18 May 2017

Still in the analog days?  Check out Jay Krone’s article in “Business Solutions” column that goes over 10 reasons why IP Camera’s will provide you superior quality images while being able to utilize your existing infrastructure.

Video surveillance is everywhere today, from private home installations to massive enterprise deployments. And while the migration from analog to IP has been on the rise for several years, many companies of all sizes and shapes have been hesitant to make the leap to an IP-based video surveillance installation. Using HD  cameras, IP-based systems bring the inherent advantages of network storage to video surveillance as well as the overall storage needs of a business.

There are the issues of the initial cost, the need for some technical understanding, and perhaps other concerns, but, really, why haven’t more companies made the switch to an IP-based video surveillance system?

Here are 10 reasons why now is the perfect time for companies to switch from legacy analog cameras and DVR systems to HD cameras and dedicated network video recorders (NVRs) for all their video surveillance needs.

1. Analog End of Life — Low-definition analog camera systems and DVRs are beginning to reach their end of life. This is largely because of competitively priced, HD -definition IP cameras and NVRs that use advanced hard drives designed for professional use with a backup design commonly known as RAID (redundant array of independent disks). With RAID, data is spread across multiple HDDs. If one drive fails, the files have been backed up on another hard drive. Additionally, the maintenance expenditures required to support legacy video hardware create an urgency to upgrade equipment.

2. Ease Of Installation — Manufacturers have recently promoted features like universal plug- and-play camera recognition to make NVR installations as simple as possible. In addition, as manufacturers design new IP cameras, ease of installation is a primary feature.

3. Existing Infrastructure Use During Switch — Because a lot of companies already have an analog system in place and want to maximize their existing investments, manufacturers have created solutions, like encoders, to support hybrid environments. As analog/DVR components start to fail or reach end of life, users can switch out components one at a time to begin the upgrade to an IP camera and NVR installation. This hybrid environment technique maximizes companies’ initial investments and provides them the flexibility of funding their video surveillance upgrade over time.

4. Cost-effectiveness  — Another misconception is that IP camera and NVR deployments are prohibitively expensive. A DVR may be cheaper initially than an NVR, but the NVR is no “one-trick pony” —  it not only can manage the video surveillance requirements of a company, it also can operate as the foundation for the overall storage and data management needs of a work group, remote location, or stand-alone business. And as prices of IP cameras continue to drop, HD cameras bring significantly improved capabilities.

5. Scalability — As you start adding cameras to an existing video surveillance system, the migration to IP cameras is the most logical choice. Network-IP cameras can be added to an installation using existing analog cameras, thereby allowing a company to migrate over time to today’s HD standard rather than staying with yesterday’s outdated solutions.

6. Reliability/Durability — NAS-based, IP-video surveillance systems have proven to be faster, more reliable, and every bit as durable as older systems utilizing DVRs and analog cameras. When you consider all of the inherent advantages of NVRs with RAID data management and professional hard drives, the move to NVRs combined with IP cameras makes even more sense.

7. Manageability — The ability to access and view video files from any location in the world via mobile apps and remote clouds (assuming an Internet connection) is an obvious benefit of an IP- based video surveillance storage solution.

8. Image Quality Enhancements — More and more affordable high-definition IP security cameras are available in the market. These cameras provide better resolution, expanded surveillance environments, and highly detailed images. And after all, doesn’t everything look better in HD — including your video surveillance security files?

9. Regulatory Compliance — Due to security concerns and a higher compliance environment on a global level, tighter regulations have been imposed on a variety of industries. Depending on an industry’s regulatory standards, a company may face considerable surveillance video retention demands. That can be costly and danger-prone with yesterday’s onsite analog approach to video surveillance. It’s easier than you think to utilize local and remote network storage for retention requirements and peace of mind.

10. Expanding Capabilities/Features— Video surveillance features are continuing to expand, enabled by private cloud, remote video apps, and analytics to enhance solutions. IP cameras can offer a range of functions from basic to advanced analytics in almost any way imaginable. In addition, low-cost storage options like hosted video make network video a much more affordable option than location-based analog solutions.


18 May 2017

In this issue of Cable and Ties, we’re handing over your own pair of vision goggles. Adapting your business to these building design and construction trends will help you grow your business or, at the very least, sharpen your competitive edge. Whether you design, build or lend support to those who do, seize the future by being the first to stock your idea toolbox with these innovative ideas. Take a look.

TECHNOLOGY: As capturing data grows in importance, Building Information Modeling or BIM will expand among construction firms, regardless of size. According to ConstructionDive, BIM provides “more consistent, more accurate and less time-consuming project document generation.” It also rates high on being a collaborative tool. Simulating the construction project before it begins allows users to actually see “what-if” scenarios before they ever get to the jobsite.

