ISC West, Day 1, breakfast, lunch, and dinner
As I prepare to get warmed up for the 5k in a couple hours, I wanted to get some thoughts down from yesterday's meetings here at the first day of ISC West. It's a good show in general, so far, with people very upbeat, but I think that also stems from the people I met with, who are in general some of the industry's leaders and larger companies, many of whom were able to invest in the downturn and have started to come through it with maybe a little more market share and brand recognition. I don't think everyone's so positive or doing so well. Plus, it's definitely true that few people are going to admit to me that things suck right now, except for the integrators, who care less about public perception. That they were positive as well is definitely a good sign. And I did take a little video - it's rough, and with my iPhone, but it gives you an idea of what the show floor looked like if you weren't here. This one is from just before the show opened, so only the vendors are on the floor (give the UStream feed a little time to load - as I try to watch them myself, I really the quality is not the best - hey, what do you expect from a live upload on a show floor where the upload is completely jammed by a million wireless signals?): And then here's another video from lunch-time, when everyone was in the aisles: Whaddaya think? I thought there were good crowds, and a good collection of booths. Not the monstrosities I saw when I first came into the industry with the ISC West of 2006, but not bad looking, and I don't think anyone cares as much about the size of booths anymore. Really, they're just designated meeting places, and the actually product is much less to the fore because of the ease of checking it out at distribution or on the net, and I think they're much less crowded than they have been. Anyway, on to the meetings and my impressions. I'm going to keep them quick, of necessity, but I'll be elaborating on some of these in more full stories after I get back from the show. Axis (aka breakfast): I thought they displayed some good humor and showmanship, and they've embraced their role as "market leader." There were wisecracks about Pelco and Bosch and there was a great ironic theater to what they were doing, whereby they knew it was absurd, but kept at it. Stats provided by Bodil Sonesson Gallon, VP of global sales: 320 people in sales, in 30 countries, with sales in 70 countries, and 82 salespeople in the U.S. They also have more than 30,000 channel partners, and they say they sell 100 percent through the channel. I asked why, then, I could get Axis cameras at Amazon, and they said, well, Amazon gets them from a distributor, and Amazon is a "reseller," so therefore it's all through the channel. I kind of thought that was bunk, but they clarified that they actually employ a "channel police officer," who regulates pricing on the web, etc., and, really, Amazon is not allowed to sell lower than your average dealer when it comes to the end user, and that they monitor that very closely. It was a pretty good answer, but I think they need to work on that story with the channel, because I think a lot of the traditional installers in the market to buy that. Also, they did $320 million in sales last year, and increased R&D by 24 percent (that investing in the downturn thing). The products were nice: They're now into megapixel, with a 5 megapixel offering, and they said they waited until the lenses were ready for the resolution, and they said they've got something now called P-Iris that makes the cameras utilize their megapixels much better than just any only high-end lens. They also now have a HDTV dome, with 18x optical zoom, and they're focusing very much on ease of installation. Their US sales manager came in on a unicycle and installed a camera, then another exec installed a camera with a blindfold on, and they showed them in working operation on the laptop - it wasn't just the hardware. The thermal camera showed well, too, though I was less impressed with the results than some others just because I've seen that kind of demo 50 times. Still, they feel that thermal is now ready for general surveillance, a theory shared, apparently by Pelco, which also just released a thermal camera. Finally, Axis is big on hosted video, and they announced hosted partners that include Sonitrol, Niscayah, Reach Systems, Brivo, Iveda, Secure-i, and Pro Vigil. DSC (and Tyco): One of the first things you notice upon walking in the hall is that DSC and the rest of the Tyco brands are really finally starting to come together under one roof. There's a definite push to collect the brands, and to emphasize the integration of the access, video, and intrusion lines. Met with Denise Brulee, in marketing, along with product managers Mike DeMille and Leon Langlais. They said this is the first time they've shown all the products together and that the biggest benefactor of all would be the light commercial dealer, who'll have much better packages at his/her fingertips. It'll still all go through the same channels, but there will be a lot more collaboration in training and design, etc. They wouldn't comment on the Tri-Ed deal at all, except to say "we've had a long history with them, and we expect that to continue." Snooze. They've also got a revamped web presence - at least DSC does - and they emphasized that they're going to be providing a lot more sales and marketing materials. "The dealers want more benefits, and less features," said DeMille, which I agree with. They're also going a lot more interactive, with a Connect 24 product that's now out, similar to that Total Connect product line of their competitor's (I said it, they didn't - it made them a little sour-faced when I mentioned Honeywell), and they've also now got a bridge to Xanboo's offering. They believe managed access is the future, and said only a very small portion of the dealer base is into that now, but that there's a lot of interest and they expect it to grow very quickly. They agreed that pricing is one of the things holding managed access and video back (as in, what do I charge for this stuff), but said they expect that to settle in pretty quickly as standards develop and more of it is actually sold. The Alexor series has performed to the level "of what we dreamed," said Brulee. I assume that means they're selling a ton of it. They didn't seem to be bullshitting me on that. They had catbird-type smiles on. DVTel: I met with Eli Gorovici, president and CEO, and we had a far-ranging and interesting conversation. He speaks frankly and did not avoid questions. Basically, DVTel is of the opinion that the market wants an end-to-end solution. Which is not to say the company won't work with other manufacturers, but they definitely bought ioimage because they feel the market is headed to a place where the technological and installation benefits of working with one manufacturer for storage, VMS, cameras, and analytics will out-weigh the desire to work with best-of-breed components for each piece of the system. "I very much believe in best of breed," he said, "but it doesnâ€™t happen. This open systems talk, etc., is really only the lowest common denominator of the integrated devices, which is okay for some customers, but itâ€™s not okay for the enterprise customer." His opinion is that only by owning both sides of the camera-VMS equation for example, can you