a timely fashion to meet this historic moment? Was this effort a huge corporate focus?
We have been selling our Stereo Camera into the business intelligence [BI] space for several years, and we’ve worked very hard for it to become a stable and highly accurate counting device. Therefore, as this pandemic has carried on and social distancing as well as reduced business capacity has taken hold as part of the new norm, it only made sense to develop a simple solution around it and deploy it to help in these strange times. This is something that also has global appeal, so it fits well for development within VIVOTEK.
What other technology or service opportunities do you see for dealers and integrators that are even more attractive now than just six months ago?
Clearly, thermal is on everyone’s mind but at this time it has as many pitfalls as it does potential benefits. I think one of the areas that is of interest to us is that of the crossroads between security and building automation. Not just using surveillance in a traditional role but tying it together with other systems and devices to create a new way of doing things.
This could include using license plate recognition [LPR] to interface with hands-free systems such as building HVAC or lighting controls, thereby creating new ways of opening up a building at the start of a day. Or the same device providing notification at the end of a day, to perform a hands-free handoff of students to parents after school. The new norm is going to be a hands-free and touchless society; surveillance becomes the “eye” in that new world of possibilities.
The pandemic has opened the door for opportunists and overzealous vendors to propagate misleading product claims. What advice do you have for dealers and integrators to safeguard themselves and ensure they are providing their end customers with quality products?
Become a time traveler and detective. Look back six short months ago to see how they were marketing their product. Read the documentation and scour the specs. If it wasn’t being marketed to do then what it’s being asked to do now, well, let the buyer beware.
How do you see this crisis affecting the video surveillance industry overall, looking out to 2021 and beyond?
I think the small business installer is going to have a tough time of it for a while but I think the midsize integrator will survive and thrive, as long as they’re smart with their planning and purchases.
The higher-end VARs will be fine unless real estate takes a nosedive and new-build projects actually get canceled and not just postponed. In general, our industry is pretty resilient and there are many applications for surveillance solutions — as long as one is nimble. VIVOTEK, as the true OEM we are, has certainly been just that in our first 20 years and we look forward to helping address the challenges of the next 20 years.
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