With the economy as it is and Manhattan being as outrageously expensive as it is, most were quite skeptical of how this year’s International Security Conference (ISC) & Expo East would fare. What has been clear is that anyone expecting this event to match its grandeur of earlier this decade are destined for disappointment as the show has long since scaled down from being one of the industry’s largest national conventions to being one of the most substantial regional gatherings.
Most industry professionals have settled on springtime’s ISC West in Las Vegas and the late summer’s ASIS (various locations; this year in Atlanta, next in Anaheim, Calif.) as being the two can’t-miss shows of the year. A few years back, with its popularity dwindling, ISC East’s organizers (Reed Exhibitions) attempted to revive the event by moving it other locations, such as Washington DC and Orlando, Fla. Those moves turned out to be ill-advised. In fact, forces beyond anyone’s control seemed to conspire against those efforts as the DC event was marred by a bomb scare, in which everyone evacuated the convention hall and never returned, and the Orlando edition subjected participants to unbearable heat and humidity after the air conditioning took a powder.
So ISC East returned to the Big Apple but has yet to realize its past glory, and probably never will. One strategy to increase its intensity has been to reduce it to a two- rather than three-day exposition. But getting its mojo back has been tough sledding, and it didn’t help last year when the show took place on the anniversary of 9/11. The dates of this year’s installment clashed with the Central Station Alarm Association’s (CSAA) Annual Meeting.
With all that said, this year’s incarnation actually turned out pretty well. Buoyed by the abatement of miserably cold and wet weather the day preceding the event, Rudy Giuliani’s keynote address, the industry’s strength in the Tri-State area, and security professionals desperately seeking answers to help mitigate an increasingly hostile business climate, the opening day on Thursday, Oct. 29 exceeded most expectations. Throughout the day, most exhibitors appeared busy and aisles were often clogged with attendees. And although the second and final day witnessed the usual precipitous drop-off (with high school students outnumbering dealers/integrators), the many vendors I spoke with — including Samsung Techwin, Phihong, JVC, Honeywell, Pelco, Garrettcom, Aleph, Speco, Affiliated Central, OnSSI, Boyle & Chase, Tamron, Dynalock, ADI, Tri-Ed, NationWide Digital Monitoring, Comnet, System Sensor, Aventura, Brivo and Bosch — were universally delighted with the turnout and their booth traffic.
Despite the nice showing, the presence of many exhibitors was downsized from past years. This was especially conspicuous for Honeywell Security, which went from its typically dominant giant display in the front of the hall to a tabletop booth devoid of products. However, the company still had many of its top executives on hand, such as Ron Rothman, Joe Sausa and Gordon Hope. In fact, the presence of such key industry leaders throughout the show floor is what helped make the event well worthwhile for me personally. It was an outstanding opportunity to catch up with many of them in an environment less chaotic than ISC West or ASIS.
Although the attendance was reasonably robust, the atmosphere was largely one of trepidation with the prevailing discussions centering on slumping sales, the bleak economy and an unsure fiscal outlook. The vast majority of industry professionals, particularly on the supplier side or among the larger installation operators, are cutting back expenses wherever possible and hunkering down to weather a widespread downturn in business. Most are trying to remain optimistic, but the historically recession resistant electronic security industry is experiencing one of the most challenging periods ever.
So long as hotels continue to average in excess of $400 per night and food and other expenses remain relatively and astonishingly as expensive, the overwhelmingly majority of ISCNY participants will continue to be limited to those who drive in or ride the train. However, as long as everyone accepts the fact that it is a regional show that is only going to bring in around 5,000 attendees, then you can go about realizing the positive virtues it has to offer. That is a viable venue for networking with other industry professionals, connecting with vendors and seeing some cool products.