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My IFSEC impressions

Geoff Hilton Managing Director of the installer Kent & Sussex Security Ltd, pictured, gives his impressions of IFSEC 2012. 



After a couple of years when IFSEC appeared to be in decline, my first impression was that the exhibition bounced back this year.  The show was crowded with visitors and, while there was unsold space evident in all halls, the size and general standard of the stands was, in the main, impressive.  A few companies still seem to have the money to waste on devoting valuable stand space to racing cars and other fripperies, (one even had a tank!), but in the main exhibits were relevant and business-like. The general level of confidence seems to be improving and anyone who is serious about staying abreast of what is happening in our industry needs to be there.


Dominance of CCTV


Stands showing CCTV and related technologies as usual took up the greatest share of the floor space.  Both analogue and IP systems were well-represented but I was particularly impressed with the amount of HD-SDI systems on display.  Last year a couple of stands were showing very limited offerings but this year it was very much in evidence and the range and capabilities of HD-SDI systems are growing fast.  Most of the majors still seem to be ignoring it, (spent too much cash developing IP systems guys?), but if this year is anything to go by, it is here to stay.


Predominance of picture quality


One of the consequences of us all having HD TV in our living rooms is that we want it from our CCTV systems too.  The challenge for the industry is how to get the same quality out of a camera costing not much more than £100, as the BBC’s cameras costing tens of thousands each.  The main determinant of picture definition is the image-receiving chip and after at least a decade when Sony product has dominated, we now have serious competition from Pixim, especially with the Seawolf chip, and several camera manufacturers and distributions were giving side-by-side demonstrations of comparative picture quality.  We have already used Seawolf ourselves in very challenging lighting applications and can testify to the results being outstanding.


Decline of the Japanese?


No sensible person would write off the Japanese in any electronics field, but in CCTV their one-time dominance is under serious threat.  The stands of the traditional majors like JVC, Panasonic and Sony were fairly muted affairs with not much new to get excited about.  By comparison, the Koreans and Taiwanese were everywhere, though mostly in the form of smaller manufacturer’s stands with no real attraction for installers like ourselves.  I guess they were targeting the major distributors.  You could not help but be impressed with the Samsung stand, which had the most dramatic impact of all.  They now seem to have put their earlier marketing confusion, when two manufacturers were using the same brand, well behind them.  Their stand this year seemed to be saying “whatever you want in CCTV we can provide it”.  They seemed to be the only major manufacturer to have an HD-SDI offering and their free software, through which analogue, IP and HD-SDI can be seamlessly integrated in one GUI was most impressive.  I wonder how long Milestone and the like can go on charging so much for software when so much is out the for free?




Honeywell have had a clear strategy in recent years to move by acquisition into all the major sectors of electronic security, and thereby provide the opportunity for seamless integration of CCTV, access control and intruder alarms.  They have now pretty well achieved this it seems though the project has not been without its problems and at times for installers like ourselves, the products have been better integrated than the departments within the company! Like other American suppliers they can be a bit self-obsessed, and I had a bit of a smile to myself when the first Honeywell guy I talked to hadn’t even heard of HD-SDI!  To their credit they were displaying two of the more interesting innovations I saw at the show.  Their Maxcom Cloud NVR/DVR relies on cloud storage for CCTV images and has a built-in POE switch so four IP cameras can be connected much like analogue ones, in addition to eight analogue inputs.  This, in turn, provides the platform for a system called “Facewatch”, designed for pubs, clubs and retail outlets whereby a sequence of unsocial or threatening behaviour can be instantly circulated to Crime Partnership members and even the police, (so far just the Met.)  Early stages, but something genuinely innovative and a new offering to invigorate a mature market perhaps?  Good for you Honeywell.




Apart from their controversial absence a few years ago, Norbain have maintained a strong presence at IFSEC and this year was no exception.  The big night out and the hospitality area may have gone but their show sponsorship was heavily promoted everywhere and the stand was still impressive, as befits the leading national distributor of CCTV. They do seem to have been going through another of their internal upheavals of late and our own sales contact has abruptly departed.  Their latest wheeze seems to be to enhance and promote their support services such as assistance with surveys, system design and commissioning, but at a cost to the installer.  Quite a big ask when other distributors and manufacturers are offering these services for free. A bold initiative, or the accountants triumphing over the marketeers?  Time will tell I guess.  In the meantime, to be fair, they were running a series of very good educational seminars on their stand.  We went to one on CCTV data storage presented by Buzz Coates which was excellent.  Informative, full of thought-provoking content and brief as befits a busy exhibition schedule. Thanks Buzz.  I just hope we don’t get sent a bill for it!


Intruder alarms


As usual, not too much innovation in the alarm business and that which has been going on is largely through the necessity of complying with the latest raft of design changes resulting from the changing Standards, i.e. DD6662, BS8243 and the like. As long as the intruder alarm manufacturers have to keep tearing themselves and their product inside out to comply with the ever-changing requirements of ACPO and the BSI I can’t see there being much chance of resources being allocated to genuine positive innovation in the sector.  The sooner the Police finally decide not to respond to any private alarm systems, thus freeing the industry from their ever-changing false alarm management requirements, the better for us all. Rant over.


Access Control

Plenty of stylistic updating of components, (Urmet a good example), and extensions to ranges, (e.g. Salto), without too much genuine innovation it seems. The biggest pre-show hype was probably from Paxton with their first ever door entry offering – Net2 Entry. We are great fans of Paxton who, in our experience, have the best hardware and software support in the entire electronic security industry, and it’s still free.  (Norbain please note!) The new product is, as we would expect from Paxton, visually stylish, easy to install and operate, and I’m sure is very reliable.  However, my one criticism would be the somewhat delicate-looking handset/monitor.  Manufacturers of door entry systems seem to spend lots of attention in making the entry panel, ie. the bit outside the building, tough and vandal-resistant.  The handset/monitor, by comparison, is all about good looks rather than toughness.  In our experience, we get far more callouts to physical damage inside the building than outside, especially in social housing and from harassed staff in NHS hospitals.  Hopefully, Paxton will address this concern with future variants.  In the meantime, we can rely on their generous five-year no-quibble warranty, but it doesn’t cover our engineer time of course.




Two days very well spent.  Our industry continues to evolve and, after a couple of moribund years, the march of improved technology seems to be accelerating again.  There’s lots going on, much of it good, some of it a bit odd, but most of it relevant to some client applications. Our job as designers and installers of electronic security systems is to pick our way through it and select the ideas which are appropriate and cost-effective for particular customer applications.  In my view, IFSEC still provides by far and away the best opportunity for increasing our industry knowledge, picking up new ideas and generally staying on top of our game.   


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