GE Simplifying High-Tech Security For The Channel

The Boca Raton, Fla.-based physical security vendor aims to partner with systems integrators that could craft IP-based solutions tying its hardware—including metal detectors, body scanners, surveillance cameras, drug and explosives detectors, and environmental sensors—into customer networks and databases.

Company executives said integrators could help GE Security capitalize on new opportunities in venues such as airports, car dealerships, ports and water facilities, which are increasingly vulnerable to threats ranging from suicide bombers to biological attacks. The goal is to build up a base of integrator partners to create franchises around those market segments, said Greg Burge, president of GE Infrastructure, Security and Networked Solutions at GE Security.

The first bundled security solution offerings are expected in 2006, said Jim Paulson, the company's general manager of intrusion and access products.

Improved service and support programs for GE's current systems integrator partners are in the works, and a program that enables today's network-centric, enterprise-level VARs to become certified and qualified to offer GE's security bundles is in the early stages, said George Martinez, director of product management.

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A number of intriguing new security technologies will help drive GE's efforts, said Bill McGann, CTO of GE Infrastructure and Security. Among them will be technologies for law enforcement, including wireless mesh networking for better vehicle tracking during high-speed chases, and human-threat-detection systems using GE Security's Millimeter-Wave/VideoIQ body-scanning and body-recognition technology, which can flag and lock onto gun- or explosives-toting individuals, McGann said.

GE Security also will leverage its expertise in health-care technology to develop CheckPoint CTX systems that utilize CAT scan tools to improve airport luggage-scanning systems, he said. In addition, the company is honing its ION Track StreetLab, which analyzes the air to detect any biological threats, he said.

GE Security is also in the process of developing a family of advanced sensor products that will integrate into HVAC systems to detect and respond to thermal changes in an environment, measure the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, and employ optical thermal sensors that essentially "see" heat before the temperature can reach flashpoint, said Dan Smytka, president of GE Infrastructure, Security and Engineered Systems.

Spurring GE Security's efforts are two major factors: the IP-driven convergence of physical security devices with traditional IT networks and their databases, and the urgency associated with the need to deploy advanced physical security under the auspices of the global war on terror, GE executives said.

"We recognized we needed to shift from a product focus to a solutions focus," Paulson said.

Unlike most hardware, GE's high-end physical security products are high-margin items for integrators, said John Humphris, a security integrator with MGA Electronic Security, a GE partner in Victoria, Australia. MGA couples GE Security hardware margins that are in the 25 percent range with other services ranging from ongoing security system calibration to tasks as simple as cleaning the lenses of surveillance cameras, he said.

Bringing GE Security's massive product portfolio under a common IP-based management framework will make it easier for partners to get their hands around the technology, and thus bid for security deals they formerly would have had little chance of winning, Martinez said.

GE Security is a powerful partner to have, said Chris Gustafson, director of operations at RD Systems, a security integrator in Tustin, Calif. RD has won several million-dollar security jobs based on GE technology, and the average deployment price is $400,000, Gustafson said. But like any mammoth vendor, GE Security could be faster when it comes to answering partners' questions during the rollout of a job, he said.

"Support is what needs to be improved a little, because usually when you are setting up a project, you almost always encounter something that's totally new, and we'd like to see faster response," he said.

GE Security's Burge said GE is in the process of completing Web portals and other avenues that will help speed response times.