MARKETING: Construction has long been a commodity business. You design. You engineer. You build. You take on the next project. According to Strategy&, “success will be determined by those who can differentiate themselves from the crowded pack.” This might be using innovative technology, expanding services, hiring Millennials and creating a more diverse workforce, or changing the way you engage customers with your services (like offering concierge service or an app to keep track of your work – think “customer experience” and how you can set yourself apart).

GREEN: Positive Energy (also called PlusEnergy) takes over where zero energy once reigned. In an infographic from Citizens General Insurance Brokers, positive energy “uses solar power to produce more energy than they consume.” That means constructing buildings that work as hard as the people in them by using energy generation technologies like solar panels, heavy insulation and water retention systems. The Sun Ship building in Freiburg, Germany is a 60,000-square-foot mixed use commercial and residential facility that uses vacuum-insulated panels, triple-paned windows, reinforced concrete in the supporting structure, and an energy-optimized façade made of wood, according to architect Rolf Disch’s website. Disch built the first Positive Energy building in 1994.

HEALTH: The health-conscious commercial building promotes workforce wellness. With the high cost of insurance premiums and healthcare, more companies are nurturing a health-focused culture at work. Examples might include encouraging employees to take the stairs through signage or artwork, installing a walkway or path with distance markers, building of an exercise room, offering treadmill desks, or installing reflection gardens and healthy snack kiosks.

DRONES: Drones equipped with high-res cameras are being used in aerial surveying and mapping by some construction companies. According to Gizmag, “… through monitoring and aerial mapping, drones are proving indispensable for forward-thinking companies looking to stay one step ahead.” The value of drones is that the site data they capture provides for better decision-making for project managers, superintendents, construction contractors and surveyors.

PEOPLE: While technology and futuristic trends might seem to define the construction visionary, one aspect is much more down-to-earth and easily accessible: treating customers and suppliers like real people. With the proliferation of technology and the raising of an entire generation on mobile devices, companies that follow-up in a timely manner, keep their promises, provide helpful advice and make others feel important will ultimately set themselves apart.

18 May 2017

If you put all the abandoned construction sites in Illinois together, it might look like a scene from “I Am Legend” where New York becomes a desolate, abandoned city except for lone survivor Will Smith who finds the cure and defeats the Dark Seekers. The gridlock of Illinois politics has left half-done buildings strewn throughout the state. Like Smith, it’s time our state found a cure.

In an article in the “State Journal-Register” late last year, the Associated Press revealed that work stoppage last July “affected 419 contracts affiliated with 218 job sites.” The cost? A staggering $700 million worth of stalled projects left without further notice. The article then cites that 95 of those job sites were under construction per a spokeswoman for the Capital Development Board. Mild winter aside, the cost of protecting job sites from weather and theft is no small investment.

Numbers, though, don’t tell the everyday story behind the budget crisis impacting construction. Illinois gridlock takes a twisted, viscous shape when the fallout hits real people – like veterans, for instance.

The new Illinois Veterans Home, on the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Forest Preserve Drive, was to provide healthcare and residency for 200 people who served our country. Funding stopped construction abruptly last July. A “Chicago Sun-Times” article describes the building as it stands now: “The exterior walls of the five-story structure are propped up with temporary braces, snow and ice taking up residence where workers ought to be making headway to complete the $70.5 million facility.” Today, it stands locked and abandoned. During his re-election campaign, Governor Pat Quinn heralded the site as one of the most important buildings “being constructed in the state of Illinois.”

Today, the Republicans and Democrats are at a standstill. The latter group cites that a bill to reallocate funds for the project would be shot down by Governor Bruce Rauner. Yet, the governor’s staff says he cited the project in his 2016 budget. Until we see workable solutions and collaboration, unfinished construction projects and abandoned buildings will remain.

Projects at Illinois colleges and universities have taken a hit as well. According to the Associated Press: “$463 million — 65 percent of the total cost of stalled projects — is devoted to 81 campus projects at more than two dozen schools. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had to find alternate classroom space for 100 students because work at the veterinary medicine school stopped. At the University of Illinois Springfield, two projects have been delayed, including the construction of the new Public Safety Building. Upgrades to three buildings at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine also have been postponed.”

18 May 2017

LVS Breaks New Ground in the Design and Installation of Power Distribution, Rack Cooling, and Uninterrupted Power Supplies within Server and IT Rooms.

The wiring closets of old didn’t require much thought. Filled with passive devices like patch panels, small hubs, and multi-colored switches, the infrastructure was fairly straightforward. Wiring closets were often tucked away with limited floor space, inadequate power protection, insufficient cooling, and poor environmental management.

Today’s network technology demands more. Wiring closets are being displaced with server rooms filled with large, high power switches and telecommunications equipment that support new applications such as VoIP and IP Telephony. These new spaces require strict environmental demands that directly impact equipment performance.

