Standards-setting efforts backed by most in the industry

Collectively, people agree that standards will improve the industry’s image and make it more competitive in today’s tough
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Saturday, November 1, 2003

Standards developers are in agreement on one thing - the overriding need for standards to improve the industry’s image and longevity. And many to whom the standards would be applied see a benefit as well.

Representatives of groups involved in standards creation pointed out that standards aren’t a luxury, but a necessity in these increasingly tough economic times.

“If the security industry doesn’t get professional about standards, it will disappear,” stated R. Hunter Knight, president of Integrated Command Software and chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Standards and Technology Permanent Committee.

Industries that overlap with security, such as telecommunications and information technology, have already adopted standards that could impact the security industry, said Mark Visbal, associate director of technology for SIA. He pointed to smart cards is just one area where that overlap occurs.

Also of note, Visbal said, is the globalization of the industry. As European and Asian manufacturers enter the marketplace, many bring with them their own sets of standards. As a result, he said, SIA is looking at participating in ISO standards “as a tool for penetrating new (international) markets.”

The post-Sept. 11 world is another factor that has stepped up the move toward standards, Visbal said. Areas related to homeland security, such as biometrics, will require technical standards, he said.

Scot Colby, president of the Standards Committee for the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association and the incoming president for the organization which is authoring a standard on alarm installation, said there can be a monetary advantage to having standards. “Any time you can strengthen the industry and be more respected, it can mean more sales,” he said.

So while standards-developing groups make a case for the need for standards, those who would operate their businesses by these standards have their own views.

“I hate losing jobs over price when you know the reason for the price difference is sub-standard installation work,” said Dave Whittington, sales manager for Blue Ridge Security, Anderson, S.C., in response to a Security Systems News NewsPoll. “(Let’s) create a standard and let’s live or die by that standard.”

Todd Harrington, senior account executive for Syracuse, N.Y.-based Rapid Response Monitoring Services, and another NewsPoll respondent, notes that an unstandardized industry could devolve into something unsavory.

“Considering all that we are responsible for, ours is the most ‘underregulated’ industry on the planet,” Harrington said. “We need strict, uniform, enforced standards in order to remain a viable industry of opportunity or we stand the chance of evolving into or becoming recognized as a late-night advertised ‘juice weasel,’ ‘rotisserie oven’ type of industry.”

Who should develop an installation standard has backers across many sectors of the market among NewsPoll participants.

“Having a set of uniform standards, particularly installation standard practices, ensures that all installations would be of a uniform (high) quality,” said Doug Darby, engineer-security systems division for John Deere Worldwide Security, Moline, Ill. “I would prefer NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) to write the standards as they have the mechanisms in place and they don’t sell equipment per se.”

But Ron Spinney of Northeast Security Systems Inc., Wiscasset, Maine, would prefer that NFPA stay out of the security standards business.

“ I am not totally opposed to some standards, but I feel the NFPA has no business here. They are only looking for ways to enhance their own revenues,” Spinney said.

Still, the thought of regulation has some reserving judgment on the need for broad standards.

“I concede we need a solution to all the corner cutters out there, but the last thing we need is more bureaucracy and third-party control,” said Art Jones, owner of Witness Security & Home Automation, Lexington, Ky., in the News Poll. “There is little that can be done to ‘enforce’ installation standards short of having an inspector on site during an installation.”