Security Integrator DOES NOT EQUAL A/V Integrator

I wandered into the ADI booth at ISC West and had a conversation with EVP of AV sales for the distributor. His self-described priority was to 'introduce AV integration to a security-centric installer base'. He was a nice enough guy, but he seemed to be way out of line with his expectations that he could pull more AV product through Security channels.

We talked about this point in depth - I explained to him that in numerous IPVM discussions, our readers indicate their involvement in AV projects is somewhere between 'extremely infrequent' and 'nonexistent'. I further explained that the 'true' AV integrators tend to look down their noses at 'Security Outfits' moonlighting as pro AV designers/installers and they surely would take exception that one company could do both.

He countered to me by saying that the 'AV snobs' are just that, and the technology used in A/V design and install can quite easily be picked up by a security integrator. He 'reinforced' his point by showing me line cards from certain ADI surveillance brands that also produce A/V equipment.

While we ended our discussion in a friendly way, I can't help but think this poor ADI EVP has the proverbial 'tough row to hoe' ahead of him. I'm ready to confidently say that security integrators will NEVER be significant in the A/V integration game.

What do you think?


I could swear that I read some answers on this and even a response from Brian. Was I dreaming?

Having done both and then some, I agree that the two categories require some different skillsets and knowledge but, at least in my case, have found that experience in multiple areas is synergistic. I often find myself applying principles learned on one job at another. That includes stints as a bench tech; in satellite communications and in computer systems and networking.

^Agree with everything Carl said - I've done both as well (in fact, my only formal tech training is as an audio engineer) and while the two types of systems are markedly different, and do each require separate specific skills (determining best camera angles, vs. fine-tuning HD displays, for example), there's a LOT of crossosver as far as how things work, how to test and troubleshoot, how to install and mount, etc.

With both fields becoming more and more IP capable, the POTENTIAL for integration is growing quickly, even if the implementation is not. We see plenty of talk in here about integrating POS and access controls with surveillance, can A/V be that far behind?

Sure the prospect is there, and the technology is similar. Security guys will always dabble in all sorts of stuff, especially the ones unafraid of new challenges and unfamiliar technologies.

However, let me pose this question: How many of you integrators also install/design central vacuum systems (which is an ADI distributed category)?

A/V seems an extreme longshot for commercial security integrators. I am interested in hearing from someone who collects significant business revenues in both categories simultaneously.

A/V seems an extreme longshot for commercial security integrators. I am interested in hearing from someone who collects significant business revenues in both categories simultaneously.

In fact, several years ago, we took some A/V subcontract work on several food sites... an Ontario-based supplier of ours had contracts with their parent company, and so farmed out some of the BC work to us. Since my co-worker and I both have A/V backgrounds, it was an easy choice to take the work (especially since CCTV jobs were a bit slow at the time). Ironically, a sort-of competitor of ours who does more A/V stuff and dabbles a bit in CCTV, had the CCTV contract for most of these same sites...

So while we don't go actively seeking A/V jobs, we're not afraid to take them on, either.

However, let me pose this question: How many of you integrators also install/design central vacuum systems (which is an ADI distributed category)?

Funny enough, we were looking at this a little while back as well to fill in the slow times and expand our client base... again, not something we went actively seeking, but at the time, it was something we were asked about. I've done a couple central-vac systems before, it's not difficult...

Sure the prospect is there, and the technology is similar.

It wasn't that long ago people were saying the same about video and access controls... now we see from other discussions, the two are becoming more and more intertwined. I'm not saying intergrating A/V and CCTV is going to become a world-changer overnight, I'm just thinking it's not such a wild concept and I won't be a bit surprised to see more requests for it.

Here's the thing: There are tons of basic "A/V" jobs that security folks could do. I generally tend to think that most integrators worth a damn could do most low-voltage systems. So can they buy an amp and some speakers from ADI and bang up a paging system for someone? Sure. Can they mount a project or a display and plug it in without blowing it up? Probably.

The problem I see is that some of the stuff ADI was pushing at the show was WAY over the heads of many integrators. They had a Soundcraft board mounted in a rack, pushing their audio product. I'm sorry, but having done commercial sound and A/V, I would NEVER trust someone without good history to install anything close to that. They're going to mess it up, and some little church is going to end up with a humming, popping, feeding back little sound system installed by Trunkslam Security. And installing true matrix mixing switch and/or commercial control systems? If a security guy tried to tell me "sure, I can do that.", I'd run away as fast as I could.

The short of it is that it's like anything: lots of people can do the easy part passably. Doing anything mid-level, let alone "enterprise", that's another story.

Oh, and before it's asked, yes, I did work for a company pulling as much, if not more, revenue from A/V, and I'm a former Infocomm CTS. This also likely makes me a snob about it, but I'm not going to feel too sorry for that.

All true, Ethan, but by the same token, an A/V installer could probably slap up a Costco CCTV system and have it work reasonably well... but you certainly wouldn't trust them to design and build a complete ground-up system for Carl's casino. Then again, I wouldn't trust buddy from Trunkslam Security to do that casino job, either, even if he is a "dedicated CCTV installer". When you start talking about high-end industrial-grade systems in ANY field, you have to start eliminating candidates pretty quickly, regardless of whether they specialize in that field or not.

Look at it this way: these are a lot of the same arguments we see about IP video - requires an IT engineer, etc. True, perhaps, for the top-of-the-line... NOT necessarily true across-they-board.

With the emergence of IP video AV dealers are now selling security, VoIP dealers are selling security.

There is all sorts of crossover going on. Was with one dealer yesterday at an Intelligence unit (excellent dealer) by the way however as he mentioned most security dealers do not have the IT background to converge it all together.

I agree with much being said however we are down the road already.

Our company is a turnkey, end to end solutions provider- one of the only outfits in our market. We are able to (legally) contract work technically from under the building to the building itself. Our licenses span general engineering to electrcial and general building. For larger design/builds, having this approach gives the customer 'one throat to choke'. It also, however, requires us to train every employee significantly because you simply cannoth hire people that know communications, data, video, etc. This type of model is really only fit for larger companies as naturally the jobs grow in size and the service work is quite tremendous. Large design/builds often want to see strong relationships with large electrical contractors, such as Helix or Sasco.