Attention Physical Security Industry: 2006 Was Your WAKE UP Call!

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

I recently attended the 2006 ASIS show at the San Diego convention center. It was a good event all around. There were more vendors talking up security convergence, but in 90% of the cases, talk is all it was. When you ask about technical resources to troubleshoot the IP networks they claim to understand or if their business development folks have ever actually developed any business with IT partners, you get the "deer in the headlights" look. These firms still spend a lot of money on big booths and marketing promotion technologies, and yet they have very limited understanding of the products or industry needs. In less then 12 months time they will look back and realize how those investments would have been better spent hiring IT technical and sales expertise. In one breath it is "IP and Digital Surveillance" and in the next moment they mention a new account where they sold a large analog video deployment? After all they say, "analog is 90% of the market", as if to imply that this technology is the future. In my mind the long-term trend for analog is about three years.

If you read industry news you recognize another trend, start up software companies with IT expertise entering the physical security space. Their three-year R & D cycles started post 9/11 (in 2002) with solutions entering the security market last year. These small firms have the convergence momentum. Their founders and technical staffs are from the IT industry. These software solutions are leading edge and large IT and traditional physical security vendors alike are purchasing them. A case in point is the recent acquisition of VistaScape by Siemens. The CEO/founder of VistaScape was also the CEO/co-founder of ISS, a publicly traded firm specializing in solutions that protect networks, desktops and servers from Internet threats. By the way, IBM paid 1.3 Billion for ISS earlier this month as part of their managed security solutions strategy (another trend). 2006 was the year to recognize these trends and position your business to capitalize on convergence.

The 2007 ASIS convention will be the WAKE UP call needed for the traditional and conservative physical security industry. The problem is that too many of the executives in this market are in security convergence denial. You need a "BIG VISUAL" to slap some reality into you. This is exactly what you will get when Cisco Systems has a booth larger then Pelco's at next year's show. IBM, EMC, Microsoft and all those huge IT companies with small booths and little signs on this year's ASIS floor won't be far behind. By Q4 2007 some firms will finally decide that open systems, standards and interoperability is the way to go. They will "accelerate" their R&D and product delivery cycle to three years and be ready for convergence in 2010. BIG Problem: The 2010 ASIS show will look more like the IT event NetWorld/InterOp then a traditional ASIS floor. The security convergence partnerships will have been long established and producing revenue within enterprise accounts. In fact, by 2010 I am betting ISC West in Vegas will be established as the premier industry event for security convergence.

Like it or not physical security entered the twilight zone in 2002 and most of you missed it. By 2006 the IT convergence trend was obvious but less then 20% of your industry acted on it. By 2010 when 80% of the physical security players finally decide to get serious by actually investing money into convergence resources and infrastructure the game will already be over. 

I want to see physical security solutions deployed beyond silos and across corporate infrastructure a.s.a.p. This strategy aligns convergence as the centerpiece of a corporate security policy that mitigates enterprise risks through solution deployments. Both industries need to collaborate and leverage mutual expertise to make this happen. But the time to act is now, in 2006! Ten years from today the winners will look back upon this convergence era with IT as the single most significant event of their business careers. The losers will wish for a time machine.

Wake UP and Partner in 2006.