Every April the biometrics industry descends on Las Vegas for ISC West, the biggest converged security trade show in the United States, and for good reason: the long running conference sets the tone for the rest of the year in identity management, access control, time/attendance and emerging enterprise solutions. Next week, FindBiometrics will be reporting live from ISC West with audio interviews, breaking news and social media coverage.
ISC West is massive, so to best prepare for the show, FindBiometrics Managing Editor Peter Counter spoke to Will Wise, Group Vice President, Security Events Portfolio, Reed Exhibitions – the company behind ISC West. In the following in-depth interview, Wise weighs-in on evolving security industry trends, the importance of education when it comes to biometrics, tips for first-time attendees, and what to expect from some of the world’s biggest biometrics players who are exhibiting and speaking in Vegas next week.
ISC West runs April 9-12, and the conversations started there will continue in “Enterprise Biometrics in the Era of the Data Breach” – the next FindBiometrics webinar in which Wise will be speaking as an expert panelist.
Read our full interview with Will Wise, Group Vice President, Security Events Portfolio, Reed Exhibitions:
Peter Counter, Managing Editor, FindBiometrics: Thanks again for taking the time to talk to me today. ISC West is always a major highlight of the year in both biometrics and the security as a whole, and has a reputation for showcasing the main industry trends that dominate the discourse for the remainder of the year. What’s new with ISC West in 2019?
Will Wise, Group Vice President, Security Events Portfolio, Reed Exhibitions (ISC West): Yes, it’s interesting, as you said being in the first part of the year, it definitely sets the tone, and I think the attitude, and then some of the main topics for the rest of the year and beyond for the industry. Which is exciting, but also a big responsibility for us to make sure we are analyzing the market trends, and really not just from the last event we had in New York and last year in Las Vegas, but throughout the year having an ear to the ground.
We do focus a lot on what we can bring that’s new to the event, from both the conference session side of things, as well as, with our account manager team, making sure there’s always a very robust amount of new exhibitors and solutions on the expo floor.
One thing I am really proud of, like you mentioned, our educational program is a big priority at ISC, and how we partner with SIA – the Security Industry Association, it’s called the SIA Education at ISC West. We once again, have almost 90 sessions as part of that conference programming that runs from Tuesday through Thursday during the event. So that’s April 9th through 11th for the conference program. And I have to say I’m impressed with our conference team here on ISC and with SIA because I think there is about 100 new speakers this year, which is quite a feat to recruit and assess that many new speakers.
Some of the new sessions that I think will be quite interesting when it comes to overall security and certainly biometric systems and assets with the cybersecurity question, making sure the products are fully cyber protected and built in. We’ve got a great new speaker, Johna Till Johnson from Nemertes Research. She’s doing a session on cybersecurity metrics and how organizations can have a roadmap for cybersecurity best practices. So that’s one example. Another that comes to mind is an Internet of Things devices protection for enterprise network session from a head of security from George Washington University. And there’s many, many more, but just a lot of great new speakers, which is going to be great.
And then once again on the expo floor, I think we are going to end up with about 170 new companies, new exhibitors, which is terrific. Certainly, in this conversation I’ll point out two or three that are new exhibitors in the biometrics field. So, a lot of new content both from the education side and on the exhibit floor for sure.
FindBiometrics: Fantastic. Sticking to the topic of SIA Education at ISC West, in our annual Year in Review survey, we are constantly seeing a grow in demand year over year for industry education, and that’s why we’re always so pleased to see that ISC West hosts those educational events, and those educational talks. What makes this conference so ideal as an educational space for the industry?
ISC West: In terms of what makes it valuable, I think one key thing is that, Reed Exhibitions and ISC – we are a vendor-neutral entity in the industry. We’re going to bring up all view points, all topics; it doesn’t matter what a vendor’s view might be, or a certain platform, we really want to get it all out there in the open. I have been really impressed since I joined ISC as Group VP two years ago that SIA are really making sure they’re advancing all of the topics and initiatives and points in the industry. They’re not just sitting on the traditional technologies and saying ‘Oh, that’s fine, we’ve got 900 manufacturers’ as numbers, but really are making sure there’s innovation going on and that the next generation of products being developed are going to be rock solid. So, the education has really evolved nicely the last couple of years to address certainly, the side from manufacturers who are building the next great products, but then also very much the excellent content for the mix of the end users and the integrators. Bringing all of those communities together is a really valuable piece of it.
I also would say, I’m impressed on how our content mix certainly dives deep into the technology considerations but has a lot of content about organizational readiness and the teams that need to collaborate together and the talent building and work force development. So, all of those areas.
I also want to mention we, ISC and SIA, have a big focus on diversity for the industry. One of our sessions we are doing for the first time at ISC is a ‘Women in Security’ breakfast and seminar on the Friday morning. We’ve got Juliette Kayyem who is a nationally known DHS expert and often contributor on CNN as a headline speaker. So, a lot of good content from that perspective of all view points.
FindBiometrics: Absolutely. That’s one thing that I’ve always really appreciated about ISC West is that it’s a way for the industry to meet integrators and users, but it’s also a way for people all across that broad spectrum to meet each other. There are a lot of extra curricular events that are managed, like the runs, that are really great ways to meet everybody.
