For 18 years I have strolled the aisles of ASIS International's annual conference meeting old friends, making new ones and on the constant lookout for what I call the "head turners." That's my term of endearment for a piece of technology that commands a second look. For many of those first ASIS events I acted like a teenager with a new credit card as I eagerly shopped from booth to booth learning about what made this industry I had suddenly entered into work. Ironically enough, as I finished the first day of my 18th visit, it seems what's old is new again.
Back then it didn't take much to sway my attention. A blinking alarm panel lit up like a Christmas tree that was being modeled by some cutie in a bikini or a Star Trek-phaser-looking passive infrared device being hawked by a plaid sports coat-wearing salesman and I was sucked into the booth to hear what made this the latest and greatest. It was an easy industry to understand back in the mid-1980s.
You were the customer. It was your job to stand by the vendor's booth, look stupid and accept whatever the salesman told you as gospel. I mean, how difficult could buying security equipment be? Almost every product was sold as a commodity item that was picked off the dealer's shelf, installed and abandoned until the service contract ran out. Custom work? Come now, whose running this industry -- you or the vendors? That may be a little harsh, but the simple truth was many customers simply didn't have the street smarts to ask a single technology question, much less the right question.
But as the plaid sports coats were eventually replaced by savvy systems engineers and progressive vendors, an industry metamorphosis was well underway. The concept of quasi-systems integration emerged and end users began to demand more from their vendors. Customers wanted technology that would interface in a seamless manner allowing for modest customization. And vendors began to realize that customer service really would help grab market share.
As technology migrates from analog to digital from hardware to software, we are in the midst of a new revolution that not only targets technology, but focuses in on culture and business as well. Today security is all about the data. No matter if it is collected around the perimeter or at the door, those little ones and zeros are being fed through a corporate network that demands proficiency and security.
We are in an age of the quick or the dead, not to mention pleasant contradictions. Despite the mega-mergers, the constant acquisitions and fast pace of advancing technology, as I soaked my feet the hotel Monday night, it all became clear:
The more advanced our industry becomes, the more conventional it remains. Sure, technology changes and partnerships are a bit more complicated, but at the end of the day we are talking about people with vision and an entrepreneurial spirit that defy most odds. Each year the event gets bigger and science fiction turns into practical solutions. I'll be back on Tuesday looking for more "head turners," but some how feeling like I've seen this all before.