The security week that was: 06/18/10 (ESX edition)

Special report: ESX 2010 in Pittsburgh

I just flew back in from ESX 2010 in Pittsburgh, Penn., and, wow, are my arms tired. And my feet are sore. And my brain is full. And my notebook is loaded with new contacts and storage ideas we'll be bringing to you, our SIW readers.

This is the third Electronic Security Expo I have attended (it's only the third time this annual event has been held) and this has to have been the best one yet. Owned by the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) and the Electronic Security Association (ESA, formerly the NBFAA), the show brings in some of the top security installing firms and central stations from around the nation along with product vendors, technicians and anyone else who wants to be educated and apprised of the latest trends in technology in this industry.

One of the biggest topics this year was about communications protocols. The death of POTS was the big topic. Phone carriers have been indicating that traditional landline phone systems are rapidly becoming a thing of the past and something they may discontinue in the next decade. That's huge news to our industry, which has relied upon copper wires to send alarm signals for years. The equipment mounted on the walls often depends on those phone lines and AHJs have sometimes been reluctant to open up to new technologies for communicating alarm signals.

But there are a lot of options. There have been SMS communicators, GSM cellular radios, direct fiber optic connections, MESH networks, private radio systems, managed facility voice networks (MFVNs) and of course the Internet or other IP pathways. At a closing session, speakers nodded that Google may become the next AT&T. No longer content to be a search engine, Google is trying to connect entire towns with fiber optic ISP connections. Others at the expo are saying GSM will be dead in five years. That's simply not the case, say others, who note that carriers are considering backwards compatibility and will support GSM cellular devices as long as they have the availability of frequencies. It's not like an AMPS sunset, they say, despite erroneous media claims to the contrary.

Dealers say they're wrestling with AHJs when connecting fire systems via IP networks. Some in our industry are saying that these newer communication protocols are actually better than POTS lines, which had always been assumed to be the gold standard in terms of connecting life safety systems to monitoring centers. That simply isn't the case anymore. Others noted that POTS hasn't really existed for years -- that what we call POTS is running over carriers' MFVNs in most cases already. But don't confuse that with services like Vonage, VoiceWing and CallVantage -- which most in the industry say are predictably unreliable for communicating vital alarm signals when it's a case of life and death.

One thing is clear; there needs to be more education on these topics, and I applaud CSAA and ESA for doing their part at ESX. The other thing that was clear from the "Alternative Carriers" seminar (the last one of ESX 2010), is that the security industry needs to create relationships with the carriers. We no longer can think of ourselves as too small for the carriers to concern themselves with. The industry deserves a seat at the table as these carrier technology changes move forward.

Aside from all the in-depth education and industry-altering trends that were being discussed, ESX puts on a good time for its attendees. This is an industry of friends, where even competitors feel a sense of community. How else can you explain late-night karaoke sessions on the ESX Pub Crawl or an impromptu game of "Ring around the surveillance camera" which had suit-and-tie professionals attempting to toss neon necklaces onto the mounting bracket of a small fixed CCTV camera hanging in a sports pub?

Ok, back to the serious stuff. Here's a quick look at some recent ESX 2010 coverage by and Security Dealer & Integrator (SD&I) magazine:

ESX 2010: The show is just getting started
(SD&I assistant editor Natalia Kosk blogs about Day 1 of the show)

ESX off with accolades
(SD&I editor Deborah O'Mara's report from the Weinstock and Jackson awards event)

Telular launches dealer program at ESX 2010
(New program for dealers looking for cellular communication for alarm systems)

CSAA recognizes the best staff members, central stations
(Doyle Security Systems named 2010 station of the year, plus other winners!)

CSAA gives thumbs up to Intertek's ETL listed central stations
(During ESX, the CSAA decided that ETL listed stations would be allowed as members)

Video verification strategies: Response and standards
(SIAC's take on what monitored video means for police response and why we need standards)

Video verification strategies: Bringing video into a central station
(Station managers and IT managers talk about what it takes to do video verification)

ESX 2010 recap
(SD&I magazine's Deborah O'Mara shares news and notes from the show floor)

ESX 2010 coverage part 2: Consumer-driven technology drives the show
(Natalia Kosk looks for the line between consumer and professional security products at ESX)