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Senior consultant, security integrations

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Michael Lines is experienced in providing consultancy services for systems integrations on a wide range of security projects.
April 6, 2016


State of Physical Access Trend Report 2024

How IT-Literate Are Security Installers in the Age of IP?

How IT-Literate Are Security InstallersServicing a system used to need one or two people, and the ability to operate a keypad.

Now, more often than not, it is a PC with application software, special interface cables, and at least the ability to use a laptop.

Is this IT literacy?

As an application user, or in listening to (IT literate?) sales people, one has the idea that this is really so much easier and more simple. You can even read a few books. You might go on a short course. You can use a smart phone and operate a browser.

You are IT-literate. At least that is the impression that is given out.

Steep learning curve

What is the truth?

Newer systems are IT and IP-based. If you have years of technical knowledge from an IT background, then the implications and necessary understanding comes easily. If you do not, then installers face a very steep learning curve.

The quick answer is that installers need staff with IT experience. Manufacturers are facing huge support costs trying to handle installers who do not have enough IT skills.

On the whole training courses on products do not fully cover the IT skills needed to understand the infrastructure required to make it happen. Infrastructure courses do not cover the demands of the applications systems (particularly when it comes to CCTV).

As installers are we being let down by the manufacturers push to sell? CCTV systems, in particular, can quickly become very large and complex in their demands and interactions.

Each manufacturer or component works within its own bubble. How each component interacts with others can become very interesting indeed.

As a company, we have overcome and solved many problems. It has had to be down to our own expertise, diagnosis, willingness to fix the problems, and putting the end user first. The problems apply to companies regardless of size.

The installer business is turning into part of an IT Professional world. The systems are a mix of IT peripherals and software. The systems are largely reliant on each manufacturer’s software developers. There are more and more complex interactions.

The divide between those who can grasp the details across a complete heterogeneous system, and those that cannot becomes wider. The answer from USA computer companies was always for the end user to buy more and more expensive hardware. The elegant answer was to know more and be more self-reliant.

In our business, we employ highly skilled technical IT professionals. They come at a cost. They are needed. How do we justify them? Who is going to pay? How do manage them? What they are up to and talking about? How do you find them? How do you judge if someone is truly IT literate or not? How do you train them?


As installers do we attract the right IT capable people? We get to install some of the most processing and data intensive systems. CCTV systems often consume far greater processing and data demands than the businesses own operations.

The whole industry is cost driven. Contractors, subcontractors and end-users all look at price. Who specifies, and who makes the purchasing decisions?

Do they have the requisite skills? Are the implications of these decisions understood? Are requirements documents set out in a manner that promotes delivering both choice and good answers? Is it all just far too complicated? Will the system that is chosen really meet end user practical needs?

Luckily, I get to work with some very good systems with some very good customers. With integrated systems, success often comes as a result of, the customer’s own and our, IT experts working together.

Security systems: are they part of IT, security, or facilities? They demand a high level of IT experience.

My sister summed things up when she advised my mother when talking about PCs she might buy or use, words to the effect: I know Michael has over 20 years in the IT industry, but I’ve been on a two week course and I really know what I’m talking about.

Mike Gillespie is presenting ‘What installers, integrators and engineers need to know about cyber security’ at IFSEC International 2016, which takes place from 21-23 June at London ExCeL. View the full education programme in the Trade Theatre or the entire education programme for the show.

You can register here to attend Europe’s largest security trade show, which also features the latest innovations that can help you run your business more cost-effectively.




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Todd Rockoff
Todd Rockoff
April 1, 2016 10:42 pm

Another way of looking at it: Video surveillance systems always required I.T. expertise. In conventional, high-performance, low-cost architectures, the I.T. work is securely concentrated in the DVR. You are correct, Michael, that IP camera makers need to provide technical support for the local-site transport within secured buildings. That is one of the many hidden costs of IP cameras. As always, mainstream installers will continue to choose the most reliable, convenient, and affordable solutions for their customers’ surveillance requirements. The newsworthy aspect is that the right answer is not always IP cameras.