By Mike Monocello, Business Solutions magazine.
Despite numerous barriers to entry, with the right guidance and initiative, the government market can yield huge dollars for solutions providers.
Few verticals can feel as overwhelming as government, because of the market’s budgetary mysteries, variable purchasing windows, various grants, and other assorted red tape. Despite those obstacles that challenge veterans and overwhelm solutions providers thinking of entering the space, the rewards can be lucrative and worth the effort. Indeed, according to the audience circulation statements for Business Solutions magazine, some of our largest readers in terms of annual revenue focus on the government space. So, what do they know that you don’t?
If we’re going to talk about the IT opportunities in government, we need to more clearly define what types/branches of government we’re talking about. For the most part, the opportunities you’ll have (related to the technologies we cover in this magazine) in this space will fall within the realm of public safety/law enforcement, military, and agencies (both federal and local).
In all of these areas, there are a number of trends driving substantial technology adoption. For instance, safeguarding public areas from crime and/or terroristic acts gets a lot of deserved press and requires new and unique technology implementations to curb such acts. Additionally, our government, just like any enterprise with multiple locations, is relying more and more on secure and reliable communications (network, video, radio, records sharing, etc.) between its agencies, departments, and in some cases the public. David Krebs, VP of mobile and wireless, at market research firm VDC Research also pointed to such trends as digital evidence management and situational awareness.
Are You Addressing The Demand For Mobile Solutions?
Knowing that such trends exist is one thing. However, it might help to know more about how specific technologies are being applied to create solutions that address those trends. “One clear trend with respect to mobile solutions is that government organizations are taking cues from enterprise organizations with respect to the management and support of mobile devices and development and management of mobile applications,” says Krebs. “Much as in the enterprise, government organizations are not immune to consumerization trends. However, today, no standards governing the use or adoption of other technology solutions growing in commercial market popularity exist [especially in higher security segments such as the military].” He goes on to say that, within the military and advanced public safety specifically, some of the key mobile initiatives include advanced wireless infrastructure (the reallocation of portions of the 700MHz spectrum [known as D Block] for public safety use will go a long way in that direction), the introduction of device management policies, and the promotion and development of mobile applications.
Barcoding Solutions Aren’t Going Away
According to Krebs, it will be critical for barcoding vendors to respond to emerging solutions needs within the national government sector. Development of turnkey solutions and associated services will be a critical differentiator and market development engine. He states that key solutions for the federal non-military sector are expected to include:
“An increase in AIDC budgets in 2012 within the government vertical is expected to be driven in part by pent up demand and appetite for leading next generation applications,” he says. “Enterprises are looking to get more out of what’s currently on hand, empowering their employees and remaining in alignment with longer-term initiatives.” For example, Krebs points out that the Homeland Security Department, one of the largest recipients of technology funds, was given $200 million for border security technology and $200 million for port inspection technology. Additionally, he says that the Transportation Security Association received $1.2 billion for aviation security and baggage screening technology at airports, while customs collected $97 million for tactical communications equipment and radios.
“As government entities are increasingly faced with an eroding tax base resulting from economic downturns, and a cutting back on personnel resources, there is growing demand for automation to support public demand for services on a 24/7/365 basis,” he explains. “Investments in AIDC solutions are thus growing, as vendors provide real-time access to vital information in order to help improve productivity, accuracy, and increase vigilance.”
IP Video Surveillance Should Be Your Next Revenue Generator
Over the last 18 months the pages of Business Solutions magazine have been covered in words urging readers to seize the opportunities IP-based security solutions are presenting. However, we haven’t talked much about these opportunities from a government perspective. In the June 2011 issue, we did interview one very successful integrator, Ojo Technology, who was having a lot of success selling video surveillance to public works. Check out that article, “Video Surveillance Advice Your Competition Doesn’t Want You To Read,” at BSMinfo.com/go/ojo.
In a recent report, Oliver Philippou, market research analyst at IMS Research, says, “Despite police department budgets coming under increasing pressure, the HD camera market onboard police cars is set to grow at over 20% over the next four years. He goes on to explain, “The key driver for HD video is simply better quality images. As camera prices decline, compression methods become more advanced, and new wireless draft specifications, such as 802.11 ac, make handling large amounts of data quicker and more efficient, the use of HD cameras will increasingly become a more viable option.”
Philippou continues, “The main issue with using HD cameras remains the storage of the video. The length of time that video has to be kept by police departments varies, with some states requiring a full 365 days of video storage when used as evidence. Even with better compression methods, recording in HD is likely to increase the amount of data by a factor of three or four at the very least. With the recent floods in Thailand causing serious production issues for disk drives, the price rises in disk-based storage costs would increase considerably.”
Apart from the use of video in law enforcement, there are obviously many other uses for IP video surveillance solutions in the government space. Public transportation (airports, train stations, and bus terminals), public buildings, border patrol, and public parks all are calling for the latest video solutions. These solutions aren’t just cameras. There’s opportunity for substantial technology integrations including networking (wireless and wired), storage, analytics, and first responder systems.
These opportunities represent just a sampling of what lies in the government space. If you’re new to the market and are interested in getting involved, your best bet would be to contact your distributors or manufacturers of the products you currently carry. Most distributors and vendors have on-staff experts who can help you better understand and navigate the market and help you identify any areas where you might be able to leverage your skill set.