$8 Billion Utility Georgia Power Enters Surveillance Business Offering Avigilon And Genetec

By: Brian Karas, Published on Jul 19, 2017

Utilities are typically considered major customers of surveillance integrators but one utility, Georgia Power, with $8+ billion in annual revenue and 2+ million electrical customers is now rolling out a video surveillance offering featuring products from major players in the industry, such as Avigilon, Axis and Genetec. 

Is Georgia Power setting the bar for utility companies to enter the surveillance market? IPVM spoke with the architect of this program at Georgia Power to understand their go to market strategy, including installation and integration of the devices. 

In this report we analyze Georgia Power's offering, and the potential to impact the security industry.

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Polls / ****

Comments (42)

I fail to see the value offered here. Why would a homeowner or commercial business subscribe to a video surveillance service that cannot be tailored to specific needs but rather is limited to where lighting poles are located? seems absurd on its face. Perhaps their true agenda is to eventually sell the service to municipalities to monitor streets and public spaces.

As for integrators, there will be little money to be made. Utilities are notorious for creating cookie-cutter pre-determined ( by them) "price lists" for services rendered in large roll-outs and for maintenance. The utility generally purchases all the equipment and software and the "integrator" would become a contractor who simply is a hired hand, who can take it or leave it. 

You make some valid points. In talking with Georgia Power I did not hear any reasons why they are strictly limited to installing on poles, just that it was their preference for now to keep the installs easy and under their control. If customers like the concept of the service, and in particular I can see them liking the monthly billing option instead of lump-sum fees, but want cameras on buildings or interior spaces, there is no reason they cannot do that.

"Longer-term, it would be unusual for Georgia Power to continue to use security integrators as a middle-man, when they already have several tech's on their own payroll who have the capabilities and equipment to handle the full installation process."

100% agree with this.

Further, I believe that if Georgia Power could buy surveillance products from the manufacturers they've chosen to use for this program, they would bypass using security integrators right out of the gate.  

The most certainly will buy the surveillance products directly- they will be the "integrator". Based on my experience with other utilities They would likely utilize existing electrical contractor vendors to install the gear at a fixed cost.

I think Georgia Power is looking more at municipalities vs residential as the main source of $$ for this program.

There is a northern ATL suburb called Brookhaven that is in the 3rd month of a 3 month SiteView test using existing municipal light-only poles.

 

i would definitely tend to agree. Municipalities are hungry for video footage of all types, be it for "red-light cams", traffic monitoring or law enforcement but lack the budgets and expertise to commission, build and maintain city or county-wide fiber networks and data centers necessary to do such things.

Utilities piggybacking surveillance networks on their existing utility infrastructure and then offering it "as-a-service" to government agencies is a potential winner for utilities. Or loser, depending on the level of regulatory burden and liability imposed upon the utility in order to contract with government for public surveillance services. 

I must point out that Chief Yandura of the BPD misconstrues quoted numbers on LPR hits:

“Monitored in real time, the Atlanta system regularly alerts officers to stolen vehicles and wanted persons, and directs their response along the vehicles’ escape routes, effectively preventing police pursuits, Yandura stated.

Last year, the BPD’s mobile LPR devices that can be used in police vehicles scanned more than 350,000 license plates resulting in nearly 6,000 alerts to stolen vehicles and wanted persons, Yandura said."

Based on historical data from other LE departments who use LPR devices, those numbers would more accurately be broken down as:

350,000 license plates scanned, with 6,000 alerts =

1 stolen car hit

2 (maybe 3) actually 'wanted' individual hits (driving their own car with their own license plates)

5,997 suspended license/no insurance hits

 

But even broken down that way, it is returning valuable data to the police department. Agree?

of course it is.

My beef is not the data provided..... it is the way that proponents falsely characterize what LPR actually provides to LE.

They talk fleeing felons and stolen cars.  In reality, LPR is primarily used as a means to identify scofflaws and poor people unable to pay driving-related fees and fines.

Agree? (edited in after OP)

I do not doubt that LPR identifies more than just felons or stolen cars. Are you arguing that people with outstanding fines/fees should be ignored or excluded? How should the city pursue collecting those fines?

You are misreading my comments to assume that I am arguing something that I am not.

I am not arguing the validity of this technology nor am I arguing that LE shouldn't use this technology to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently.

I am arguing simply that proponents of LPR consistently misconstrue the actual targets of the technology to be bank robbers and dangerous felons, when in actuality it targets those I mentioned above: scofflaws and poor people unable to pay driving-related fees and fines.

 

If I may jump in here, I will say I have to agree with #2's suggestion. In NY, LPR applications are installed in hundreds of contract roving vehicles that comb lower-income areas and boot every car that has an outstanding parking ticket balance on it, amd LPR cameras are proliferating everywhere to generate speeding ticket and red light fine money.

