ASIS sobers industry newbie

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

I have a confession to make: I'm a reporter for the security industry, but my husband and I don't even have an alarm system in our house. In fact, we rarely remember to lock our doors at night. That is, we didn't until I attended my first ASIS show in San Diego this past September.
A complete newbie to the industry, I walked the aisles of the San Diego Expo Center mingling with the purported 20,000 integrators, suppliers and end users at the conference. I'll admit there were moments when I felt as if I'd stepped into a James Bond movie: In one aisle was a garbage can able to absorb the full impact of a detonating bomb, in another was a Brijot scanner that provides full-motion, automated detection of potential suicide bombs hidden beneath a person's clothing.
And just to add emphasis to the hi-tech atmosphere at the conference, a man walked by at one point wearing a spherical camera mounted on a backpack that "allowed the viewer to see 360 degrees of a specific environment."
ASIS even had its equivalent of "Bond Girls"--women hired by exhibitors to pass out fliers and lure customers into booths with the promise of a free iPod (or at least a piece of chocolate).
Beneath the glitzy surface of the show, though, was the sobering reality of the central purpose each company had in being there: keeping people secure and safe in an unpredictable world, a world that has changed greatly in five short years. When I met with Sagy Amit of ioimage, the Israeli company that recently opened its doors in the U.S., we discussed issues Israelis face every day: How, for security's sake, citizens there are scanned before entering a restaurant, a movie theatre, a club; how ioimage has the advantage of having "field tested" all of their products the hard way.
In fact, everywhere I looked, it appeared that the security industry was going through a technological renaissance. At Pixim, Joe Montalbo showed me how his company's imaging technology used in video surveillance cameras has revolutionized the way images are captured and processed. The very practical end result? An increase in positive identifications for law enforcement, and hopefully, a decrease in crime.
John Lapolito of Vidsys Software discussed the rapid convergence of physical security with IT security, and how his company has developed one console to control all technology, "along the lines of a universal remote for a home entertainment center." The message everywhere: Make it simple for the user; make security accessible because it's something we all have to be responsible for, on some level, in a post-9/11 world.
What I saw at ASIS made me excited about being part of this industry at a crucial time in our evolution as a society. The scene at the conference opened my eyes for good: It is no longer acceptable to assume that bad things won't happen. In light of the recent shootings at schools in rural areas in Wisconsin, Colorado and Pennsylvania, it isn't safe to assume that "it won't happen here," even if "here" is a place where nothing ever happens.
Needless to say, my initiation into the security industry changed my perspective in ways big and small.
I no longer take security for granted, for example. Upon my 1 a.m. return from San Diego to our house in our quiet little town in Maine, I set my bags down in the living room and promptly locked all the doors.