ISC West: Yes, the special events are very popular. I think when I look at the event, there’s a lot of holistic things but there are so many subset communities that are meeting up, so to speak.
FindBiometrics: Yes, and kind of going on this tangent a bit, we are really proud to partner with your organization as the leading security conference and exhibition because we believe the key to biometrics and the next generation identity adoption is getting in front of the end users and administrators and integrators who are looking for solutions to their security challenges. And so, to that end, who do you see comprising the ISC West audience these days? And do you see overlap in certain particular vertical markets that are represented in your attendee base?
ISC West: That’s a good question, and when I started two years ago, I took a really good look at the historical demographics and audience profiles and industry types from say the last five years plus, and then where it sits today. So historically – as many people that have been in the industry a long time – historically if we are talking say eight years ago you would have said that 90 percent of ISC West audience was due to be integrators, dealers and installers. And that’s still very much a core base, with a lot of power and influence in the industry from both enterprise deployments all the way down to SMBs. But we have also made big effort to attract more and more end users, security decision makers and then also public safety from government. It’s a very significant portion of the audience now, on par with almost about one of every four attendees is from the end user side.
Embracing the trend that most often, it’s not going to be, somebody in a silo dealing with the solution. Quite often, for example, with our executive club program, where we vet and invite about 1,500 VIP attendees from both integrator and end user ranks, they have to have active projects they’re working on and influence in their organization.
Quite often, the integrators we invite, will bring customers, will bring enterprise customers, or government customers with them. So, it is a diverse mix now of the integrator, dealer, installer, end users from a very diverse number of verticals and then of course the base of manufacturers in the industry.
Speaking to your question on verticals – we do get a good mix from the government side whether that’s DHS, FBI, NSA, organizations like that. But very much so, from the ranks of large manufacturing organizations, retail, education is very strong, and healthcare. Those are some of the biggest ones. I think that maps, if you think about any organizations with large facilities to protect, and people to protect, it maps naturally into those verticals. Critical infrastructure as an overarching category, is certainly front and center and we’re putting a lot of specific focus on attracting and inviting people from critical infrastructures verticals be it transportation, large manufacturing facilities, energy, and of course there’s close ties with the government, communications and partnering with DHS with all of those entities as well.
FindBiometrics: It does make sense that it would have such a broad scope and that critical infrastructure is so key to it. I’m really fascinated in this idea of integrators bringing end users with them, just because the exhibition floor, specifically in the security industry, it plays such an important role in being able to really understand some relatively abstract concepts when you’re just, you know, reading sales sheets. You actually get to see the technology being used and specifically in biometrics, that’s really helpful.
How has the rise of biometrics over the past few years affected the exhibition landscape of ISC West?
ISC West: I think it’s affecting pushing innovation and pushing these conversations forward and not resting on the past. That’s really important for me as a mission and philosophy for the event.
When I think about biometrics, it naturally ties into access control and identity management. If you look at the breakdown of companies on the expo floor of which we have almost 1,000 companies when you count pavilions and everything else, the top 2 areas of solutions are in the rank and order of video surveillance and intelligence but closely followed by access control and identity management, so very pervasive. To me it’s not going to be long before any conversation on access control is going to have to have a discussion of biometrics, whether it’s built in now, or whether it will be built into security dynamic in the future. And like you said when you talk about critical infrastructure facilities like, airports, it’s already front and center. I mean, look at all of the discussions of border security in the last few months. That’s been raised heavily as we need to focus on technology and not just barriers. So, it’s coming to life in all of those areas on the show floor. Whether its R & D for the future, or specific solutions being showcased.
The other thing that’s very pervasive now, and I think a lot of people observed this last year at ISC West and it has carried through is the whole area of machine learning and AI and how this will affect biometrics, the data that’s being captured, identity management, for both private sector and commercial but for sure public safety as well. So, it’s really bridging across all those areas. One I think is going to be even more of a big topic with the next year, is how biometrics can be built into perimeter security environments be it exterior of facilities or obviously areas like even the border.
FindBiometrics: Absolutely, and going off of what you said right there about biometrics sort of being a bridge technology in a lot of ways, this year FindBiometrics is hosting a panel talk for SIA Education about biometrics’ role in the convergence of information in physical security. I guess this trend is sort of in towards universal access and credentialing, and it’s really been growing in recent years. At ISC West we can check the pulse of where this trend is going. How has that trend affected the content of ISC West as a whole recently?
ISC West: It’s affected it to just further stimulate that we need to be looking at the future technology, then a lot of the content is about not just what you’re managing right now or what you’re trying to install or implement right now. Of course, there are a lot of great case studies for biometrics use right now, but what’s next? But also making sure there’s a healthy conversation about, how, what’s the next generation of product development need to be like? And that’s for both optimum functionality but for sure the whole aspect of cyber-hardening and cyber-protection. So, I think it’s infused all of those areas or impacted those areas. Like you said, we’re excited to have your involvement in this session on how biometrics are enabling convergence, physical, and, information security.