I suppose Pitching LPR to Catch bank-job getaway cars sounds much more heroic and public-safety minded than booting Joe-six pack's car outside his house.

Mostly forensic

"The most certainly will buy the surveillance products directly- they will be the 'integrator'."

How will they do this?

I would figure, call up Axis, tell them they want to buy 10,000 cameras, and sign a partner agreement, then hire a design consulting engineer. done. 

If they could do this, then why hasn't every super large end user done this already?

If manufacturers sold directly to end users (even those large enough to pretend to be actual security integrators) then the channel would collapse.

Yes thats correct and eventually the channel will collapse, as the hardware becomes more commmoditized. Its a vicious circle as the manufacturers, due to excessive competition within this industry, must constantly seek out new customers outside the saturated and finite integrator segment.

In order to survive this, the integrator must not see itself as a "dealer" for any product. It must see itself as a service provider first and foremost. the hardware and software must be in the background. Most integrators remain in the "dealer" mindset. They want to have exclusive rights to a restricted product, and then enjoy a comfortable protected margin. 

The PBX -phone system business had much the same mentality and it was decimated by the as-a-service model. Same will happen to "dealer" type security guys. Nobody wants to hear it, but that is the way its going. 

An important distinction in their case is that they have technicians and equipment to do their own installs and service their own equipment. Also, they are reselling the equipment/service on to actual end users. I would not call that "pretending".

It is different than WalMart or Home Depot wanting to buy cameras direct for their own store surveillance systems.

I used the word 'pretending' to distinguish a company with install techs that can attach a camera to a pole and get power to it (Georgia Power) with actual security integration companies.

Do you consider Georgia Power to be a security integration company?  And if so - why can't they just buy their hardware/software solutions directly from the manufacturers?

Do you consider Georgia Power to be a security integration company?

No, and neither do they consider themselves a security integrator. They recognize they lack experience in this capacity, and thus use outside integrators to fill that gap (this was covered in the report).

Could they become an integrator though? Absolutely. 

 

"They recognize they lack experience in this capacity, and thus use outside integrators to fill that gap (this was covered in the report). "

I dismissed this comment from Georgia Power outright as something that any interloper into the channel might say to alleviate concerns of existing traditional security integrators as they seek to establish a beach head position with which to attack up-channel.  

"Could they become an integrator though? Absolutely."

How?  If they are able to do so, this should concern every existing security integrator.

How? If they are able to do so, this should concern every existing security integrator.

Your line of questioning makes it sound as if you believe there is some giant barrier to becoming a security integrator, and I know that you know this is not correct.

"How" would no different than any other company or individual that has started an integration business, or branched their existing business into security.

If they see potential for profit here, they will hire some people, get the proper certifications or licenses in the areas they operate, buy some tools, attend manufacturer training, and hit the ground (I am simplifying here, since you already know all this, as I suspect most of the other readers do as well).

Should other security integrators be concerned? Probably, but in reality, their level of concern is probably no different than it was when Securadyne started up, or Convergint bought up yet another local integrator, or Security 101 opened another location, etc. 

 

All of your examples are companies that are actually security integrators - just large and hungry for acquisition to expand. They are simply using a different go to market strategy than small, regional (traditional) integrators.  They were never end users.

Georgia Power is an end user.

Just because they can position themselves as a provider of power poles to facilitate surveillance camera installations does not make them a security integrator.

If end users are allowed to become 'dealers' of channel hardware/software then the channel that protects actual security integrators ceases to do that. 

 

Does anyone really believe that a power company is going to send out an army of experienced, credentialed security experts to consult with customers, engineer a solution tailored to their requirements and budget, and then serve as their trusted adviser going forward in all matters electronic security? Hell no! they will devise a generic plug and play service offering, and if you should have a problem, call, be put on hold for an hour and then they will be there next week sometime between 8am to 4pm. 

This is nothing security integrators should be sweating. Who cares where the utilities buy their cameras. This is a bolt-on utility offering, not security integration. Security integration, if actually practiced, is something entirely different. It encompasses an understanding of the interaction between  physical terrain, operational considerations, a wide array of electronic systems, the people who interface it, and serving the client as his trusted adviser. completely different businesses. 

However, if one considers themselves more of a "dealer-installer" for a specific brand of surveillance solution, well, yes I can see why they would be concerned. 

Agreed.  This why I noted below wondering who they determined the "competition" in the market to be, or if they consider this to be a niche space.  I think likely competitors here would include consumer grade solutions like cable company cloud security products.

I do think that this could drive benefit to integrators through an increased consumer awareness of pro-grade brands such as Genetec and Axis, and if more companies follow suit nationally could actually serve to combat the "race to the bottom" with camera product pricing.

