Did you miss the recent ISC East tradeshow in New York City? If so, fear not—we’ve got you covered! Our team at Total Security Advisor walked the showroom floor, shook many sanitized hands, took notes, checked out the newest tech, and picked the brains of attendees about top industry trends.
The main takeaway? The security industry is expanding and becoming more integrated.
Held Nov. 17-18 at the Javitz Center, ISC East offered several insightful educational sessions and award ceremonies. This year’s event was also co-located with the inaugural Natural Disaster & Emergency Management Expo, a bonus for all attendees.
Unsurprisingly, the lingering COVID-19 pandemic was top of mind for most ISC East attendees. And it wasn’t just because we were wearing face masks and seemingly indestructible vax bracelets (shout-out to the Javits Center security team for a job well done keeping everyone safe and compliant!).
According to some tech vendors at ISC East, the pandemic might have slowed the overall economy and certain parts of the security industry, but it also helped boost touchless solutions and video surveillance.
Dale Kougel, vice president of professional services and customer success at Alcatraz AI, said, “While many companies were investigating touchless access control technologies prior to COVID, the pandemic has definitely accelerated interest and adoption.”
Kougel said touchless solutions allow for a “safe and sanitary user experience,” noting some technology can also detect if a user is wearing a mask and restrict entry to assist with enforcement of necessary COVID-19 protocols.
However, Kougel suggested the increased interest in high-tech solutions isn’t just a temporary bump due to COVID safety concerns. He said, “The benefits of biometric-based access control systems go beyond a means of adding touchless authentication. They can also provide increased convenience and an added layer of security to any system.”
Kougel noted organizations like the Los Angeles Football Club are already using Alcatraz’s Rock system to secure their spaces, bringing these organizations into the “future of smart buildings” while “solving problems currently presented by the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, JC Powell, vice president of sales at Boon Edam, noted the request for touchless devices has slowed “since the beginning of the pandemic and the realization that the virus is not spread through direct contact with surfaces.”
“This was a common knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic,” he said. “However, there is a distinct line where safety negates security. This could have been achieved without such a drastic response. The interesting fact behind many of Boon Edam’s security entrances is that they have always been by nature touchless.”
Powell added, “The biggest change would be the integration with touchless readers such as biometric devices.”
Nonetheless, he said, “I do feel that there is a place for a touchless customer experience when it comes to entering a facility. The benefits of being able to conveniently move throughout a building while eliminating touchpoints will continue, but I see this being more common inside a building than at the point of secured entry.
“For instance, the use of automatic operators on bathroom doors is a great way to reduce touch points and provide a sense of health consciousness for the employees from their employer,” Powell continued. “Another instance we saw early on was to automate all doors, including those on the edges. Entrance points from the street can be automated; however, a clear line of secure versus non-secure needs to take place in the lobby of a building. The use of optical turnstiles can accomplish this, but only if used in conjunction with a manned presence [or certain touchless technology that] eliminates the need for a security guard at that entrance to properly vet employees entering a facility.”
Looking ahead, Powell said secured entranceways will “remain extremely important” as companies start bringing employees back to in-person work following the pandemic.
Ken Francis, president of cloud-based video surveillance company Eagle Eye Networks, stated, “Video has been changed and recrafted because of COVID.”
He explained, “Everybody that used to not care so much about looking at their video—they just went to look at it on-site when something went wrong and go find out what happened—are no longer OK with, ‘Oh, that’s a little grainy,’ or that the video they were seeing was ‘good enough.'”
“Now that they’ve spent a year-and-a-half having to try to see their building remotely—and across a wide area network or the internet—they realized that they can’t get good quality and that their video system, for lack of a better word, sucks.”
“It’s driving a lot of upgrades in general video, for sure,” said Francis, adding, “COVID had a huge effect on the deployment of cloud-based video systems.” He claimed the real-time upgrades, or “continuous delivery,” of such systems is the “secret of the cloud.”
Francis also said, “Analytics is king,” and, “It’s all about making the process easy.”
