Security Estimating Software Review

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Dec 14, 2011

Responding to RFPs can be time consuming and error prone. With FRPs often being hundreds of pages long and bids of hundreds of thousands of dollars, leaving things or rushing to get the response out can result in expensive problems. In this note, we examine a software package designed to enhance the security estimating process.

On Center Software's On-Screen Takeoff is an application intended to reduce time required to estimate projects by performing common tasks digitally and automatically. 

Overview

On-Screen Takeoff has several potential benefits for integrators who regularly bid projects.

  • Device Auto-Count
  • Digital Takeoffs
  • Linear Measurements

Those predominantly performing design/build work would likely find it less useful. We'll look at each of these three features below.

Auto-Count

Perhaps the most time consuming part of bidding any project is counting the symbols on each drawing. On-Screen Takeoff aims to expedite this process through its auto-count feature, demonstrated in this video:

As demonstrated, the user highlights the selected symbol, which is then highlighted with a user-selected color to assure it's been counted, and automatically tallied. This need not be restricted only to symbols, but instances of text may be counted as well, to count drawing notations, for example, such as different styles of camera. Tallies of all symbols may be automatically saved on the digital copy of each plan, for quick reference, and they are also saved to a separate tally sheet, which may be exported to various formats, most commonly Excel.

Once symbols are counted, the user is presented with a summary screen showing each instance, so they may glance at each and remove any false positives. Sensitivity is adjustable, to account for blurry or low-quality copies of plans.

Digital Takeoffs

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

Even if auto-count is undesirable, or if user preference is to count manually, OST may still save time. While there are still many bid documents which are only available as paper copies, digital distribution from online plan rooms or FTP sites has become much more common. OST can import multiple formats, such as PDF or TIFF, and loads each set of drawings as a project, keeping all bid information together.

Normally, contractors would need to either plot out a full set of drawings, or pay to have them plotted by a print shop. With plotters costing thousands of dollars, printing in-house may not be an option for some integrators. Print shop fees also add up, sometimes running up to a few dollars per page. Performing take off work digitally avoids both of these fees, allowing the contractor to spend money printing a set of drawings for installation only if a project is won. 

Linear Measurements

The final point security integrators may be interested in are OST's measurement capabilities. While these are often used for measurement of walls or floor/ceiling areas in construction trades, they may also be used to measure cable and conduit lengths, by clicking the start and end points, along with any bends taken in the run. Assuming the scale is set properly, measuring this way is likely quicker and more accurate than using a scale rule or measuring wheel on each sheet.

Cost

On-Screen Takeoff is not inexpensive.  A single-user license is $2,500, with a $375 annual maintenance contract required for updates. The question is whether it will pay for itself in labor savings over time. Assuming an estimator costs about $50/hour, the software will need to save 50 man hours in order to pay for the base license, and an additional 7.5 hours per year to offset the maintenance contract. These costs may be further offset by savings on plotter paper and ink, or print shop fees, if the integrator does not have a plotter in-house.

