PSA TEC brings industry, integrators together

Annual event gives practical, actionable info to help navigate today’s changing industry
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

DENVER—What is really unique about PSA TEC, which was held here March 12-16, is that it brings together so many security integrators—from all over the country and in all shapes and sizes—to network, learn, train and educate.

Organized by PSA, one of the world’s largest security and systems integrator cooperatives, this annual conference provides a great forum for the entire industry to share common challenges—and ways in which to overcome them—as well as an opportunity to better understand new trends, technology and regulations on the horizon from top leaders and subject matter experts across many key topic areas.

As many pointed out at the conference, this is an exciting time in the industry with all of the new technology that is driving innovation and advancements is video surveillance, access control and managed services.

During a State of the Industry panel that included Tim Palmquist, VP, Americas for Milestone, Matt Barnette, president of Mercury Security, Don Erickson, CEO at SIA, David Labuskes, CEO of AVIXA, and Bill Bozeman, president and CEO of PSA, as moderator, these influential security professionals shared their thoughts on some of the prevailing topics of the day, including cybersecurity and AI.

Erickson started things off by pointing out, “The state of the industry is phenomenal. Based on the outreach that we do to our members and just anecdotally, spending is projected to be up … new workforce hires are going to be up and that is a big topic … there are a lot of great indicators, positive indicators for the industry; it really is exciting and I am proud to be a part of this community.” He also pointed to the growth of ISC West, which is coming up, April 10-13 in Las Vegas.


Moving on to cybersecurity, which dominated many of the panels and discussions at PSA TEC, Erickson explained that the topic is so important to the security industry that it compelled SIA, PSA and ISC Security Events to join forces and launch Cyber:Secured Forum, a cybersecurity summit focusing on integrated systems, which will be held June 4-6, 2018, in Denver. He also stressed the importance of the NIST cybersecurity framework that was put together in 2014 following an executive order from the president “to provide info to the private sector about how to harden systems, identify threats … prevent cyber attacks from occurring.” He noted that cyber is “about that shift from understanding the threats to looking at cybersecurity as an opportunity for integrators.”

Palmquist said that he is seeing “much more due diligence from end users as to what products are going on the system and where there are vulnerabilities and hardening measures.” He brought up an interesting point about looking at how “we can certify the way products are built … for hardware that makes a lot of sense, and for software we at our organization are looking at ISO certifications, but not only how we make our software but where we make it and to profile the process around how we do that in a secure fashion to deliver a proper product into the marketplace.”

Driving home the relevance of cybersecurity today within security, Barnette referred to Mercury’s consultant event earlier this month in Miami that included 50 security consultants. “[Cybersecurity] really was the only thing they wanted to talk about because that is what their customers are asking them,” Barnette said. “If you are not concerned about cyber, it really is time to get on board. I know a lot of companies are working hard on cybersecurity in their current generation of product.”

Although manufacturers are getting better, a lot of products that integrators may have installed several years ago—before cyber was a concern—“are significant holes in their network,” Barnette said. “I was talking with some lawyers recently and they were saying that cybersecurity is going to be their new ‘slip and fall’ for the next generation, so they are making a lot of money on what they perceive to be lawsuits surrounding cybersecurity.”

PSA Leadership also took the topic on in a “Future State of the Industry” panel moderated by Sandy Jones, founder and principal of Sandra Jones and Company; Bill Bozeman, president & CEO of PSA; Matthew Ladd, president/CEO for The Protection Bureau; Christine Lanning, president of Integrated Security Technologies; and Paul Thomas, president & COO at Northland Controls.

Bozeman pointed out that although PSA has created an incredible wealth of resources and products for integrators to take advantage of, very few have.

“Without pointing fingers or naming names, I think a lot of our integrators are ill-prepared currently,” he said. “It pains me to say that but I am just telling the truth. And I know why … it is a giant pain—it is a bunch of stuff you need to learn and you can’t figure out how to make money doing it.”

He continued, “We have the tools for you and very few of you have chosen to use the tools that we have created. Andrew Lanning has been absolutely incredible assisting us and leading our community with that, but yet I go down the list to see who has downloaded the information … I can’t believe how few are doing so. We have 12 products right now that you can resell to make a profit. Very few are using these products.”

Christine Lanning astutely pointed out how much cybersecurity compliance is already being required of security integrators bidding for jobs. “In the federal government space, there is a regulation that came down at the end of last year 800-171, and I am sure they will talk a lot about it at the [Cyber:Secured] event. That is a mandatory regulation for all government contractors in the cybersecurity realm, and there are a series of a bazillion controls that you have to follow, and it is for unclassified confidential information, so it is all of the security drawings that you have, all of the documentation in regard to your equipment, and all of that stuff has to be treated, almost, as if it is classified; it can’t be on your system where everyone has access to it … there are a lot of controls that go into it. You will start to see it in your contracts and it will be a mandatory requirement. If you don’t comply, you won’t be able to bid for federal government work.”

She continued, “I have started seeing certain cyber requirements in a lot of bids … to see that in an actual write-up for a bid was something new to us in the last six months and I would imagine you are going to see a lot of that. So, if you are not compliant from a cybersecurity standpoint, you are just not going to be able to bid on that type of work, and I would say the same thing for … any regulated industry like finance, healthcare, critical infrastructure.”

