ISC West Report: Industry Breathes Sigh of Recession Relief

I bring good news from the desert where I encountered an oasis of relief from the recession blues in the form of ISC West Las Vegas.

Even if you did not attend you may have heard the deafening din of exhibitors’ (and show organizer Reed Exhibitions) collective exhale once the event got under way April 1. Vendors—many of which have experienced as high as 30- to 40-percent dropoffs in business this year—that had braced for the worst by downsizing their exhibit booths and sending fewer people to the show were not only ecstatic to see busy attendee traffic but also that so many of them were serious prospects.

However, by the end of ISC it almost seemed as if it all may have been an elaborate April Fools’ gag since attendance had tapered off dramatically in each successive day. This was particularly peculiar since the second day is traditionally the busiest of the lot. Fortunately, when it was all said and done the opening-day rush proved to be sufficient to generate enough optimism that most exhibitors and attendees walked away feeling much better about the future of their businesses and our industry than they did in the days leading up to what has historically been the leading dealer/integrator event.

Aisles and booths at ISC West 2009 were busier than many expected, which is good news for the industry.

Some exhibitors I spoke with said they ran out of literature because they underestimated the demand. We here at SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION exhibited at ISC and attendees had nearly fully depleted our supply of magazines by the end of the second day. Another important point to keep in mind when evaluating ISC West 2009 is that not only was the scale of the show reduced from two to a single floor but the aisles also appeared to be wider. All this is to say that the level of activity may have been a little deceptive since the expo was more condensed.

ISC organizers had anticipated about a 10-percent decline in attendance, and I would estimate that it was in that ballpark but I would put it closer to 15 percent. And looking at Las Vegas overall, business appeared to be off by as much as a third. Many hotels, including Treasure Island where I stayed, have had layoffs.

Another bright spot of the hectic ISC week was SSI‘s SAMMY Awards event, which was held the evening of March 31 at the Venetian. Many of the industry’s leading executives and luminaries took part in the very well attended celebratory affair, which included SSI‘s Hall of Fame inductions, the presentation of the 2009 Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) award winner and the naming of SAMMY winners in a dozen categories—among them, Integrated Installation of the Year and Installer of the Year. For the complete list of Hall of Famers and award winners, visit or check out SSI‘s March, May, June and July issues. I also conducted an exclusive videotaped interview of PSA Security Network President Bill Bozeman, which is now available in the SSI tv section of this site.

I am flanked by 2009 Hall of Fame inductees Mel Mahler (left), CEO of ADS Security, and George Gunning, CEO of USA Alarm Systems, following the SAMMY Awards event March 31 at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

During the ISC expo itself, the themes, trends, technologies and products were a continuation and refinement of what we have been seeing now for the past couple of years:

1) Everything is migrating toward IP (including access control, intrusion and even fire), but in a very measured way and analog video figures to continue being dominant in the field for several years;

2) Megapixel cameras and products that accommodate them are becoming readily available and being enhanced with more capabilities;

3) Video management systems (VMS) continuing to proliferate as a way to make sense of the overwhelming volume of surveillance data and also to bring myriad systems under the control of a single user interface;

4) Rising popularity of open platforms and multivendor partnerships to facilitate seamless solutions;

5) Wireless solutions gaining traction in video surveillance and access control;

6) Developing return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) propositions/models for end users that position security buys as ways to increase overall enterprise operational efficiencies and decrease bottom-line costs;

7) Learning to work hand-in-hand with and speak the languages of not only security directors and IT but also facility managers and C-level executives within client organizations;

8) Hottest vertical markets are in the public sector, especially hospitals, schools and universities;

9) Managed services, such as remote video and access control, are becoming not only technically viable and desirable, but extremely attractive ways for installing/monitoring companies to build strong recurring revenue bases;

10) Products that are much more installer-friendly, such as snap-in-place deployment.

Some of the dozens of companies I had great meetings with and will be sharing more about with you in upcoming blogs and in print included: AMAG, AvaLAN, Genetec, OnSSI, DVTel, Honeywell, RISCO (formerly Rokonet), IQInvision, Sony, Samsung / GVI, Samsung Techwin, Pelco, Dedicated Micros, Tyco (American Dynamics, Softwarehouse, Kantech), Tamron, Ingersoll Rand (IR), VES (formerly Viking), Arteco Vision, Arecont, Garrettcom, Alpha, Altronix and Canon.

Honeywell once again had one of ISC’s largest and most heavily visited booths.

One of the collective thoughts of many I met with was the continuing challenge of training the installer channel not only to grasp what the manufacturers are delivering on the technical side but also what the selling strategies and business models might be to achieve significant market penetration of emerging solutions. Most also believe that the economic woes are slowing the speed at which IP and converged solutions are sold and/or adopted. One thing that was very apparent to me was those vendors that were not heavily leveraged financially prior to the downturn (many of them smaller, privately held entities), focused on hot technology such as IP video and either specifically targeting public sector business or diversified enough to include them are the ones feeling little if any pain right now. Many of them are continuing to grow revenues in the double digits.

So, did you get a chance to attend ISC West this year? What were your impressions? I for one, absolutely feel reassured about a swift turnaround for our industry and just about limitless growth potential as America gets back on track.

As always, thanks for reading …

Scott Goldfine



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