There’s no denying that drone companies are becoming more common in the security space and at industry tradeshows. In fact, ISC East hosted several drone solution providers.
Easy Aerial, for example, showcased its large “drone in a box” offering, an autonomous drone with a portable charging platform.
Tuvi Cohen, the company’s director of customer success and affiliate partners, said he expects drones to keep playing a bigger role in the security industry, both in commercial and military applications. He pointed out that drones are ideal for mapping and surveillance.
Because drones can be autonomous and are now better accepted by Federal Aviation Administration regulations, Cohen said he expects the aerial vehicles to become more popular. However, he noted, “I don’t think drones are going to replace other security solutions that you have today, but they are definitely going to be integrated as part of an existing structure.”
When walking around the ISC East showroom floor, you couldn’t help but feel like an A-List celebrity followed by the paparazzi, as there were so many cameras and monitors. (Confession: I might have taken a shameless selfie or two on a screen with my colleagues.)
It became obvious that the world of security is becoming increasingly digital; almost everything seems to be in 0s and 1s these days.
For example, Alcatraz’s Kougel, Eagle Eye’s Francis, and countless others talked about the rise of digitalization and artificial intelligence.
“The power of artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to be harnessed for many uses in security, ranging from video analytics that can monitor a scene and alert when specific events happen, to autonomous robots that can safely navigate a space and report back on a situation,” said Kougel. “The use cases will continue to grow, and as the models and data improve, end users will benefit from greater operational efficiency and the ability to maximize the return on their security platform investments.”
Admittedly, one of the most difficult decisions to make as editor of Total Security Advisor has been whether to focus on physical security or cyber. But, after speaking with many industry experts, it has become obvious that the two are intertwined.
Therefore, I felt the need to interview Phosphorus salesperson Eddie McGuire and his colleague, who manned what appeared to be one of the only cybersecurity-focused booths at ISC East.
“People are starting to make the connection,” said McGuire. “I think it’s the merging of the two worlds of cyber and physical coming together, because more and more of these devices that were typically just physical devices now have an IP address. If it has an IP address and it’s connected to the network, it becomes a cyber issue.”
McGuire explained, “We have customers and prospects that are telling us that they are getting hit with ransomware through their door controllers—or through their lighting systems—because hackers are coming in through the easiest weak points, which are these systems that are not usually covered by the cybersecurity teams, but by physical security. They typically don’t have passwords on them, the firmware has critical vulnerabilities, and so that’s what we’re seeing.”
McGuire said cybersecurity is starting to gain more attention, with ransomware attacks increasingly making national and worldwide headlines. He also specifically cited H.R.1668, the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020, as proof of progress in Washington.
Most recently, the Biden administration has made efforts to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity, but according to attendees at ISC East, there are still calls for the federal government to make the cyber sphere, for both private and public sectors, safer.
As digital and physical security mix among the industry, every aspect of security needs each other.
As Anthony Sabio, chief security officer at the Colorado Security Agency, explained, technology is essential, but likely will never replace physical people doing their honored duty.
“It works together,” said Sabio. “In the military, for example, you have to have boots on the ground. You can have the best drone technology out there doing everything they can, but at the end of the day, you have to get boots on the ground. You have to go assess the situation and figure out what happens.”
Sabio adds, “Technology, in conjunction with good security personnel, creates a very good apparatus for security. One, by itself, creates limitations.
“If I just put security officers out there in the field, they won’t be able to see certain areas until they finish a patrol that may take an hour or more,” he continued. “A lot can happen in that time. Same thing with a camera. If you only have cameras out there, there’s no one immediately responding to the problem. So, both security options have their limitations.
“But, when combined,” Sabio said, “it fills the gaps.”
Personal note: Although free items are par for the course when it comes to industry events (I got comfy socks from Samsara!), I’d like to issue a special thanks to our friends in the Security Industry Association, a premier sponsor of ISC East, for yet another phenomenal, smooth-flowing, free pen as part of my conference swag.