The CCTV industry needs to stand up and be better regulated

November 27, 2009

Mike Tolley, Principal Consultant at Cogent (fm) Solutions, looks at the issues that concern the CCTV industry. Today Mike looks at the importance of service and the need for wider industry regulation.

The CCTV security industry as a whole does nothing to support itself. It is slowly putting itself into a downward spiral to doom. The industry accreditation organisations allow anyone to join as part of a paid up membership club.

I believe that anyone offering services as a company involving the supply, installation and maintenance of electronic security systems must operate from a commercial premises, not their domestic garage; manufacturers must also be members of the UK organisations if they wish their products to be sold and supported in the UK and must also have a supply and service base in the UK.

When an end user makes a complaint about a failure of service or standard against accredited members, it is often seen as a threat to the integrity to the ‘club’; as a lost membership fee. The complaints should be followed up and people/companies kicked out, and this information shared, so that they don’t just become a member of another club.

I have to ask: Does the industry care or are there enough people in it to always blame someone else for it going wrong?

Let’s take some ownership of this industry we are in, or it will wither away to becoming nothing more than a car boot sale with an engineer tagged on to it. If you don’t care, please leave it now and go back to facia or window fitting!

As a final note, as part of the industry regulation, I believe that, like manned guarding companies have to do, it should be compulsory for sales, service and installation staff to permanently carry company ID cards when at work.

In the light of the current security risk levels, why do so many people still open their doors to anyone who says that they sell security and then proceed to tell them all about their business and their security weaknesses?

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know what you think below.

For more comment and insight about CCTV  click here to read CCTV articles.

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The security industry and CCTV surveillance systems need standards

November 25, 2009

Mike Tolley, Principal Consultant at Cogent (fm) Solutions, looks at the issues that concern the CCTV industry. Today Mike argues the need for standards.

I still believe that there are huge amounts of good business to be had, but it is all too often like an old western out there on the streets. Sales companies are fighting to the death and, ultimately, it will lead to the death of their companies.

The surge of cheap CCTV products being offered, are being lapped up by the cheap CCTV installers and it is killing the industry.

The margin is reduced in sales, so the service cannot be offered; engineers are not trained and maintained, vetted or provided with the right tools. And the real loser in all of this is the end user … they get a cheap CCTV system by a cheap CCTV installer who cannot provide the service and back up to support the system.

There should be a specification of minimum standards of equipment adopted by the industry and its regulators. This will assist the un-knowing end user in getting a level playing field based on service and competitive pricing. You can buy CCTV cameras from some distributors for as low as £25. You cannot tell me there is any quality standards of manufacturing that have gone into that product.

Installation companies that wish to be accredited by SSAIB / NSI should sign up to this and fit only equipment that meets these minimum standards. Installers should be made to erect the correct DPA (Data Protection Act) signage and provide a DPA policy with every system. Compliance packs are readily available so it should be part of the system.

Too many end users still don’t know that CCTV is covered by the DPA. Maintenance policies must be taken out with every installation. It can’t be left as an option to be taken out later; it is stated within the DPA rules on CCTV. To be sold, all products must have a detailed specification sheet, not on a pretty picture and a made up specification.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know what you think below.

For more comment and insight about CCTV  click here to read CCTV articles.


Buy cheap CCTV surveillance systems buy twice

November 24, 2009

Mike Tolley, Principal Consultant at Cogent (fm) Solutions, looks at the issues that concern the CCTV industry. Today Mike identifies a worrying trend that ‘cheapest is best’.

I believe that the more recent companies entering the marketplace, seeing the amount of CCTV that is being installed, are turning to the cheap end of the market, but some established installers are also coming very close to falling foul of ‘cheapest wins’.

Many end users are now also falling into the trap of ‘cheapest is best’. There are some excellent products out there that are not leading brand names, but excellent quality products at reduced prices, and I don’t rule out their place in our industry. But ‘fit for purpose’ must be considered. Under DPA guidelines it states that it must be adequate – for the sake of poor old Dannie Parkes and many others like him who are expected to perform ‘Mission Impossible’ or ‘The Bill’ type miracles on useless CCTV images.

If you care, consider for just one moment how your customer feels. They have had a CCTV system installed by your company with products recommended by you. They have an incident and, due to the poor quality of images from both camera and recorder, the police have said that there is nothing they can do with the images from the new CCTV system.

Do you believe that this is the end of your relationship or an opportunity to go back and up sell them some new kit? Consider now how you felt that last time you were sold something that didn’t work. You ranted at the sales person in the store, making a big show of it and wanted the world in return for their failings. Where is the balance?

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know what you think below.

For more comment and insight about CCTV  click here to read CCTV articles.


The consultative approach to CCTV surveillance systems

November 23, 2009

Mike Tolley, Principal Consultant at Cogent (fm) Solutions, identifies the need to understand what the customer wants to achieve in order to deliver the right solution.