That's an interesting take on things. Not unlike how Apple pushed the mobile phone industry up in price and functionality rather than in the direction it was headed before the introduction of iphone - the commoditized, "free" flip-phone.

whereas ten years ago people demanded a free phone when signing up for service, now they gladly pay $ 800.00 for an iphone or $600.00 for a Galaxy. 

Would it not benefit everybody if that dynamic was introduced into our industry?

I am personally more concerned about what will happen when the customer wants part of the CCTV system on the perimeter and you have to use GA Power Poles to accomplish this. They could effectively make it so cost prohibitive to use their poles that no one besides themselves and "select partners" could do the work. It sets the stage for something much bigger IMO. 

It differs from state to state, but my understanding is that the utility pole licensing fee is set by public utility regulatory agencies and the utility cannot just raise it at will, especially not to discourage competition. They can, I suppose, bury you in bureaucratic delays though. 

I wonder what their liability will be regarding exposure to hacking feeds?

Likely the same as most everyone else at this point: none.

Is Georgia Power just a power company or are they also an ISP?  How are they providing connectivity to the cameras?

They have partnered with ISPs, including Verizon, for LTE backhauls. In other cases they may do PtP wifi to the customers building and existing connection.

I would think this is more of a play for ISPs over power providers.  Around here the power companies own the poles or the city/town/borough owns them (I assume this is the same for them).   The ISPs have to pay per connection point per pole to mount anything on them.    I could see this being attractive for city/towns/boroughs for citywide deployments but unless they move into the true integrator status and install systems in/on customers buildings I don't see this being much of an issue.  

I can say we have been very successful partnering with ISPs to install IP video and WIFI solutions.  They have the knowledge but don't have the manpower and/or time to do it in house from what I have seen. 

Any thoughts on how they will handle 3rd party integrators working on GA Power Poles? I know my company has had to deal with them in the past and it was not a pleasant experience. Kind of worried about them trying to block us from using their poles in the future now.

I love the fact this makes professional grade non-proprietary product more accessible to homes and businesses.  As they were assessing the market, I wonder who they identified as key competitors; I have to assume offerings such as proprietary cable company surveillance products, and consumer grade cloud services had to come up, or if they truly consider this to be a niche space. I find it hard to believe alot of their customers were banging on the power company door to supply this product, it just doesn't feel like an intuitive place for a consumer to look for security solutions.

While the light pole mounting option is a weirdly restrictive install location, it does present physical security benefits associate with illumination, and will likely be a factor in camera performance as well (possibly mitigating some storage/bandwidth issues, and increasing probability of evidence retention).

That poses an interesting question. Who are they competing against? If the cable company or ADT is installing 25dollr Hikvision cameras connected to a back end cloud, and this power company is deploying the most expensive products in the industry - Genetec, Axis, Avigilon - that is a pretty wide chasm there. 

 

I have a couple of thoughts on this, for whatever they are worth (very little).

First, while I may have missed it, I'm very curious to see how they are providing connectivity to Stratocast or pulling video from onboard those H4ES cameras. That is something that wasn't mentioned (unless I did miss it), and will be really interesting to see how they make this thing work.

Second, with Genetec included here, the possibilities are somewhat endless. The ability for municipalities, cooperative law enforcement agencies, et al to deploy a substantial number of cameras without an insane infrastructure to support them, and then potentially federate them together to create one enormous system, is really cool to think about.

Third, to whomever mentioned that they doubted customers were beating down their doors to provide this -- I would agree with you that it's unlikely customers were asking THEM to install cameras, I would bet that some enterprising individual at Georgia Power got tired of saying "no" to all of the requests to mount cameras on their power poles, and realized the potential for what he had on his hands. At the end of the day, I have a feeling that this "partnership" is about what amounts to extortion, but Georgia Power is totally within their rights to do it since they own and maintain those poles.

I will be watching this one with interest. Lots of cool things could come from this one.

First, while I may have missed it, I'm very curious to see how they are providing connectivity to Stratocast or pulling video from onboard those H4ES cameras.

You did not miss it, I left that out of the report because the answer was along the lines of "whatever works best". Sometimes the connection will be a 4G/LTE setup, sometimes a cable modem, sometimes a PtP or PtMP wifi back to the customer's building to ride the connection they already have.

Does this open the door for them to become an ISP?

I do not think there was anything previously preventing Georgia Power from becoming an ISP, so this likely does not change anything in regards to that.

 

CEO needed to give his son a pet project.

The comment I have is based on my work with the government.  It shows that business has a better grasp of the bottom line with using a current service provider to provide a new service.  I can understand that this will potentially be a negative for the integrator competition (except for the lucky winner of the installation contract) with who knows what impact in the future.  It does allow businesses to address a need in the security realm.

One question though is the cost of the design and how that is built into the monthly fee.  Of course with the ability to buy on a large scaled it could potentially effect the security market in the state of Georgia.

V/r

Kelly

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