best take advantage of putting certain pieces on the edge and having certain pieces in the center, and even balancing the allocation of those resources. Further, he said integrators are just not going to want to deal with having to integrate all these various products when they can just plug and play with products from a single manufacturer that are designed to work together. Later in the day I asked three separate integrators about this opinion, representing Security 101, Dakota Security Systems, and Valley Ag Software, and all three said they didn't mind integrating products and definitely emphasized the desire for best of breed. However, it's definitely true that I consider these guys some of the smartest independent integrators out there (that's why I interviewed them), and it's very possible that there are less sophisticated integrators and installers out there where DVTel's message would resonate more fully. Gorovici doesn't see these smaller integrators and installers going away: "The death of the little guy is wishful thinking on the big companies' part." Pelco: Yes, it's true. Everything in the Pelco booth is 1080p or higher, from cameras to monitors. Marketing head Herve Fages said they wanted to show a simple message and wanted to emphasize their renewed role as technology leader. And he said the open booth layout was part of the "we're open" message, as well, emphasizing that any people trying to hang the legacy, proprietary, they don't care about new technology around their neck were simply not paying attention. Aren't they going to alienate their base, though? Fages said Pelco "hunts with HD, and farms with analog." They communicate with the dealers on a regular basis and they know well they're not being abandoned, he said. Also interesting is that Pelco has invested heavily in social media and had one of the best social media messages on the floor. They were supplying regular content to YouTube from the show floor, they were emphasizing their Twitter and Facebook pages, and Fages told me they've hired a social media coordinator who does almost nothing else. He said they didn't want to dive into social media until they had a plan for it and could do it right. He said they hope it will allow them to gather some end user feedback as well, since they are often divorced from the end user because of the channel doing most of the work on that end. An interesting account of the three years since the Schneider buy: -new warehouse in China -new offices in the Middle East -new manufacturing for the Chinese market in China -consolidated logistics for better global shipping -lean manufacturing, gaining as much as 30 percent efficiency -TAC a dedicated seller of the product, though they get no benefits that other integrators get. They're just big and are being told to emphasize Pelco. -new open attitude, which he says is often attributed to Schneider, but that Schneider has actually been pretty hands off and that's really come from Pelco management that was already in place and would have done that anyway, from reading the market Sight Logix: Met with CEO John Romanowich, who had a compelling case for the ease of his product's deployment and the strength of the analytics embedded therein. He said the company is finding success with independent integrators who are looking for a good outdoor surveillance option and can often cover an entire parking lot, for example, with just one or two cameras. But he emphasized that the company scales well, too, and that they have 150-camera installations and are working with the Lockheeds and Siemens of the world. He said much of the skepticism in the field about analytics is going away. "The people doing the real work are seeing that we're winning jobs and that we're being spec'd into jobs," he said. He noted that Siemens is using them despite having the Vistascape option in house. And the demonstrations they have are impressive, stuff that finds really small people in the field in the middle of fogbanks and snowstorms. They're also working on a performance metric for detection, based on something called the "Johnson Criteria," which I've never heard of, but which apparently is the distance at which you can detect anything, even if it's just one pixel high. Their point is that it may be possible to detect that one pixel, but that it's not practical for automated detection, and that no one actually looking at the scene would notice that, so they're encouraging everyone to publish first their Johnson Criteria and then their range for automated detection. Sounds reasonable to me - just have to rely on them to publish a real number. Further, SightLogix is emphasizing training, say they do a webinar a day to train a new or potential dealer, and that their products "don't need tweaking." HID (aka lunch): Talk about embracing your role as market leader. Denis Hebert gave a very impressive presentation on Trusted Identity, and talked about their push for the Trusted Identity Platform - or TIP - whereby all credentials would be trusted credentials on the network and in the building. HID has really embraced secure transactions and secure identity, and was the only manufacturer I spoke with who mentioned the International Association of Privacy Professionals, a growing force in privacy and security, and privacy in general. I agree with Denis that if you're not factoring trusted computing and privacy into your business plan then you just really don't see the future. At some point, offering a non-trusted credential is going to be like walking into a grocery store with smallpox - people are going to freak out. HID is ready for that eventuality and is moving their company in that direction quickly. "End to end security transactions don't apply to security today," Hebert said, "but they should. We must divorce this from the hardware. It's all about software now." I expect "TIP-enabled" to become an industry standard in quick fashion. More on this later. Panasonic (aka dinner): Wow, is this a changed company and a changed approach to a trade show. The booth is completely different because the company is completely different, Panasonic System Networks Company of America, a new combined force of consumer/B2B products and security products that offer up some very cool solutions in Security & Surveillance; PBX Telephony; Retail Systems; and Imaging and Document Management. I was given a whirlwind tour by the new VP of marketing, Christine Amirian. Let me tell you first of all that the HD video conferencing was awesome. I want it badly. It's a great picture, great sound performance, and it only uses 3 mbps of bandwidth. The applications are fairly endless for security. Just figure them out. There were also brand-new offerings for the retail vertical (POS integration), small business in general (a very inexpensive package of cameras and NVR), education (cool panic button tied into a 360-degree camera), and for phone communications (basically a suped-up video intercom system with access control capabilities). The new focus on solutions instead of product is intentional, obviously, and it's great to see security leveraging all the consumer technology that's seemed to have been hidden from security in the past. $100 IP cameras? Why not. Let's let security leverage that. I had some more meetings, but I'm running out of time, so I'll post about them later. Still, great day one, and looking forward to day two.