Companies are being challenged to manage their buildings and work environments better. With isolated, disparate and sometimes legacy systems in place – from CCTV cameras to fire detection solutions and utilities – all of which need individual attention, cost and complexity are mounting.
The smart answer is to integrate these disparate components to create an intelligent “eco-system” that delivers cost, time and energy efficiencies.
Multivid, a specialist electronic security systems integrator, offers some insight into how this can be achieved, and the resulting benefits.
“Companies end up with unintegrated building management components for a number of reasons. Systems may have been added progressively through the lifetime of the building with responsibility for their management given to different departments within the organisation,” says Marius Maré, CEO of Multivid, a Jasco Group company.
“There may have been limited awareness of the benefits of an integrated solution, or the installation may have been ‘basic’, delivering only the requested functionality rather than being fully integrated to leverage additional benefits. Going forward, however, businesses can invert this situation to their advantage.”
Maré suggests that organisations need to ask themselves three questions:
* What can be done to integrate existing systems?
* Where are the biggest wins for the business in terms of integration?
* What policies do they need to put in place to manage this challenge going forward?
30% cost saving
“To address existing challenges, a few items can be noted: many basic or older systems, such as air conditioning and lighting solutions, make use of low level controllers that can quite easily be integrated into an intelligent building management solution or configurable systems like access control solutions which enable central management,” says Maré.
“Best of breed solutions built on standard or open platforms can also usually be quite easily accommodated in an integrated solution. Other systems, if they are proprietary or in-house built, may require some additional interfacing. The costs of development work can be assessed against possible returns on the investment – and this can be considerable.”
While there are any number of benefits to integration, including lowered maintenance and licensing costs, an important issue in South Africa given massive ongoing utility price hikes is better management of energy consumption.
“By integrating utilities systems with access controls, usage can be intelligently cut. For example, when the last person leaves the office, or a specific department within the building, the access control system communicates with the lighting and air conditioning systems, powering them down or putting them into ‘night’ mode. This can result in huge savings – 10% to 30% – every month.”
Don’t forklift – redeploy
Systems integration skills can be difficult to come by, but be wary of the “forklift” recommendation from solution providers who do not have the requisite skills.
“When you don’t have the benefit of a greenfields site, systems that are incompatible will need to be integrated. This takes skill and experience. Very few companies offer such capability and this becomes a tremendous value add for specialised companies, like Multivid, that have taken care to build these capabilities.
“For our customers it’s a considerable value add – as they can re-deploy legacy systems, extending their existing investments at a fraction of the cost of installing new systems, and can upgrade their systems as budget becomes available.”
Looking forward, there are other benefits to be had.
“As technologies converge, organisations need to be more aware of what services can be bundled. A recent Multivid project offers a good example. Not only did we do a CCTV installation, but we installed a PABX as well as the network infrastructure for the organisation, building a communications backbone for the company’s multiple sites.
“It makes no difference to us if we pull in one cable or three – if we are installing a cable for CCTV, we can just as well install a cable for the network. And while we’re at it, we can install one for the PABX as well. The labour is about the same, so the customer sees real financial benefit immediately,” says Maré.
In the unlikely event of a problem arising down the line, the customer also only has one contractor to contact, not three. “It eliminates that familiar scenario where one contractor blames another for things not working.”
Integration is a journey – find a long-term partner
In selecting a solution provider, Maré suggests organisations check credentials carefully. “Be sure the company has the support of the industry, has the necessary technology partnerships in place, and that they have the right skills on board. Also check their track record; have they been in business for a while and can they provide references to successful projects?”
As technologies continue to advance, they are not only becoming more user friendly, but more capable of integration, with the resulting hybrid capabilities making them more effective and efficient.
“Central management and simplified configuration, along with hands-off ‘one-button’ control is what users want,” says Maré.
“Organisations need to partner with a solution provider that understands their business needs and budget constraints, recognises opportunities as they arise and can assist the organisation on that journey, reaping the various benefits of system integration as they become accessible – and the organisation’s budget allows.”