Security Watch: Security in Vegas
Aug 1, 2006 12:00 PM, By Steve Filippini
Observations from the International Security Conference
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the International Security Conference in Las Vegas. Commonly referred to as ISC West, this tradeshow is one of the largest gatherings of security vendors and customers in the country, and an old favorite of mine. Nowhere else can a veteran of the security industry bump into former coworkers and customers at such a consistent rate. As the saying goes, if you stay in the business long enough, you will come full circle with your peers.
Of course, things change over time, and the ISC show is also a good indication of where our industry is headed. Case in point: Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) appeared to be the predominate business represented at the convention. Coming from the burglar/fire alarm side of the fence, I was saddened by what I saw, but I do understand why it's happening. IP technology has grown in leaps and bounds, and the CCTV industry has embraced it. More on that later.
The ISC show, like all vendor/product conventions, uses a variety of means to get your attention. Product kiosks are large and flashy; attractive women in provocative clothing work hard at getting your attention long enough for sales and marketing folks to intervene and launch into their practiced sales pitches. Companies were actively trying to lure me into using their product lines, but let's face it: There's only so much you can do to change the detection devices available today. For example, plastic housings for motion detectors and glass-break sensors are getting smaller and more rounded at the edges, and transmitter batteries are almost all lithium now, and longer lasting. There are more color schemes to choose from, more websites to visit, and more languages printed in the installation notes than ever before. Reduced current consumptions, extended areas of coverage, and the latest technologies used in the manufacturing of products sometimes create public interest, but not very often anymore. In the end, it's just another device used to detect illegal entry. Still, I've always been able to find a few products that make it worth the trip.
I walked the show floor several times, and I was pleased to see some companies I used to do business with were still around. Labor Saving Devices was still showing us how to do our jobs with a variety of slick tools and gizmos that I wish I had as a field tech. One item they had on display was an open-sided video BNC or F-connector installation and removal tool. If you've ever struggled with needle-nosed pliers when attempting to secure a BNC or F-connector, then you need to look this one up.
Aiphone was there, talking about the company's new AN-8000 IP-based intercom system. Local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs) were the modes of communication discussed by everyone at the show, and Aiphone is hoping it has the offering you need. Aside from the company's product line, Aiphone offers one of the best tech support services in the industry, in my opinion.
Ditek, a company that offers surge protection for any application, introduced the DTK-TSS (Ditek Total Surge Solution) for conventional and addressable alarm systems. This covers the 120V system power, Signaling Line Circuits (SLC), Initiating Device Circuits (IDC), Notification Appliance Circuits (NAC), and communication circuits. ESD (ElectroStatic Discharge) power and current surges are the leading killers of alarm panels, and Ditek offers some top-notch protection solutions.
One company I have taken an interest in lately is Nascom, which has taken your everyday contact offerings and made them better. Offering smaller, wider gap coverage and a design approach from someone who has field experience, Nascom contacts are worth a look.
For instance, magnets have positive and negative poles. This means that at some point on the magnet, there is a neutral spot where no magnetic field is present. When a magnet is placed next to a security contact, the two leads inside the glass-encased housing are pulled together to create a closed circuit. If the magnet shifts to either side of the contact, at some point, the neutral field will center on the leads and release them. Nascom's N200AUMM/STHS industrial contact attacks this problem by refusing to release when the magnet shifts. This will significantly reduce false alarms.
However, what really impresses me is the company's Magnasphere technology used in its high-security contacts. In the past, the less-than-honest individual wanting illegal entry could place a second magnet next to the existing magnet, holding the door contacts circuit closed, and open the door using the second magnet to maintain the magnetic field. The Magnasphere-designed contact cannot be compromised by this method, so a break in the circuit will occur whenever the second magnet approaches, regardless of polarity.
As I mentioned earlier, ISC West predominately featured CCTV products. Rows and rows of vendor booths from all over the world consisted of video monitors displaying the throngs of attendees as they passed by stacks of cameras mounted everywhere possible. Lots of vendors offered infrared lenses, long-range tracking cameras, and various means of capturing images. The big difference was the incorporation of IP-addressable cameras transmitting over fiber-optic lines into DVRs and off-site digital storage units for remote accessing of collected images (for a price, of course).
Some believe the days of traditional security systems are on their way out to make room for CCTV security systems. Video verification can significantly reduce false alarms, and that makes law enforcement agencies across the country happy. Replacing copper and coaxial cables are fiber-optic lines and converters that reduce the number of wire pulls needed by the installer. Personally, I don't think alarm systems are going away anytime soon, but, unless someone injects some futuristic features that wows the buying public, declining sales will continue to be the concern of security providers.
Pelco was at the show, proudly demonstrating its latest CCTV product: the Endura network-based video security system. A snapshot description of Endura includes a non-centralized system providing a means for the video signals to transmit over an existing data network. However, what really caught my attention was the company's KBD5000 keyboard. This control unit includes a joystick, a jog shuttle, and function keys set in a swappable USB pod design. If you already use the Pelco product line, take a minute to ask about Endura.
OTHER NOTABLE OBSERVATIONS
One thing I found disturbing at the show was the swap-meet-like setting some of the vendors used to sell their products. One booth consisted of a table stacked with boxes of a device that combined digital video recording with MP3 audio technology. On the edge of the table was a hand-drawn “Show Priced Sale” sign that ended at $299, with various accessories added to improve the package. I never saw anyone manning the booth, but I'm assuming someone was always nearby to keep an eye on the merchandise.
Another booth located at the opposite end of the show floor also offered a similar video/MP3 device with comparable pricing, along with a plethora of other electronic toys and gadgets. I was tempted to purchase the slightly less expensive camera/audio player, but after 15 minutes of pressing various buttons in a futile effort to record a few seconds of the passing crowd, I put the demo camera down and moved on. I obviously lacked the engineering degree necessary to own and operate the device.
Finally, one last observation about how things have changed from when I first started attending the show: There was a time I needed a travel bag to carry all of the swag handed out at the show. (“swag” is the term used for all of the neat give-away items vendors give to attendees for stopping by their booths.) Alas, not anymore. In the past, I've collected laser pointers, shirts, hats, jackets, yo-yos, pre-tuned single-station radios, and other cool stuff with company logos proudly displayed. This year it was pens, pocket screwdrivers, lanyards, and stacks of product-based CDs.
Of course, there were numerous promises of mini iPods given away at scheduled drawings, but I never saw any of the listed winners collecting their prize. I mentioned this to a sales manager during one of many business meetings I attended, and he told me the good stuff was only given out to their best customers. I felt it best to keep my disposable pencil sharpener to myself after that.
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Steve Filippiniis a senior technician with more than 27 years of experience in the security and installation industry. He can be reached email@example.com.