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MESH touchscreen panels in demand for new construction

Condo fever has hit Canadians hard. If there’s a spare inch of city space left anywhere, chances are it’s slated for urban development. That’s been good for the real estate, construction and home renovation centres, but it’s been equally beneficial to security system vendors like Steve Leach.


April 25, 2008
By Kathleen Sibley

Leach, owner of Blue Mountain Technologies, a low-voltage security
contracting company in Vancouver, doesn’t have a website. He doesn’t
have the time or the need to have one, he says, at least for the
typical marketing purposes of drumming up business.

Since starting the business in 1995, revenues have grown from $1
million a year to $1.75 million in 2007 and projected to grow to more
than $2 million in 2008. And he’s not looking to expand anytime soon,
he says. The company, which has grown to include two full-time office
staff and 10 technicians, has pretty much all the business it can
handle, he says.

“If I worked too hard I wouldn’t be able to get enough guys to do the work,” he says.

Blue Mountain Technologies was formed after the deregulation of the
phone industry. Before deregulation, only BCTel could install
telephone-based security systems. “They lost their monopoly and my
friend and I saw a huge hole in the market,” says Leach, a former City
of Burnaby, B.C., building inspector. That hole in the market expanded
exponentially with the condo-ization of Vancouver, a trend Leach says
started in 1986, when the city hosted the World Expo, and has only
accelerated since it was announced the city will also be hosting the
2010 Winter Olympics. Around-the-clock concierges and video security
systems are huge selling features for condo buyers, especially as more
single women buy their own apartments.

The buildings that will house the athletes during the games are slated
for residential and mixed use after the event. The Olympic Village will
contribute about 1,100 residential units, 250 of which will become
affordable housing through the provincial housing agency, while another
110 units will become modest market housing, according to the City of
Vancouver.

Blue Mountain is installing about 60 MESH (multi-media embedded
security hub) touchscreen panels in about 40 of the luxury Millennium
Water developments at South False Creek in Vancouver. The project will
also involve about 40 elevators, 150 cameras and hundreds of card
readers, says Leach.

MESH is a convergence of building security and control systems on a
network based IP-addressable software platform that replaces the
traditional mass of traditional card reader controller software with
standard IT servers and accessories.


BC Housing
has also chosen Blue Mountain to install MESH card access,
elevator control, and 15-inch Enterphone colour touch-screen panels, as
well as CCTV systems in a number of its older buildings.

Made by Burnaby, B.C.-based Viscount Systems Inc., the MESH technology
enable users such as property managers to log into any building
anywhere they have an Internet connection. The solution is
cost-effective, Leach says, because MESH doesn’t require expensive
controllers and the readers can be daisy-chained. Designed to be easy
to install, operate and service, upgrades involve updating software
versions, rather than ripping out and replacing hardware. One MESH
server can handle hundreds of readers.

MESH systems also allow users to control or restrict access to specific
floors. The systems can be connected to a building’s security cameras
and generate a log of who comes and goes at what time, a feature that
has applications for employers as well as property managers and
security departments.

Since the readers are constantly polled, when one system fails, the system immediately notifies the appropriate person.

Blue Mountain has been reselling the Viscount technology for about six
years, and Viscount’s Enterchek and Enterphone for nine years before
that.

Steve Pineau, CEO of Viscount, says 90 per cent of the company’s sales
are through dealers; the rest is through distribution. Likewise, 90 per
cent of its sales are in North America, with another 10 per cent on
average offshore.

Although the vendor originally started selling to the condo market,
enterprise security is rapidly developing as an important slice of the
market.

“What drives our business is large corporate accounts wanting to go to hard access systems that run on networks,” he explains.

Health-care facilities are adopting the technology because it is less
expensive to install and maintain, he adds. “Because everything runs on
network wire it’s a lot easier to add devices.”

Plus there’s the aesthetic attraction of colour touchscreen panels,
which feature a large colour display with 48 lines of entries, and
voice prompts in a wide range of language options. Developers like them
because they look good at the first point of entry for potential
buyers: the lobby, says Blue Mountain’s Leach. “Developers spend a
fortune on lobbies, and before people see the lobby they see the
intercom panel.”

The systems can also display advertising and the developer’s logo, he says.

“The touchscreen panels are to typical traditional building security —
what computers are to calculators,” says Leach, in that the MESH-based
systems offer a huge amount of functionality. Both the touchscreen and
keypad versions of the panels are user-friendly and can be programmed
from the MESH server, reducing the amount of time required to update
directories when people move.

Although Leach sees no end to the condo boom, he won’t rule out the possibility his business could change.

“MESH has so many applications we could go in many different directions.”

Kathleen Sibley is a Toronto-based freelance writer.


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