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The concept of video kits is not a new one. For many years retailers such as Sam’s Club and Costco have sold prepackaged systems; but these kits generally feature more inexpensive, lower-end cameras with lower resolution than professionally installed systems. There is little variation in types of technology available in these systems, which are mainly targeted to the residential and small business DIY markets.
The non-professional surveillance market has traditionally been the source of much of the sales of video kits, says Jeff Whitney, vice president of marketing, Arecont Vision, Glendale, Calif. “A gas station, convenience store, dry cleaner, or small company are typical users, where either the business buys and self-installs the kit or a mom-and-pop system dealer or small systems integrator does the installation.”
While some kits vary by companies, most kits include between two and 16 cameras, either an NVR or DVR, and video management software. In some of the kits designed for DIY installation, there may be wires included as well.
‘The worst thing to have happen is you have an incident and you have no usable video that’s going to result in prosecution or protecting your business or home.’ – Larry Chay, Axis Communications
Recently, however, due in part to lowering price points and increasing camera quality, more opportunities have opened for kits to enter the professional scene. “With the technology advancement in the surveillance hardware industry as of late, we are now seeing many new types of packaged systems with cameras ranging up to 4 and 5 MP,” says Andrew Nassar, general manager, IC Realtime, Pompano Beach, Fla. “Even your basic packages include decently performing cameras and recorders suitable for many applications.”
Evan Davis, senior manager, solutions engineering, TRENDnet, Torrance, Calif., adds, “Today’s average user is much more tech savvy, and they have quickly adopted IP cameras and NVRs, which are more feature-rich compared to older kits.”
As quality and technology increases in these packages, even many integrators are finding video kits can offer ease of selection, Nassar says.
NOT FOR EVERYONE
Because of the nature of video kits — a predetermined assortment of cameras and components in a box that someone can pick up, unpack and install — flexibility is an obvious weakness. Video kits will not be an ideal solution for large installations or unique applications that require a great deal of customization.
“If you’re a professional security installer,” says Larry Chay, small business program manager, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass., “ideally you want to be selecting the right camera for the environment or for the application that camera is going to be covering.”
Chay explains that with many installations, an integrator would need to take into account lighting conditions, a camera’s ability to identify someone coming through a door, and other unique scenarios that a kit might not be equipped to deal with. “If you’re buying a kit, you may be getting a surveillance system, but it may not be meeting what the end users’ expectations are, and the worst thing to have happen is you have an incident and you have no usable video that’s going to result in prosecution or protecting your business or home.”
For instance, Chay says that an end user who needs to be able to see cars coming up the driveway at 55 feet away and get license plate shots are going to need a camera that meets those specific needs; a kit isn’t going to cut it for something as challenging as that.
WHERE KITS ARE MOST USEFUL
Kits certainly have their place in the professional market, however. “Dealers benefit from simplicity in marketing, simplicity in sales and simplicity in installation,” says Keith Jentoft, Integration Team, Videofied – a Honeywell Security and Fire company, Melville, N.Y. “It streamlines inventory, provides easy-to-digest marketing proof points, and makes installation more streamlined.”
Whitney says, “For a dealer, a kit ensures that the components are designed to work together, and that can make a small project simple and cost effective. If the best features aren’t mandatory, and cost is important, this can be a choice a dealer or small systems integrator will make for home surveillance or office/retail customers.
Where kits make sense, Chay says, is if the cameras in the kits have a full enough feature set to meet the expectations of the end user.
For simple applications, kits can be a perfect fit.
“They’re designed really to be a base model that if somebody wants to grow later they could add to a system; perhaps they would get a larger NVR or DVR, but it’s an entry-level product range,” says Doug Gray, senior product manager, Hikvision, City of Industry, Calif.
Nassar says dealers often use the kit as a starting point when proposing a system to prospective companies, offering it as the “good” choice in a “good, better, best” scenario, with a more hand-tailored proposal for a higher level or more ideal solution.