Coming back to work for an installer for family reasons, I found it difficult to adopt the approach of the salesman again, so I didn’t.

I was told to expect a 1 in 12 win ratio (moving from a 1 in 4 ratio back in 2000) … all that wasted time with no benefit! Surely it couldn’t be cost effective enough to employ me?

So I spent a couple of months looking at the industry again. I looked at where a CCTV installation company could still add value without playing in a Dutch auction on prices.

Using my consultative head (based on working in partnership with the client, rather than just being another contractor) we, as a company, used the same style of approach:

  • understand the needs of the customer and the site
  • offer advice first
  • advise on a need basis, not a sales one
  • recommend the right solution even if it isn’t in your portfolio of products
  • assist in finding a reputable supplier of that solution

This approach has led us to making partnerships with several suppliers of other security related products and services, so we are not ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’, we are a professional organisation working in partnership with other like minded individuals to mutually benefit our customers.

Through this approach, our partners will also benefit and the sales pro-rata will come around. We are now back into a 1 in 3, 1 in 4 win ratio of good quality business. We have won some very credible national contracts in the past three months and we have a rosy future ahead. We are also willing to walk away from those sourcing cheap alternatives.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know what you think below.

For more comment and insight about CCTV  click here to read CCTV articles.


Selling CCTV is like double glazing…

November 20, 2009

Mike Tolley, Principal Consultant at Cogent (fm) Solutions, looks at the issues that concern the CCTV industry today.

Unfortunately my flippant comment about double glazing sales people selling CCTV is true. The approach to selling CCTV is based, by the majority, on How many? and The cheapest price? – not questions such as Why CCTV? Placed where to justify the need? and the issue of cost effectiveness against quality.

As a consultant, I would often get sales staff walking a site with me on a tender specification, and they would try to justify their point for additional CCTV, or an easier mounting point, with no foundation or reason. They where quickly put back in their place. There is no education or training in the security sales industry. It is, typically, ‘in at the deep end’ and ‘use your first customers as your testing grounds’

It is good to see that some manufacturers have taken the initiative in system and product sales training and accredited installer schemes. There are a few installers that take training seriously. They are starting to shine through, recognised as sitting at the front of their field.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know what you think below.

For more comment and insight about CCTV  click here to read CCTV articles.


Secret CCTV cameras INSIDE people’s homes – a step too far?

November 19, 2009

Croydon council in south London has taken the step of trialing CCTV surveillance in people home’s to monitor anti-social behaviour.

The £1,000 security cameras have been installed inside private properties but are monitoring the streets to gather evidence of anti-social behaviour.

This type of CCTV would be less expensive than erecting external street cameras because internal cameras are much cheaper and no complex install or street furniture would be required. So the council is obviously saving money.  Each camera is linked to a laptop computer and accessible online by police and council officials 24 hours a day.  The big question for me is how solutions like these can be legal without the signage required to alert the public that they are being filmed?

The trial that is taking place inside two homes in Croydon,  south London has sparked new fears about the invasion of privacy in Britain today and the growth of what has become known as the  ‘surveillance society’. Many commentators have argued that there are too many CCTV cameras today and that Britain is beginning to resemble George Orwell’s novel 1984 where the state had a controlling influence over the populace.

So how do you feel about this?

Are there too many CCTV cameras today?

Do you think they help fight crime?

Have you been a victim of crime where CCTV has not helped or where it has lead to a prosecution or the return of stolen items?



The CCTV industry should put its house in order

November 18, 2009

When editor of Security Installer, Alan Hyder, criticised a report that concluded there was no link between crime solving and CCTV it sparked responses from police representatives who criticised current CCTV practices. Now, Mike Tolley, Principal Consultant at Cogent (fm) Solutions, has joined the debate. He says he is “someone who cares about what he does and the industry he is in” and concludes that too often CCTV is sold like double glazing …

I read with interest the articles about CCTV in last month’s edition. I have to agree with the majority of comments from Norman Gibson (independent consultant and retired RUC sergeant) that CCTV is “only one tool in the box”.

I often refer to CCTV as a management tool with security a part of its use. The type and placement of cameras should always be chosen to meet the need – not finding the easiest place to install it. My most valuable lesson on specifying and evaluating CCTV was probably learned whilst working in the manned guarding industry, where the CCTV system is a very important part of their tool box. I deplore this ‘cost of guarding’ Vs the ‘cost of a remotely monitored CCTV system’ argument as a justification to buy CCTV, i.e., just because it’s cheaper.

The best camera in the world will never outweigh a good guarding service. But it’s also about balance, and, as many others do, I refer to the Home Office operational requirement document. If end users only took an hour to complete it whilst assessing their needs, it would answer many questions without them being hoodwinked by the guy who sells CCTV instead of double glazing because it’s an easier sell.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know what you think below.

For more comment and insight about CCTV  click here to read CCTV articles.