On the equipment and manufacturer side, she pointed out that there is no standard like you see in the IT world. “I know there has been a lot of pressure on manufacturers lately and I hope it continues because they’ve got to step up to the plate,” she said. “Just like in the integrator community, you will begin to see a division between the manufacturers who can change and adapt and do these things that we are requesting of them and those that don’t will fall by the wayside.”

In another compelling session, “How Do I Actually Make Money on Cyber Security Solutions,” Andrew Lanning, Christine Lanning’s husband and co-founder of Integrated Security Technologies, said, “You really need to crawl first: For me that is partnering, so go get a partner who knows; a partner you can trust. Bring them in internally to your organization, get your cyber hygiene squared away, get your cyber maturity squared away. And make sure you understand what that is for you so when you talk to your customers, you talk about what you know, about what you’ve done, and then you can ask them what they have done—get the conversation to begin.”

Figuring out which services a company can sell and support technically is the next step in learning how to walk when it comes to offering cybersecurity training, services or products, he said.

“There is a learning curve that you are going to have to get through as an organization, and ultimately you may decide to become an IT services provider but if you are offering the cyber hygiene and maturity along with the maintenance and installation of your systems, that is when you will begin to start running, and that includes servers and work stations, so there is a little bit of that IT management piece that you are going to have to learn to do or partner with someone to do it.”

For companies that can offer some of the services, there is a great demand within the SMB market, where many times companies do not have a dedicated IT professional on staff, Chris Sterbenc, channel chief, Infrascale, noted in that same session. Van Santos, president, Indarra Cyber Security Inc., added, “It comes down to this key question: 'How does physical security bridge the gap between end users turning to IT rather than to them for cyber?'”

AI, cloud computing and robotics

Another major topic that is capturing the collective interest of the industry is the role of artificial intelligence and cloud-based machine learning and data analytics within security.

“I actually think that this [AI] is the most interesting topic of the day,” Palmquist said during the State of the Industry panel. “I will make a bold statement that not everyone will agree on, but when we look back through the lens of history, in just a handful of years, we will be able to agree that machine learning and artificial intelligence are going to be as big as a disrupter in our industry as the invention of the IP camera.”

He noted that with cameras and non-camera or IoT devices producing such massive amounts of data, “it can’t be consumed by humans and digested and we need automation to support that. AI is going to open up the addressable market to allow systems integrators to touch opportunities that would not traditionally be available or be in their wheelhouse.”

During the PSA Leadership Future State of the Industry panel, Bozeman tagged AI as one of his top four opportunities for integrators to excel at and make money with.

“AI is huge, with great potential for integrators of all sizes to provide value to end users,” he said. “PSA is working on analytics custom built for integrators that we will be able to supply to you that we believe no one else can. We consider this to be a competitive advantage.”

Bozeman’s other three opportunities, by the way, are managed services, where there is “tremendous opportunity” for integrators; robotics, which he said, “is going to happen and people need to be plugged in;” and, of course, cyber.

On the manufacturer side of AI, there were several presentations on the topic, including “Machine Learning and Video,” presented by Shawn Guan, president of UMBO Computer Vision, and “Artificial Intelligence: Deep Learning Based Intelligent Video Analytics and its Applications in Video Surveillance,” presented by Paul Sun, president and CEO of IronYun, both of which provided a glimpse into the current state of AI and deep learning, including its role in security moving forward. 

Guan echoed Palmquist on the potential of AI within security, saying, “AI will change everything … a complete paradigm shift.”

AI and machine learning is also the brains behind today’s robotic solutions. In a session titled, “Robots, Guarding and the Future of Security,” Steve Reinharz, president and CEO of Robotic Assistance Devices, broke it down quite nicely, defining robotics “as simply an extension of humanity’s drive toward automation,” he said. “I talk about the same thing when I talk about artificial intelligence. There is a slightly different definition for AI but essentially they are both doing the same thing.”

Another topic that seems to be garnering more and more attention—and rightfully so—is the role of cloud in security. In his session, “5 Technological Forces Disrupting Security & Transforming Physical Security in the Digital Age,” Steve Van Till, co-founder, president and CEO of Brivo, a cloud services provider, said that cloud “is foundational to all of the other things that are happening in any other technology field, in particular within security.”

He continued, “At the end of the day, the cloud delivers better security at a better price. That is the ultimate test for anything that we do or choose to deploy, right? And that is the motivation for using cloud in any of these services that we deliver.”

Cloud services providers including Feenics and BluB0x also presented sessions and provided technical training on their cloud products and services.

Plus, additional technical training, education and certification opportunities were available all week long from companies like Feenics, AMAG, BluB0X, Lenel, LifeSafety Power, Schlage, exacqVision, UL, and Bosch.

And last but not least, the one-day trade show featured approximately 100 exhibitors showing off the latest products relevant to integrators’ businesses.

All told, the new location in the Denver Downtown Marriott made for a cozy—even at 1,000-plus attendees—conference that still offered the benefits of Denver right outside the hotel door. Looking forward to next year back in the same location!