PSA-TEC day 2, part 2
To try to shake things up a bit, PSA-TEC decided this year to forgo the formal dinner they usually have and to instead allow manufacturers to host hospitality suites, each with a different kind of nosh, which in total comprised dinner. Except for vegetarians. We got some crackers and cheese and some fruit, but that's another matter. Basically, each manufacturer took rooms of varying sizes on the second floor of the hotel, so that the entire floor was consumed. This was slightly disorienting, due to the circular nature of the floor, and I never quite knew where I was after the third drink or so, but I think it basically worked. To get people to visit all of the suites, they had this "Face by Facebook" game (that may not have actually been the exact name) where you had to get a sticker from each suite with the manufacturer's logo on it, then had to hand in the piece of paper so that it could be entered into a drawing for things like TVs, iPods, etc. I did not participate in the "Facebook" thing (more on that later), but I did throw a ball in the Pelco Wii bowling set-up, where strikes got you entered into some kind of drawing. I nailed the strike with a lovely bending ball that slammed right into the pocket, showing that hours and hours in front of my TV at home have not gone to waste (anybody sporting a bowling rating better than 1683?), but there weren't a whole lot of security guys familiar with the Wii's operation, which was pretty dang entertaining. There's a kind of general reluctance in this industry to participate in popular culture, except that everyone's rocking an iPhone or a Blackberry nowadays. If popular culture and technology helps you make money, they're all about it. And I think pop culture and technology could help the security industry make more money if the industry embraced them. Tracy Larson at WeSuite (she's been all over the industry, starting as an end user at CA, then getting into integration) made a good point yesterday: Security is always being treated as IT's bastard step-child, as though security guys don't know technology, when, in reality, there are a ton of talented tech guys in security, it's just that you can't go protecting people's property with beta versions of stuff because, you know, it sort of has to definitely work. So, while IT gets away with things like, oh, I don't know, selling publications beta versions of vertical search engines that don't really work and they know it (cough, cough, that totally never happens, I'm sure, cough, cough), the security industry has long been pretty conservative about the technology it brings to market. This is changing now, obviously. Some of these IP cameras maybe shouldn't be out in the field as "security" cameras. Some of this PSIM software is maybe a little buggy, I'm hearing. It's interesting that when I talked to the guys at CelAccess yesterday, they made a big point of saying they weren't a "security" company. They just did access control. Not security. Is there a way to marry these two ideas: conservatively keeping people and property safe while using high technology that's been vetted and tested? I think some of it's just the messaging and marketing. A security installer who can marry these two ideas I think could move forward considerably, and I think some of that is just taking advantage of web tools and social networking and reaching people where they live, work, and play. On Facebook this morning, I was served an ad for this web site. I feel a little dirty linking to it, but it seems relatively legitimate (okay, no it doesn't - the text is filled with typos and it's clearly just optimized for search in a cheesy way - but you'll see my point). Where else are people going to see and be asked to think about putting a security system in their home? Young people don't think about security systems. No one thinks about security systems until they actually have something to protect. But young people get robbed all the time (trust me, I know a lot of musicians who've had their gear ripped off). If you tell them, on Facebook or somewhere else they frequent, that you can give them a totally wireless security system that will allow them to protect their apartment and it's only going to cost them a cheap monthly fee, they'd be all over that. Christ, they pay $80 a month for their iPhone and data plan. Probably more. What's $40 a month to make sure no one steals their XBox? But here we are at PSA-TEC playing a Facebook game and no one's actually on Facebook. PSA certainly isn't. And maybe they shouldn't be, as they don't really have consumer exposure. But they should have a LinkedIn group, probably, which they don't (entertaining PSA groups on LinkedIn: Pakistan Student Association, Phycological Society of America (a professional society for research on algae), Persian Student Association, Professional Sports Authenticators (they make sure your baseball cards are real), Preferred Sandals Agency), though a number of the PSA staff are on LinkedIn. Maybe LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter (especially) are actually a waste of time and worthless for a security installer to deal with. I'm willing to grant you that argument, at least, but some of this is just about impressions. How can you be protecting my family with the latest technology if your web site sucks? I don't believe you. If you can't email me a quote via a pdf file, I don't believe you can come up with a high technology way of protecting my business. If I can't find you on the first page of google when I'm trying to find your phone number, you don't exist. This is the way people really think nowadays, and while some of it might be irrational, you can't argue with irrationality. It just is. So, yeah, my advice for the security industry as a whole, as formulated after a night of networking with security integrators: Get more web-savvy, maybe listen to some music that was created after the Johnson administration, and maybe, just maybe, stop telling loud jokes about being at strip clubs so that more women will want to actually work in the industry. But I think the hospitality suites thing worked really well, actually. Good flow of people for networking and much better than sitting at a table with the same eight people for three hours at dinner. Off now to see a presentation on municipal security (if I get there in time).