Tech Trends: Off the Floor at ISC West

Beyond the bright lights of the exhibit hall, a lot of progress was being made in meetings and sessions

While there are plenty of products and technologies displayed in the exhibit hall at ISC West in April, there was also quite a lot taking place in meeting rooms off the show floor. Industry meetings, demonstrations, educational sessions and more presented an “alternative world” of activity that makes the ISC West venue an important annual event.

Here’s a glimpse of a few of the issues and sessions that caught my attention:

* SNMP Update: At last year’s conference, I proposed a new effort to help bring the security industry closer to its IT counterpart by harmonizing the device agents (called MIBs for Management Information Base) used by the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to monitor device health and status. The Security Industry Association (SIA) Standards Committee subsequently approved this effort.

SNMP is based on a model consisting of a manager, an agent, a database of management information, managed objects and the network protocol. The manager provides the interface between the human network manager and the management system. The agent provides the interface between the manager and the physical device(s) being managed. The information to be accessed is stored in a specified format in the device database, known as a MIB (Management Information Base), used by both the manager and the agent (for more, see my article here:

I am happy to say that this effort is gaining significant traction, as witnessed by a record turnout at the ISC West subcommittee meeting. Beyond the natural movement by a number of key manufacturers to make their products more network-friendly, there are increasing desires from both the end-user and integrator communities to work with products that can be monitored.

Start with Microsoft, which has tens of thousands of IP devices in its facilities around the world. Currently, James Stroud and his team are conducting an evaluation of IP camera, power supply, access control, intercom and intrusion devices to understand what can be monitored through their own SNMP manager. The tools are impressive — the results are not. It’s pretty reasonable for a customer to ask what’s online, where it is and its status; however, for the most part, even devices that support some SNMP features are lacking in basic information, and this needs to change.

Ron Allen of D/A Central, representing technical activity for integrator association Security-Net, commented that, in the future, he envisions integrators having strong preferences for devices that can be monitored, allowing more effective service and additional revenue opportunities.

Some ask if this effort will compete with standardization efforts, such as ONVIF or PSIA —it won’t. There’s a fundamental difference in that the SNMP effort seeks to harmonize what’s already there within the umbrella of a well-established protocol for monitoring purposes, where other efforts address interoperability between devices and management software. SNMP could potentially be added to VMS and other management packages as an additional component.

Interoperability: There were multiple interoperability demonstrations at the show, all open to attendees without charge. One effort that has been under way for a number of years has been SIA’s Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP), which leverages bi-directional communication, encryption, large data transfer capabilities and the ability to handle smartcards to create a more secure and sophisticated access control environment. Based on the participants and attendees at SIA’s reception, this effort, too, appears to gaining traction.

Education: My favorite education session was entitled “School Security: Elevating Safety through Event Prevention” — which used the new Sandy Hook Elementary School as a case study for how proactive design can provide protection and risk mitigation through design elements which “Detect, Deter and Delay.” The presenting team included the security consultant, architect, technology provider and end-user, demonstrating the importance of collaboration among the security design team.

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