TDSi’s Distribution Channel Manager, Andy Cross, celebrated 30 years in the security industry in July. Having discussed this impressive milestone with the team, Andy mused on just how much the Physical Security industry has evolved since 1987 when he began his career as an apprentice for Chubb!
We decided to quiz Andy on his reflections on three decades in security, to give an insight (and some nice anecdotes!) on how things have changed.
TDSi: Overall, how have things changed in the security industry in the last 30 years?
Andy: It’s not hard to see how technology has changed in 30 years – just look at the consumer devices we all use. Security systems have evolved just as quickly. Back in the late 1980s, most physical security systems either ran in isolation or in limited wired networks. Certainly, if you invested in a security solution you needed to pick the best range available, because it was almost impossible to ‘mix and match’ different components.
It’s a world away from the integrated, wireless and online connected systems we enjoy today. Customer expectations have changed too, few buyers today would be prepared to invest in old-fashioned proprietary systems now!
With the Internet of Things taking centre stage, connectively and ease-of-installation / commissioning are expected as a minimum, and rightly so. Security systems need to offer excellent ROI otherwise they become a ‘grudge’ purchase, which isn’t good for either the industry or its customers.
TDSi: How did you first join the security industry?
Andy: When I was interviewed for my apprenticeship at Chubb I took along a burglar alarm that I had designed and built whilst at school. I had bought all the parts and with the help of my Dad (who was a Joiner) I had made a case to house it.
The interviewer was so impressed that I was offered the role straight away! Without wishing to in any way disrespect my younger self, it would be difficult to fabricate an industry-standard system yourself now.
TDSi: Being an installer back then must have been very different?
Andy: Very much so! As a young installer, I had a fantastic time, but there are stark differences to the role now. Back in the late 1980s we didn’t have smartphones (or even analogue mobile phones) and our teams would meet in a car park on a Monday morning to be assigned our jobs. We would go off around the area completing projects for the rest of the week.
As a young installer, I often had a labour-intensive schedule ahead – physically fitting locks to doors and sometimes using ingenuity (and brute force) to make sure they worked properly.
There is still an element of that now, but equally modern installers need to understand Internet connections, software and online connectivity as much as nuts, bolts and screws.
TDSi: Would you say there are definite advantages to being an installer now?
Andy: Overall, I suspect the installation times are far quicker now, but the depth and breadth of knowledge needed to do this has also increased. The evolution of technology has, if anything, made installers even more important to the security industry.
TDSi: Why are Installers still so important to the industry?
Andy: Installers work right at the ‘coalface’ and understand the challenges and potential opportunities better than anyone.
This also means that those of us in development, specification and sales need to remember this and ensure that we listen closely to the professionals installing these systems – if they say it can’t be done, that is generally the case!
In part 2, Andy discusses the key challenges for the industry and how he feels the sector will evolve in the future.