Securing a future in security requires diverse qualifications

In January 2004, the electrical and voice/data communications distributor Graybar ( entered the security arena when it unveiled a cadre of surveillance, access-control, and alarm-system products to its customers.

In January 2004, the electrical and voice/data communications distributor Graybar ( entered the security arena when it unveiled a cadre of surveillance, access-control, and alarm-system products to its customers. Toward the end of this year, we caught up with Karl Griffith, Graybar's director, reseller market, to gauge his views on the security industry, those who serve it, and his company's future in it.

CI&M: How long has Graybar served the security marketplace?
KG:We assembled an offer and announced it at the 2004 BICSI Winter Conference.

CI&M: How has the first year gone for you? Do you plan to grow your portfolio of offerings?
KG:We have been both training our own people and educating our customers. We are experiencing rapid, accelerated growth into the market, month over month. We are pleased at where we are so far, and are evaluating some additions to our current plan of products. We are constantly looking for new products to put into our market plan, but do not want to represent too many lines.

CI&M: Do you see the growth of Internet Protocol (IP)-based security systems as a major draw for traditionally voice-and-data contractors to enter the security field?
KG:Absolutely. Traditionally, when you look at our voice and data business, you think about the networking of voice and data. We need to think about communicating and networking with other disciplines and low-voltage subsystems in a building. "Communicate" does not have to be limited to voice and data. Communication takes place when the guard in a building looks at a monitor, and the image is being communicated to the guard. The same holds for access control. The user swipes, and the door opens. A record is kept of that user coming in at that time. The activity of recording and letting management within a building know what's going on-that's communication.

We are experts at distributing voice and data signals over twisted-pair in a commercial building. That same Ethernet platform can be used for a lot of things. We are finding that platform can be used for surveillance, broadband RF [radio-frequency], paging, Voice over IP, and traditional voice and data communications. It can be used for RS-232, RS-422, and RS-485 communication schemes. Anything can be transported on that cable.

Understanding cabling systems is a tremendous advantage for Graybar as a distributor. Understanding that security is moving toward IP, Graybar is in position to serve that market.

CI&M: And you distribute more than voice-and-data products.
KG: Lighting is part of our security initiative. Part of every residential, commercial, and industrial security plan is to illuminate areas to protect occupants and visitors. Lighting is a key component of any security plan. We have a tremendous opportunity in security because we have expertise in electrical, lighting, and IP.

Opportunities for these other disciplines lie in upgrades. They develop faster than construction growth. People who already have cameras and access control can apply the principles of IP to what they have. We are not relying on new construction to develop business.

The contractors who understand power, lighting, and IP have opportunities for integration, and can go to their customers with plans to implement multiple [security] disciplines.

CI&M: Do you consider commercial, residential, and/or industrial to be fertile ground for security projects?
KG:Security is growing in all three. Part of it is that people are trying to eliminate risk. They can save dollars by eliminating problems, or risks. It can be compared to insurance. We put security systems into buildings for several reasons. One is to protect property. Another is to protect people. And in doing that, we protect against liability from an incident in which somebody could be hurt.

CI&M: Do you face challenges educating your customers on these opportunities?
KG:We try to transfer our vision to the customer so they can see the opportunity. That is part of the education process, which includes technology showcases across the country and seminars for customers. We take a multi-faceted approach to educate contractors, value-added resellers, and integrators.

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