In a handout from APC Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and automation, it cites this statistic from TechRepublic: 67 percent of level 1 network issues are due to poor routing and transmission of data, poor cable management, and insufficient airflow management. Inadequate documentation has long been another challenge, causing the wrong cable to be unplugged and inconsistent lifecycle maintenance. Even simple port changes become not so simple without proper documentation. In the changing environment of the traditional wiring closet, poor wire management can lead to unwanted down time and higher maintenance costs.

In November, LVS project managers and technicians met with technical experts from APC Schneider Electric to establish new best practices for what the industry calls “Network Critical Physical Infrastructure” solutions. These include wiring closets equipped with uninterruptible power supply, air-conditioning/airflow, environmental management and mobile technology.

As for definitive best practices, LVS suggests:
1) Focus on the big three: Monitor the environment, manage the cooling, control the power.
2) Keep a cable schedule spreadsheet listing types of wiring and their connection points.
3) Conduct a periodic Wire Management Audit.
4) Good management demands key devices: an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), rack power distribution (PDU), environmental and security with NetBotz, and KVM Switching and Rack LCD Consoles.
5) Consider remote management devices via interfaces or a Data Center Infrastructure (DCIM) with Struxure Ware Data Center Expert.
6) Set aside the time to do small things with exceptional quality, like properly configuring switch interfaces, and rigging grounding racks and wires.
7) Velcro, a simple accessory, keeps cables organized. A label at each cable end can save hours of work later on. Color-coding puts you over the finish line and into the A+ category.

18 May 2017

A 21-story Marriot Autograph Hotel in Streeterville. A 250-room Virgin hotel in the East Loop (Chicago Real Estate Daily). A 1,206-room Marriott Marquis at McCormick Place. A gorgeous 690-unit rental tower designed by architect megastar SCB. Oh, and don’t forget the new River North condo tower about to start construction (Curbed Chicago).

Cranes are everywhere

A high-rise tower and hotel boom has hit Chicago bigger than a Midwest snowstorm. In the aftermath of five long years where the recession stifled both the real estate market and employment, hope springs eternal – if not for our baseball teams – then definitely for the construction market. Let’s take a look at the numbers. As reported by Crain’s Chicago Business in its Chicago Real Estate Daily online media, Dodge Data & Analytics revealed that contracts for commercial and residential construction projects in the Chicago area totaled $3.63 billion in the first five months of 2015, up 3 percent from a year earlier.

As we all know, construction is a key indicator of our economy. For hotels, that means occupancy, which has surpassed pre-recession levels just this year. In fact, it is estimated that more than 2,200 rooms will be added to downtown by the end of 2015. Apartment units are on the rise as well. According to Dodge, local residential construction contracts, which include apartments, totaled $1.64 billion through May, up 36 percent from a year earlier.

“LVS low voltage work has exploded for both high-rise and hotel developments. We’ve seen a much higher demand for these types of projects over the past year,” comments Gary St. Cin, president of Low Voltage Solutions. “In fact, we’ve currently have a nice back log for this type of work.”

High-rise towers and hotels require many different types of low voltage work: voice and data, security, video, access control, rescue assistance and fire alarms. LVS has a solid track record in each of these disciplines and has the expertise that ranges from providing one niche service to designing and installing all of the low voltage systems required for high-rise projects. “We are a one-stop shop for all voice/data and low voltage services,” said St. Cin. He adds that many electrical contractors and construction managers rely on LVS because they know the job will be done right, on time and in a safe, efficient manner.

Examples of LVS’ tower and hotel work may be seen throughout Chicago: the 32-floor (plus luxury penthouse) Arcadia Apartment Tower, the super urban sleek Jeff Jack Apartment Tower (you guessed it, on the corner of Jefferson and Jackson), and the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel (an 1890s jewel that underwent a show-stopping renovation).

From a larger perspective, just last year, Chicago was named no. 6 in cities across the country for new construction (Dodge).

For a great article on Chicago’s building boom, complete with pictures, check out this piece entitled “Take a Tour of the Building Boom Currently Underway” written by Curbed Chicago staff.

“We’re excited to see so much construction activity going on in Chicago. There’s an optimism across the board that we haven’t felt for awhile,” said St. Cin. Looking forward to 2016, we are excited about pursuing new opportunities with our customers and business partners.

Gallun, Alby (June 22, 1015). “Good Times Roll On for Construction Companies.” Chicago Real Estate Daily, a Crain’s Chicao Business media.
Curbed Chicago (Sept. 3, 2015). “New 200 Room Hotel Ready to Rise Over Streeterville.” Curbed Chicago (July 31, 2015). “Take a Tour of the Building Boom Currently Underway in Chicago.” Dodge Data and Analytics (Sept. 2014). “The Top New Construction Markets in 2014.” Graph.