Security market stays robust, as do industry’s challenges

April 19, 2024
While a massive crowd perusing more than 700 booths at ISC West last week, executives at the Security Industry Association told industry media that market conditions remain strong in spite of economic and political uncertainty.

While a massive crowd perusing more than 700 booths at ISC West last week, executives at the Security Industry Association told industry media that market conditions remain strong in spite of economic and political uncertainty.

SIA’s new Chairman, Scott Dunn, Senior Director of Business Development at Axis Communications, and SIA Executive Committee member Mike Mathes, President of Global Growth at Convergint, discussed the organization’s most recent market index, the specter of artificial intelligence, recruitment efforts and more.

The March-April Security Market Index dipped three points from two months earlier to 54, just below the 12-month average of 55. A reading over 50 indicates growth in the security industry.

Outlook Strong Overall

SIA’s most recent barometer found 72% of respondents describe current business conditions in the security industry as “good” or “excellent” and 28% alone said “excellent.” The results are below the numbers from January to February, when 84% of respondents reported positive conditions at their respective companies.

Roughly the same percentage were optimistic about their business outlook for the next few months and 18% predicted the outlook would get much better.

A joint report by SIA and ASIS evaluating the global security market valued the industry at $405 billion. North America accounts for 30% of the market, followed by Europe (22%), and China (20%) and other countries below that.

The same report, released in March, explored at length the effect emerging technologies and outside threats are having on security integrators. The authors lamented other sectors of the industry or even those outside the industry “doing things that integrators have traditionally done,” says Ron Hawkins, Director of Industry Relations at SIA. That group includes big tech, health telcos, IT-managed service providers and even larger end users bringing security in-house rather than working with outside integrators.

The report suggests integrators evolve into managed service providers and take an RMR approach to their business, Hawkins says, rather than focusing on one-off installation projects and maintenance.

Integrators would do better to, “focus on identifying pain points, supporting end users in their digital transformation, and focusing on training related to all of the emerging technologies that everybody’s been talking about,” Hawkins says.

Mathes says recruiting challenges are on the industry’s radar as well. Convergint recently made a large donation to SIA to sponsor additional training for the industry, and the company is working in underserved communities at the high school level to bring workers into the industry and bolster Convergint’s internal efforts.

Hawkins believes recruitment efforts must stretch outside the security industry to bring in more talent. “That’s certainly something that has been happening the other way with technology companies outside security recruiting from security, which obviously creates some difficulties for people in our industry,” he says.

About five years ago SIA worked on a career pathways document with ASIS for security practitioners as well as integrators, says SIA CEO Don Erickson. He revealed that SIA will be reaching out to veterans in a new program later this spring to explain how they can join companies such as Axis or Convergint and what job roles may be available.

SIA continues to invest in college and university outreach and offers a four-part security technology curriculum to community colleges.

“We’ve had some conversations with companies this week who want to partner with us and with community colleges to implement that curriculum in the schools. That's another way of addressing it,” Erickson says.

SIA also released a compensation survey recently that will help integrators benchmark compensation levels.

“One of our strategic goals is to expand awareness of what the security industry can offer outside of the security industry. I think a lot of us can say that we didn't grow up saying, ‘I want to be in the security industry someday,’” Dunn says.

“And if you look at the general population today, and especially in the younger workforce, if you said to them, ‘What do you think about the security industry?’ they don't really understand all the possibilities and opportunities here. We’re looking to expand outreach to other industries and say this is a place you want to be working.”

Pulse of the Industry

Dunn and Mathes were asked to provide their thoughts on the “pulse” of the industry and its high-level challenges, as well as the growth opportunities.

While he walked the show floor at ISC West this year, Dunn says, the hot topics are about cybersecurity, the cloud and artificial intelligence, which weren’t mentioned much in the physical security business a decade ago. Most organizations are taking a more holistic approach involving the cyber and physical realms, and consumers of the technology and services “are becoming much more educated,” he says.

Mathes says the industry is facing a very dynamic problem reducing risk with adversaries that are constantly evolving.

“So, the industry, as a whole, is always looking to leverage new technologies,” whether it’s AI, the cloud or other technology, Dunn says. “I think we continue to see the end user demand new and more advanced technologies for them to be able to respond to a dynamic threat that's changing on a regular basis. So, we still see a very robust industry.”

Perspective on AI

AI was top of mind at ISC West. Many attendees were trying to separate myth vs. fact and trying to get past the marketing spin to understand what technology works in the security world – and what responsible and reliable AI technology use looks like.

Dunn and Mathes were asked directly if the security industry itself was guilty of creating “hype” around AI.

Mathes says AI will be a “transformational technology” that will force every industry to examine its impact and identify how hit can be utilized.

“To be honest, I think we're still hunting for really good use cases around using artificial intelligence in our industry. Everyone talks about facial recognition and things like that, and the challenges associated with it, but I think it goes a lot deeper than that. A lot of times security systems haven't been built with ready access to data to some outside application.

I think a lot of the AI challenges we have are, quite frankly, going to come from getting data. Customers just don't have data available in a consumable way for these systems to be able to act on it.

“I think a lot of the AI challenges we have are, quite frankly, going to come from getting data. Customers just don't have data available in a consumable way for these systems to be able to act on it. We also need the user base to evolve in a direction that allows them to be able to utilize AI. I think a parallel would be the transition to the IP industry when people had analog cameras. If they didn't have network infrastructure, how can you put an IP camera in? If they didn’t have the infrastructure they weren’t going to do it. Today’s infrastructure for AI is data. Figuring out how to normalize that will certainly help.”

“We're really in a world of deep learning right now, not so much AI,” Dunn says. “When I think of AI, that’s where we get to the point where the machines are thinking for themselves. What they’re doing very well today is collating large amounts of data and presenting that to whoever's looking for whatever it may be.

“When we talk to our integrative partners like (Convergint) they want to be able to deliver these solutions and analytics in a repeatable way, rather than having to go back out and keep adjusting things. What we’ve focused on is building something that's very repeatable for use cases such as perimeter detection or identification.

“A big challenge is that the end customer's expectations don’t always match reality. We’ve talked for years about the CSI effect,” Dunn adds. “You see something on TV where, ‘Oh, give me the view from this camera off the rearview mirror from the parking lot.’ It’s three miles away and there he is, right? That never existed, right?

“But people see that on television and they come to us. We must manage those expectations because I think a lot of hype, in general, is about what AI can do. So, we try to set the expectations, educate and make things as deployable as possible.”