First-Hand Experience

My experience with On-Screen Takeoff was mostly favorable. The most-used feature was auto-count, which was surprisingly accurate. It took an estimator a few days to test and tweak until he knew what sensitivity to use for best accuracy, and to build symbol libraries. However, once it was set, it likely cut count time by more than 50%. Full sets of plans for large projects could be counted and checked in 1-2 days, instead of week, since the estimator was then spot-checking the machine's work. Spot-checking previously took a second engineer's time, to ensure accuracy. OST also assisted with documentation. Since no paper copies of plans or count sheets were required, there was less chance of documentation being lost as a project progressed, with counts saved directly onto each plan, for quicker reference.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Biometrics Usage Statistics 2019 on Jun 17, 2019
While face and fingerprint recognition are used regularly for smartphones, it is not as common in physical security. In this note, we examine...
ADT Eliminating Acquired Brands, Unifying Under 'Commercial' Brand on Jun 14, 2019
ADT is eliminating the brands of the many integrators it has acquired over the past few years, including Red Hawk, Aronson Security Group (ASG),...
Favorite Wireless Manufacturers 2019 on Jun 12, 2019
Many wireless options exist for video surveillance but how are integrator's overall favorites? 170 integrators answered the question: What is...
Axis Will Not Block Resellers on Jun 10, 2019
While Axis generally has strong favorability amongst integrators, the biggest complaint is their channel model, which results in smaller integrator...
Dumber Techs, Bad Box Movers, Says Australian Distributor on Jun 10, 2019
Techs today are "dumber" than they used to be, despite better education and training and that makes a typical day "frustrating" for one...
"New" Arecont Fixes Failures "Without A Fight" on Jun 05, 2019
The "old" Arecont was infamous not only for its camera failures but for making their "partners" fight to get them fixed. IPVM drew the ire of...
Startup Rhombus Systems Says Twice the Features, Half the Price of Verkada on Jun 04, 2019
Closed cloud systems may be the fastest growing segment of video surveillance with Meraki and Verkada. Now another California company is joining...
China / US Trade War Impact Splits Industry on Jun 04, 2019
As the trade war continues to heat up, 170+ integrators told us "What impact will the US / PRC China conflict have on the industry?" Respondents...
Smart CODEC Usage Statistics 2019 on Jun 03, 2019
Smart codecs are now nearly a standard feature in IP cameras, but our statistics show integrator adoption has not increased at the same rate. In...
Vidsys New President Interviewed on May 31, 2019
A decade ago, PSIM was hot with projections then of a billion dollar market by now. This has not come close to happening. However, Vidsys, one of...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Repositionable Multi-Imager Camera Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Panasonic, Vivotek on Jun 19, 2019
Repositionable multi-imager cameras are one of the fastest growing segments in video surveillance, with a slew of new offerings being recently...
Genetec Synergis Cloud Link - Complex, Costly and Confusing on Jun 18, 2019
Genetec's Synergis Cloud Link is complex, costly and confusing compared to competitor access control architectures. Inside this note, we examine...
Startup Vaion Launching End-to-End AI Solution Backed with $20 Million Funding on Jun 17, 2019
An EU / USA video surveillance startup, Vaion, founded by ex-Cisco Senior Directors is launching an end-to-end VSaaS platform with $20 million in...
Biometrics Usage Statistics 2019 on Jun 17, 2019
While face and fingerprint recognition are used regularly for smartphones, it is not as common in physical security. In this note, we examine...
The Scheme Hikvision and China Importers Use To Avoid Tariffs on Jun 17, 2019
Hikvision and numerous China importers are avoiding 25% tariffs by including an SD card slot in their IP cameras to claim they are 'digital still...
Sighthound Transforms Into Enterprise AI Provider Profile on Jun 14, 2019
Sighthound is now rapidly expanding its R&D team, building an enterprise AI service. This may come as a surprise given their origins 6 years...
ADT Eliminating Acquired Brands, Unifying Under 'Commercial' Brand on Jun 14, 2019
ADT is eliminating the brands of the many integrators it has acquired over the past few years, including Red Hawk, Aronson Security Group (ASG),...
NSA Director Keynoting Dahua and Hikvision Sponsored Cybersecurity Conference [Canceled] on Jun 13, 2019
The technical director for the NSA’s Cybersecurity Threat Operations Center will be keynoting a physical security cybersecurity conference that is...
Farpointe Data Conekt Mobile Access Reader Tested on Jun 13, 2019
California based Farpointe Data has been a significant OEM supplier of conventional access readers for years to companies including DMP, RS2, DSX,...
Embattled $400 Million China Funded Philippines Surveillance System Proceeds on Jun 13, 2019
An embattled 12,000 camera surveillance system project that will cost ~$400 million will proceed.  The project contract was awarded, had its...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact