The final word on Essen

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10/16/2008
If there's one thing I can say about the Germans, it's that they're efficient. Not only does their public transportation work incredibly well, but they're somehow able to put out a five-page final report on their security shows (that's not a direct link - you have to go there and download it) not more than a week after the show ends. The numbers are impressive. 1,100 exhibitors, 40,850 "guests" (this includes exhibitors), visitors from 115 countries. And they break down the guests, too: roughly 10,300 were "constructors of security installations" (the Germans: so precise), 6,400 were "members of the industry" (I'm guessing those are the exhibitors), and about 4,000 were "resellers." You have to remember that Essen also allows in the general public, so there's a big number of "guests" that you or I might not care about at all, and, in general, there are a number of exhibitors that you wouldn't find at either an ISC West or an ASIS: the Russian ministry of defense trying to sell you armored personnel carriers, lots of protective glass companies, weapons manufacturers. Since it's kind of a blend of ISC and ASIS, you can see why it would be bigger and more diverse. IFSEC is comparable in scope, just a little smaller than Essen in terms of booths and attendees. Anecdotally, I've heard that IFSEC was for a long time thought of as more international, and Essen more German/Continental. However, this go round, a number of people mentioned Essen seemed more international, while IFSEC was very British, and people continue to express a growing and white-hot hatred of Birmingham, where IFSEC is held. Not only is Birmingham absurdly expensive (much worse than Essen, or Dusseldorf, where I stayed), but it's also just kind of an ugly industrial city with little to recommend it and there's not much close by. At least Dusseldorf is one of the financial and shopping capitals of Europe, with the "longest bar in the world," to boot. A number of people I spoke with were staying in Dusseldorf. Further, Essen just felt busier in its middle two days (it's a four-day show) than ASIS or ISC West did this past year. The booths were piled right up on top of one another, and the aisles felt very cramped and bustling. Other than maybe the middle day, I thought ASIS felt deserted at times, while ISC West was so-so. I book a lot of appointments one on top of another, and I always judge the traffic by how rude I have to be to get from one place to another in a short amount of time. At ISC and ASIS, I didn't have to be that rude at all. I just walked fast from one place to the next. At ESSEN, I was constantly apologizing for cutting people off and trying to slip through them, etc. This may be a result of tighter aisles and simple layout, but you can take that for what it's worth. But what about the content of the show itself?, you're asking. Well, it was a good reminder that North America is not the center of the security world. Big U.S. players in the IP video space, like Genetec or IQinVision, were relegated to the outskirts with fairly small booths, while any number of German and European IP video companies had huge booths and presences. Mobotix, Dallmeier, Basler, and Videotec all caught my eye as big companies that you don't hear from much here. All of them expressed an interest in selling into the U.S. in a much larger way in the near future. Even a company like HID, which normally dominates the show floor stateside, was kind of in a weird little corner at Essen. I was surprised. Also, this place was incredibly well organized for attendees. Check out this classification system, coded to the halls of the exhibition. It's like a Dewey Decimal system for the security industry. As for the integrators that were exhibiting, Niscayah and ADT seemed to be in competition for the biggest presence. Niscayah had a strange marketing device going on with an unshaven guy who looked a little like House pictured under the word "Wow," and then some language about "the whole system." And there were these poor schlubs walking around the show floor in suits with this guy and the word wow jutting up over their heads on a sign they had strapped to their backs. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of it, but I was having some digital camera difficulties. Anyway, I wasn't getting it. I guess the Wow guy was supposed to be an end user who was psyched that Niscayah could deliver the whole system without any outside help, but if I was an end user, I wouldn't want to be thought of as quite that disheveled. But maybe disheveled is "in" in Europe right now. Who's to say? ADT was bringing its familiar North American brand to Germany and emphasizing, similarly, that it could do everything from your fire to your voice evac to your security. They had a good presence and a hard-to-miss booth, but nothing as adventurous as what Niscayah had going on. I've already detailed most of my booth visits previously, so I'll leave you with a couple of thoughts on people I checked out, but didn't actually interview: Nedap - they have what they're touting as a "universal controller," basically a panel you could use to control anything from alarms to access control to fire. It seemed pretty revolutionary. These guys said they'll be in the U.S. next year. Byometric - a new iris-recognition company. They appear to be powered by Oki's technology, but they're making a nice marketing push and had a slick booth. I'm not sure about their U.S. plans. Fujitsu - I'm a sucker for design, and their palm vein reader, basically a glowing orb that stands outside your door, looks awesome. If you're curious about anything I might have left out, post a question in the comments and I'll see what I can do.