AFTER speaking with integrators a couple of months ago, as well as chatting with trainers at SIG, it’s been hard not to notice certain product trends in the industry. 

Alarm panels that self-install, surveillance systems that find themselves over networks. I made the point in last month’s editorial that pressure on price was going to see poor quality solutions installed by the unqualified installers but during the month I got to thinking that the issue was more profound than that. 

Perhaps the catalyst for my thoughts was Naren Gursahaney of ADT who said his company “recognizes the incredible opportunity developing” in the unmonitored, do-it-yourself (DIY) product segment that he rightly points out is largely unpenetrated by traditional security solutions. And thinking about this it seems there’s a confluence of forces coming that the industry in this country may have significant cause to regret. 

Fundamentally, what we have in Australia is an electronic security industry with no formal electronic security certification in place and seemingly, no intention of ever having any, being spoon-fed plug-and-play products a layman could install. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to see where this is going to go.

Solutions like Nest and Dropcam are attractive to end users because their functionality is so easy to access. It’s hard to quantify these solutions as aberrant when you have the likes of Google and Apple making moves to play in the field – even less so when industry leaders like Gursahaney start talking about the incredible opportunity of DIY. 

This plug-and-play simplicity is not limited to alarm systems. You only have to look at the success of companies like Australian CCTV provider Swan, which is reputed to enjoy annual sales of around $A25 million and is rapidly developing a global presence. For a company that started out as a bit of a joke, Swan is now a huge competitor in domestic and small commercial applications and deserves applause for its vision. 

And there’s no point grumping about such developments. You can’t corral technology for yourself, after all. And simple solutions benefit installers, too. They allow them to step up from alarms to automation and to access control, or from simple CCTV systems to major installs. Ane while plug-and-play works in some applications, in more serious installations it simply can’t cut the mustard.  

Logically, the best way for the industry to compete with DIY alarm and surveillance solutions is with better technology. But it’s hard to offer better technology when your technicians don’t know how to install it. And that’s where lack of training, which has been a rich vein of moans since I started writing about the industry back in 1991, comes to the fore.  

Along with arguments about global warming and the perils of a literal interpretation of monotheistic religion, training is one of those topics that’s almost as frustrating to me as the law of non contradiction. The complexities of Australia’s disparate state-based educational systems and the brick wall faced when trying to shape a training package are too awful to consider. 

Professional education in this country is utterly enmeshed by bureaucracy and fenced in by special interest groups. Bringing an electronic security course at Certificate 3 Level from dream to reality at a national level is probably impossible. Integrators in NSW say the best option for their technicians is to go through a standard electrical trades apprenticeship and then expand their knowledge with courses run by manufacturers. Maybe they are right – perhaps we should leave it at that. 

I started thinking about this because there’s a $A476 million Industry Skills Fund being opened on January 1, 2015, a fund the electronic security industry is not only entitled to apply for but desperately needs for the sake of its own future. Could this Industry Skills Fund be the long awaited catalyst for our technical education? If history points to the future, I think not.