Robert D. Grossman

President, R. Grossman and Associates, Inc

Author Bio ▼

Robert D. Grossman is president of R. Grossman and Associates, an electronic security consulting group specializing in casinos, government facilities, and commercial and retail applications. He has worked for Sensormatic Electronics Enterprise Accounts group, Vicon Industries, and American Dynamics/Tyco Safety Products. Throughout his career, Bob has been associated with some of the largest, most complex electronic security projects in the world including for the MGM Grand, US Postal Service, and IBM. He has authored numerous articles for electronic security industry publications and has also conducted training classes and spoken at many industry events on topics ranging from designing electronic security systems to the future of technology in the industry.
March 25, 2013

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The Morphing Integrator

I have noticed, and I’m sure most will agree, that over the past 20 years the electronic security industry has morphed.

And, while change is good, and the whole should, in theory, be greater than the sum of its parts, in practice we’re clearly seeing gaps that I don’t believe are getting closer to being filled. Let me explain.

At one point, we had security integrators. They knew video surveillance, access control, alarm point monitoring, and the physical aspects of those disciplines:

  • Where to position cameras for effective coverage;
  • What type of access control credential was appropriate for each particular application;
  • How to program alarm responses for effective escalation.

They knew what could be squeezed out of every kind of technology — and that in and of itself was a mixed blessing.

While this often got us surveillance cameras run over 2,000 feet of RG59 cable and twist-on BNC connectors, it saved a lot of people a lot of money, and delivered a picture when “good enough” was the key requirement.

The IT Crowd
We also had IT people. They were on the periphery at first, often involved in access control because these systems were server-based and ran on their networks. As video surveillance became server-based as well, recording on computers instead of VCRs, they still tended to stay on the periphery.

I remember large CCTV projects where the IT people were brought in during the planning process and backed out gracefully when they learned that we were talking Petabytes of data — they didn’t want to deal with that scale.

But the die was cast. As IP video started gaining traction and the Internet led to larger and larger data silos, the IT person stopped leaving the security meetings. As everything became networked, and DVRs began to give way to NVRs, the skill set became more disciplined and training and certifications became more important. And, in many cases, the IT person became the security person as a natural extension of their duties.

Training for converged skillsets
But, unfortunately, the skillsets have not merged as effectively as the technologies.

Today, we see many integrators that know how to hook up an IP system but can’t tell you where to put a camera, leading to extremes — huge coverage gaps or way too many cameras. We also have integrators that can put the system in but have no idea how to handle static IP addresses, port forwarding, or the other intricacies of remote access. In fact, it’s hard to find someone who is relatively well-rounded, and when you do find that person, they tend to be extremely busy and hard to pin down.

For the most part, the industry’s answer to this problem has been training. This is great in theory but difficult to implement in practice.

People learn by doing, and pulling people out of the field and putting them in the classroom often gets pushed aside because of business demands. No one is running with a surplus of staff these days and training is the first thing to get kicked to the curb.

Consider supplementing training with mentoring. Putting an experienced IT person on the same team as an experienced security person is wasteful at first, but may ultimately create two well-rounded people who can pass along both skillsets to others.

And, even if the cross training isn’t completely effective, at least each person will know who to call when they get into a jam!

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11 Comments on "The Morphing Integrator"

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Robert, thanks for the report and the insight shown about the benefits of encouraging our technical experts to work together to improve Security and ICT. I think much attention has not been given to how some of IT security experts view security and acknowleged security vantage points in security systems infrastructure and I recommend technical experts to source valid and accurate information from security experts like police, the security guard and some military personnels when designing and integrating IT and Security because those officers have numerous day to day basic security knowledge which we take for granted

Robert Grossman
I was thinking more along the lines of getting the various technical disciplines together to ensure that things learned on both sides of the “IT Divide” can be shared. However, you are right in that the skills learned on the operational side as a result from coming at things from different disciplines should not be ignored.  While there are a number of trade orginizations that help with this by way of chapter meetings, training classes, networking events, and trade shows, they are sadly underutilized. It seems that people are just too busy getting their jobs done to avail themselves of… Read more »

True. The key question is how do we motivate these experts to share their valuable experience with one another and help create a robust security infrastructures as most companies are competing against one another.

Robert Grossman
  On the macro level, I don’t think it can be done. You are fighting human nature which is often driven by momentum. The challenge is to get people to give up time and energy to improve their skill set, making them more valuable to their employer, the community, and our society. While that sounds great, most of us have other distractions – families, friends, hobbies – and are struggling to fit everything in. On the micro level, there’s a lot that can be done. Employers need to understand the benefits of cross training and networking and encourage it “on… Read more »

You have hit the nail on the head. There is no straight answer but we still need to find common grounds to integrate 

Rob Ratcliff

Not sure police or military will be that keen to help, but there’s certainly plenty of experts who need to collaborate to produce an integrated system.


Rob you are right as we may not need them all the time
However,I know most of our security experts have some expierences from military, police or some sort of secret security backgrounds. Only few security experts are civilians and there is need to learn from these security experts who are now working as civilians and heads of security in most of our companies . 

Rob Ratcliff

Oh yeah, lots of ex-forces and ex-police in security, we know that. Similarly, in fire consultancy we have lots of former fire officers — though the trend is chaning as more people specialise in security and fire from the start of their careers.


Yes Rob and these are experts we need them on board

Tony Dobson

There are some civilian security experts in the UK as commercial awareness in my view is a “must have” in todays frugal environment. The key for me is the mix of security exposure whether civilian, police, military, etc, having rounded skills, qualifications and experiences in real-life security is essential.

Rob Ratcliff

True, and I think often this can be where training and certification comes in.