Eye on the states: Converging technologies, customers require new lens

Thomas Davies

Conventional wisdom asserts that state and local government is a market of niches. Among the more obvious ones are technology niches (data vs. voice), political niches (red states vs. blue states), policy niches (pro-outsourcing vs. anti-outsourcing) and market niches based on government programs (food stamps vs. emergency response).

Competition takes place within these niches, and rivalries can be quite intense. Yet companies, once they successfully penetrate a niche, are often quite reluctant to leave their comfort zones and extend their market reach beyond their core niches.

Well-established niches often are the basis for understanding state and local market dynamics. They also become a convenient way to organize a company's marketing efforts. You'll often see companies align their marketing along such niches.

But sometimes these niches can lead to myopia and cause companies to miss out on emerging market opportunities. When they do, they are often surprised at how they missed out on something important that was happening right under their noses. Law enforcement, which is served by established technology companies, is a case in point.

Many emerging opportunities in law enforcement these days don't readily fit into traditional categories.

Instead, they are the direct result of converging forces that cut across market niches and require a mix of content, technology and application capabilities. One example is the promising opportunity rapidly becoming known as video policing.

IBM Corp. has a jump-start on the market for video policing and was recently awarded a key contract by Fresno, Calif. IBM plans to build a converged solution that will create a regional, interoperable communications web linking first responders.

When fully deployed, the solution will support applications such as

database access and police report filing. And it will extend the content that's available to officers on the street beyond traditional data, text and audio to include mug shots and live video streaming.

Fresno is just one of many state and local buyers investing in video policing as a way to further extend its highly successful community policing practices. Universities and colleges, such as the University of Pennsylvania, also have been on the forefront. And other cities are extending video policing even further to include sensor activated live-video streaming.

A new customer perspective is enabling video policing. Convergence in technology, applications and content is resulting in convergence in customer requirements.

State and local governments are collaborating on metrowide and regionwide bases, leaving the days of going their own separate ways behind them.

The lesson learned from all this is quite simple. When the traditional ways of looking at the state and local market aren't producing results, it's time to step back, open up the aperture of your lens, and let in some more light. You may be surprised at what you discover.

Thomas Davies is senior vice president at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va. He can be reached at tdavies@currentanalysis.com.

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