The view from St. Charles

Monday, June 1, 2009

It is reliably my favorite show of the year: PSA Security’s PSA-TEC event, staged during my three years of attendance at the Pheasant Run Resort, in St. Charles, Ill. Now, the Pheasant Run may have seen better days (someone needs to tell them they’ve invented colors other than brown), the attendees may not exactly pack the exhibit floor, and the drive from Chicago might, indeed, be one of the more depressing in America, but all of that somehow has very little impact on the quality of the event.

This is where integrators go to learn how to be better integrators. It’s as simple as that.

I spoke with Mark West, an account manager with Photo Scan North West Security Systems, out of Missoula, Mont., just after a presentation by Doug Marman (VideoIQ) and Mike Hanlon (ViewpointCRM) and he talked about how he could really get some business out of this whole analytics-powered video monitoring concept. See, he had a customer with a $150,000 excavator just sitting idle because every time he got it fixed some meth addict came along and stripped it of all its valuable parts. He didn’t want to pay the expense of moving the thing every night if he fixed it, and since it was at the bottom of a really big hole, he didn’t really feel like paying to fence the area off.

So, just use some motion alarms or something, right? Well, unfortunately, deer look an awful lot like people to motion alarms, and Montana’s got a lot of deer. But what if you had analytics-powered cameras pointing at that excavator that could tell the difference between a person and a deer, and what if every time someone came into the pit there was a voice that came over a loudspeaker?

“Hello,” it would say, politely, “you are under surveillance and the police are on their way. We advise you to find another source for your copper and other semi-precials metals.”

Isn’t that even better than catching the guy in the act? You don’t even have to pay to fix the excavator and the county doesn’t have to pay to lock up some derelict (until he commits some other crime, anyway).

West seemed to think his client would gladly pay some good money for such a service. A service West didn’t even know existed before his trip to St. Charles.

Sure, you can read about video monitoring - and really great estimating software and cellular-based access control, and IP over powerline, too, for that matter - but seeing is believing, and you can’t ask questions of a printed paper or illuminated computer screen.

PSA-TEC isn’t the only place where discoveries like West’s happen, but it sure seems like they happen there with a better per-attendee rate than anywhere else.