ISC West IP Institute Seeks to Bring Dealers, Integrators Up to Speed

It's now 2006, and if you're not already aboard the IP networking train, you may have noticed that the cars are already starting to pull away from the station.

That's the general message from Reed Expositions, host of the ISC shows, and integrated security consulting and design firm Gompers Inc. With more and more manufacturers coming out with IP technology, there's often been a disconnect as many of today's installers, designers and sales persons don't know what to do with the technology, explains Jim Gompers, president of Gompers Inc.

While many vendors have been giving product-specific training for years, our industry has missed out on the first push of the IT wave, and now, as more and more security projects are being funneled through the IT staff and over company networks that run through firewalls, switches and routers that the IT staff operates, integrators and IP-installing dealers are coming face-to-face with a critical lack of training, says Gompers.

"As a consultant from the industry, and an educator and presenter, I feel the pain that's happening out there," says Gompers. "I do large scale integrated solutions, and even the biggest and best of the integrators out there don't have the resources to be able to pull off these integrated solutions at the level they need to. Users are getting frustrated and the consultants are getting frustrated, so there's really a push to come up with some kind of program that will ensure that we can provide qualified people."

To combat this problem, Reed and Gompers have pulled together the first program in an ongoing educational series called The IP Institute. It's a full-day course being offered on the Tuesday before ISC West in Las Vegas for a cost of $695, and according to Reed Exposition's Cynthia Holloway, the program is targeted at today's mid-level dealer/integrator. And it's not just for their installers, she says. The program, which is designed to give a general understanding of computer networking, is useful for not only the installers and designers, she notes, but also for the firm's sales people, as well as for end users facing potential security networking projects at their own facilities.

"Salespeople need to grasp this networking knowledge," says Holloway, "and unless they do that, they aren't going to be able to speak the language and understand the needs of the people they are marketing to."

Jim Gompers, who just recently finished an almost-300-page document that outlines the course and includes the networking material to be presented in the class, helped bring aboard key networking companies Cisco and Microsoft, but the Institute will also see presentations from security solutions providers HID, Lenel and Axis Communications, all of which have adopted a network-centric focus to their own product lines.

The first part of the program will discuss what convergence and integration bring to the marketplace, says Gompers, but then the program gets into a networking portion that will be presented and taught by Cisco. Not only it will it talk about what's driving the market, but the Cisco presenter will get into essentials like LAN, network protocols, network switching, network design and network security. Then, says Gompers, the program will cover some of the myths about physical security and networking.

Following the program on networking essentials, Gompers says the attention will then turn to network video, which is often the common element driving so much of today's integration and convergence. Topics like compression techniques, video network design, storage requirements, redundancy and fault tolerant storage systems will be covered, but the video portion of the course actually will offer a lab session where attendees can learn about assigning IP addresses to cameras and setting up the cameras on the network.

After focusing on IP video, the program will come back around to Microsoft, during which there will be a focus on operating systems and Windows tool kits, and some of the .NET movements. Database systems will be covered during this section of the program, including SQL and Oracle, before the program moves into discussion of integration programming languages like XML, and then ending with an exercise that runs through a simple SQL database.

"This section," says Gompers, "will at least give them an idea of what the IT industry is looking at."

Lenel will then present a program on security application toolkits -- the SPKs and APIs available to today's integrators, what they are, and what they can do. The Lenel portion will talk about integrating physical security databases and access control. This section will also look at the middleware available, plus moving between single-card and multi-card environements.

Part Four brings HID and Gompers together to discuss the design and integration of merged solutions. This section will focus on bringing value to the client, project management, and the facilitation process. Like the other sections, a lab-style project will test the enterprise coordination skills of the attendees.

"The playing field has changed from our good old boys security director mentality that we've had for years in the security industry," concludes Gompers. "Now we're sitting across the table from CIOs and executive committee members and board members, as well as our security friend. We have to encourage a collaborated decision process, because unless everyone is on the same page, then every one of these integrated projects is doomed to fail."

The program, which is being offered through Reed Expo's ISC West registration, can be found online at the ISC West IP Institute landing page. Attendees will earn a certificate following completion of the day long program; that certificate will bestow on attendees the designation as a Physical Security Network Associate.

According to Reed Expo's Holloway, sign-up is occurring rapidly, and should be open until near the middle of March. A second class has already been added to accommodate the program's strong interest.