Are You An Integrator Or A Dealer??

I see these terms used on the boards a lot. I have noticed that sometimes the context varies. Care to share your explanation of the differences?? I would be interested in the manufacturers comments as much as any.


The way I see it used typically is:

  • Integrator - resells and installs
  • Dealer - resells but does not install

Installer - installs but does not resell?

That could be one definition of installers, but there are not many who install but do not resell equipment. Technology deployment / rollout companies for retailers are the only example I can think of. They just generally run the cable, mount, patch in, and call a Network Operations Center (NOC) for commissioning and focusing assistance.

...but there are not many who install but do not resell equipment.

That could be changing, if Amazon gets its way...

So you do not see a "Systems Integrator" as someone who integrates systems, but rather someone who installs systems that have already been integrated together. Doesn't that make them an Installer?

If a parts and smarts company writes a custom piece of code that bridges two systems together in a custom interface, and provides the products to the end user, but subs out the install… are they a dealer to you? (Based on above) And what do you call the install sub?

Looks like most people above consider themselves integrators, so I ask the question - what are you integrating? Lets agree that if your VMS of choice writes integration to your camera of choice (or vice versa) that the VMS is the one truly doing the integration, not you. You are just plugging in parts that have already been integrated.

"You are just plugging in parts that have already been integrated."

90%+ of 'integrators' have never done custom software development work for their 'integration' projects (I am sure many of you who comment on IPVM have, so no need to protest as my point is that it is overall uncommon but does happen).

That said, yes, you could choose that criteria for defining system integrators but then hardly any currently labeled 'system integrator' would pass.

As an accurate description of what companies call themselves, the reality is that 'integrators' call themselves 'integrators' when they install and re-sell, but do not believe that they need to regularly include custom software development to be eligible for calling themselves 'integrators'.

You're the first to add the "Systems" to "Integrator". We are Surveillance Integrators. We integrate our surveillance solution into their existing security/IT/whatever systems.

Can you provide an example of something that wasn't integrated, and how you made it integrate?

I'd consider us an integrator even if we've never written code inhouse. We just recently completed a project that involved bringing about 5 different systems together on a common mass notification platform, involving IP phone and intercom systems, SMS messaging using CAP protocol, and a low level integration we did ourselves by connecting the mass notification head end to an access control system via TCPIP device/output-to-input relay for emergency lockdown.

We may not have written any of the code ourselves, but we coordinated and directed the efforts of different vendors and different department heads, across different organizations, and would never have happened if we didn't make it happen. It was literally like herding cats! But we used our experience and knowledge of security systems and traditional IT systems to translate between all parties the concepts and high level overview of how things would happen and to overcome objections and obstacles.

So the only thing missing was writing code ourselves, but would an person be an integrator if they were writing code only with the knowlege that when A occurs, make B happen, but little to no concept of the grand overall plan?

I would consider myself an integrator. I have no interest in selling products without installation services. I would rather install customer supplied products than sell hardware without install to an end user.

Definitely want to be an integrator.

Both, though the only time I think myself as a dealer is when I sell a pass-through sale, which sometimes lead to new installs. Then we morph back into an integrator.

My two cents from what I have seen. Integrator came from the AV/Automation side of things where you would integrate and automate many different hardware and software pieces (pool, lighting, shades, AV equipment etc). Dealer came from the security/burg side of things. Surveillance and ACS companies were known as service installation companies. With the growth of video surveillance and the many integration opportunities, it became a natural fit for these companies to take on the name "Systems Integrator". From the manufacturer side dealer and integrator are terms that are loosely related.

Distegrator ????

The biggest problem here is the prefix 'dis' means 'apart' or 'deliberately seperate'. (ie: Distributors seperate supplies to discrete orderers.)

No installer wants to be known as 'disintegrator', which is really close to your hybrid term:

Maybe the terms being tossed around are not mutually exclusive. One company can be Dealer, Integrator and even Installer in some cases.

Here is why (as I see it):

Dealer--One who has a formal connection to one or more specific manufacturers or manufacturers programs. You may buy direct or you may buy through distribution, but a Dealer typically has committed to (or achieved) a certain specific sales volume, training initiative, or semi-exclusive arrangement (geographic and/or type of end-user leads given) with one or more manufacturers. For example, a company who is "Gold" certified with Axis, or who is authorized with Lenel.

Integrator and Installer--To me, 8-10 years ago there used to be quite a wide gap between most Integrators and Installers. An Integrator often was taking disparate systems and taking action to make them perform in some cohesive way. The opening of an access controlled door after 8PM trips a relay that pans the nearby PTZ to view that door and sounds an alert via another relay.

Back then, the Installer, conversely, put the access control system in, as well as the cameras/DVR, and often even programmed all of it, but never made the two systems interact with one another.

Today, except on the very high end, that gap is much smaller between Integrator and Installer. This is because today's security/IT technology is making basic integration simpler than ever before--which has changed some of those early day Installers into today's Integrators--and a near interchangeable use of the terms in many cases.

Fair enough. We can revisit in a couple years when Amazon realizes labor is a bit more challenging to manage than pushing boxes around.

Speaking as an end user the terms integrator, dealer and installer are synonymous to me. So don’t lose any sleep over it!

This might be the longest semantics thread ever. I think that the definitions are so loose as the industry changes every year, no matter how slowly. Older card access systems that I have seen have so many boards, relays, and other equipment I would say it is infinitely more complicated than some custom code. On the other hand the manufacturers have done quite a bit to simplify "integrations" over the past decade which makes integration much less difficult. Is it still integration if you are buying two products from different manufacturers and getting them to talk without custom code or bundles of relay boards? I think yes, but that is clearly a matter of much debate.

Im from Oklahoma and we use the term redneck term "installer" instead of "integrator". Kind of like some states say "soda' while others say "pop". They are the same thing though.

Installer/Integrator: one who phyiscall installs/integrates surveillance stuff. Doesnt matter if they make a profit off the products or not.
Dealer: One who sales products only

Boom, simple as that.

  1. Systems Integrator
  2. Integrator
  3. Value Added Reseller
  4. Reseller
  5. Dealer
  6. Installer

Titles listed in order of protection they offer from being labeled a trunkslammer, (most to least).

Agreed. You could also describe this as a ranking in relative prestige / branding.

In our market, the term "Dealer" is typically used for simple alarm companies focused on intrusion systems and monitoring for RMR. The term "Integrator" is used to identify those companies that are in the business of selling AND installing integrated systems.

minicomputer-era terminology (IMO)

"dealer" - someone who sells to the end customer and who buys from a channel.

"installer" - team member at dealer who hangs the camera on the wall

"integrator" - business who sells to the end customer (possibly reselling gear, as a dealer) and provides added value by making multiple components work together in the deployment. Integrators typically have figured out how to live on revenue sources other than the margin on selling the iron.