This gives the dealer or integrator an opportunity to capture business in a market that once proved to be given to the more entry-level or smaller dealers, Nassar says. “Larger integrators can use these as a method to get their foot in the door and stay competitive against the continuing saturation of the surveillance product industry,” he says. “For those dealers that are newly embracing CCTV and surveillance within their offerings, this allows them to enter into a new market with an easy-to-buy and easy-to-install pre-packaged system.”
Larry Folsom, owner and president, I-View Now, Henderson, Nev., says when he was a dealer for almost 20 years, he learned the importance of aligning kits with opportunity and then “putting a fence around it.”
Folsom says they built the strict rule: If a building was more than 4,000 square feet or would take more than 16 man hours to install, kits were automatically disqualified from consideration.
‘You put a fence around it, because if the entrylevel person can’t install it in 16 hours or it’s more than 4,000 square feet, the kit will kill you.’ – Larry Folsom, I-View Now
“If it’s more than [that], it needs to turn into a custom design,” Folsom says. “In the industry, you can get lost chasing agreements. You could spend four days and $3,000 to get an account that’s worth $1,000. Our goal was to align the size of the opportunity with the kit and the team so that they could best financially make sure they were aligned with the customers’ benefits.”
He warns, “You put a fence around it, because if the entry-level person can’t fit it in 16 hours or it’s more than 4,000 square feet, the kit will kill you.”
In fact, Folsom says they even had a subset within the 4,000 square foot range. “We had two camera kits. The kit concept on the security side has been there for decades; all we did was try to make video kits that fit the segments — 2,500 square feet to us looked like an observation system; 2,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet started to look like a more robust surveillance system, whether that video was stored locally in a recorder or in the cloud.”
Make sure the cameras are appropriate for the environment, says Greg Bier, director and CEO, Vitek Industrial Video Products, Valencia, Calif. “Make sure you have a large enough hard drive in the recorder to achieve your storage requirements. Make sure you know what kind of cable is best to use as it is rarely included.”
As always, education is the key. Video kits definitely have their place in the professional security industry; the key is for dealers and integrators to know where kits are useful and where they are not. Sometimes that takes hard lessons, but those lessons can result in innovation and streamlines service (see “A New Breed of Video Kits,” page 98).
A New Breed of Video Kits
Hanwha Techwin found a great deal of success selling video kits in the consumer/DIY market. The company then decided to develop video kits for the business model but found the reception to be much different.
“We made about four different kits,” says Tom Cook, vice president of sales, Hanwha Techwin America, Ridgefield Park, N.J. “We were all excited, and we were killing it on the [DIY] side, selling millions, but the business kits didn’t sell at all. We asked, ‘What did we do wrong?’”
‘Our goal was to align the size of the opportunity with the kit and the team...’ — Larry Folsom
Cook says they were literally the same kits. “The price point was a little higher than the do-it-yourself because it was a better product, and the sales failed miserably. We talked directly with distribution and the counter people, and there were a lot of manufacturers saying, ‘Hey, we can put this all together in a kit — piece of cake‘.
So what was the problem?
After some serious evaluation, Cook says they discovered from their distributors that their customers didn’t want to be strapped down and conform to a certain model, and what they were looking for was flexibility — customizable kits.
This led Cook to realize that it was the pricing integrators liked, not necessarily the ability to have everything in one neat box with a handle on top. “What they want to do is, ‘Hey, if I’m going to buy these cameras and this NVR with one manufacturer, do I get a discount?’”
And that’s the new philosophy of kits Cook says Hanwha began to develop.
“So we discontinued our four kits, and we are announcing very soon a kit program in which you can take a choice of eight different cameras and three different NVRs — eight, four and 16 channels — and you can build your own. Then we’ll have a simple guide, laminate it, and slap it on the counter, and there you go. We’ll say, ‘You buy four of these and one of these, and you get 10 percent off.’ So simple.”
So while this isn’t technically a video kit in the traditional sense, it may appeal to the needs of larger integrators who cannot limit themselves to a set kit but still want the pricing benefits a kit offers. The program was set to roll out May 1 at the time of writing.