Also, I think the session that we have on that is going to be really key, which has biometrics as a big part, is the session called ‘The Challenges and Opportunities of AI Intelligence and Physical Security’ and how IDEMIA is part of that panel for example.
There’s also an additional session on biometrics, which is called ‘The Great Biometric Debate’ and that’s going to be talking about the reality of where the technology is, what needs to happen for full adoption in the future. So, the fact that we have that many sessions, that’s just a short list example on the topic, but I expect it will be discussed in many others, like you said may not have even have been thought of yet, until you get to the show. For example, we have a session called ‘Perimeter Security: Best Practices for Protecting Critical Infrastructure’. I can imagine that’s going to be part of the conversation there too.
So it’s affected the innovation push and emerging technology push at the conference.
FindBiometrics: Fantastic. Those all sound really great and its really great to have big biometrics and identity players that are global, like IDEMIA. I know they have a strong North American presence but they’re all over the world and are global but having that level of expertise is really, really helpful.
ISC West: It is. I think, like you said IDEMIA being a global company, but the learnings we can get from all around the world is important. To that point ISC, is as you know, we’re not just in the U.S. Yes we’re in Las Vegas and New York, but we also have our São Paulo, ISC Brazil event, and our event in Mexico City for example, and certainly many partnership ties over in Europe and other areas so the global view is important for sure.
FindBiometrics: As the conference grows, year after year, and you’re getting new attendees from across the continent and really, around the world, the conference is huge and constantly growing, it can be kind of intimidating going into it for the first time. Do you have tips for ISC West first timers?
ISC West: Definitely. We are very conscious of the attendee experience and the value and being able to walk out of there with both executing on planned activities but then like you mentioned earlier, the great thing about big events is the ‘Wow, I had no idea I would meet that person’ or learn about this, or be stimulated by a certain idea or solution. So, one thing for the educational program, the SIA Education at ISC West, our website is a really good format and breakdown by the various conference tracks and topics. The search functionality on the conference part of our website is really good. I use it all the time myself as well so that’s the first thing – use the online tool.
You can setup classes you intend to go to, check that off through your registration profile, the show planner if you will, and that is really, really important.
We also have a terrific conference brochure, which is more of a conference at a glance, where you can literally look at, alright what are all of the sessions on Wednesday, April 10th and scan the topics and know the times. So that’s available online, but also a printed version. So, in terms of accessing what to do and where to go for the conference program, those are great tools.
The wider expo floor is huge, no question. The first time I attended, I was like “Okay I’ve got to get the whole layout here, I need to come up with a plan”. We’ve organized a good portion show floor into theme areas. There is a lot of general space and the very biggest exhibitors, who you know, could have booth space as big as 4,000 or 5,000 square feet. They’re really easy to find, and the terrific demonstrations they build out.
We also have several special theme areas, or segment areas, on the show floor, which I think helps attendees say okay based on my interests, my current wheel house, but also things I need to grow into. Those are really helpful. For example, we have an area called ‘The Connected Security’ expo area of the floor that’s grown significantly over the last two years, there’s a lot of companies there. So, if you’re looking for cyber-physical integration, Internet of Things based, connected solutions – that’s a great area to be able to focus on and easily find.
Drones and robotics, is also a growing area of interest and the need for security and public safety. There’s also a heck of a lot of things that are still getting worked out with policy and legislation through FAA and DC so we have a great Unmanned Security area on the show floor as well. That’s a mixture of drone companies that are focused on public safety and security usage. Counter-drone or anti-drone, but then also the ground robots.
In the Unmanned Security area of the show we also have 12 free education sessions in an Unmanned Security education theater, right on the show floor. So that’s really helpful, and a great place for people to go if they are trying to learn more about drones and robotics. We are seeing, including from integrators, that being an area of future growth for sure.
We also have an area called ‘Connected Home’ which is for more solutions for residential. That’s more for dealers and integrators and installers that are adding to a portfolio of all kinds of solutions for home and residential environments. So, if an integrator is into that, or dealer, they can find some great new solutions there.
There’s also a very big section of the floor called ‘Public Security and Safety Expo’ that has a lot more of the physical security barriers and tools for public safety.
And then lastly, something we were really proud of launching last year, and it’s grown by 25 percent this year, is the ‘Emerging Technology Zone’ that is start up companies, and there’s around 50 start up companies in the ‘Emerging Technology Zone’. That is located in the Venetian Ballroom area of the show.
So, those segment areas are super helpful for helping people navigate, but the other thing is the investment we have in data and technology to personalize the experience for attendees. So, when an attendee registers and indicates their product category interest and their behavior that they are interested in doing, we have programming built into our platform that provides recommendations based on their profile, recommendations of exhibitors that could fit their needs. That’s been extremely popular, and we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from attendees of that sort of match making, that way they can start with that short list pre-show. We provide that.
We also have a recommendation that are on the back of the badge, so that’s another physical, at show, sort of mini guide to here’s a suggested short list to start with. Then at our information desk, people can actually help people with recommendations as well. So, a lot of personalization and service to make it a good experience.
FindBiometrics: It sounds like you guys have really acknowledged how big the conference is and made navigating it as easy as possible. There’s so much going on. I think one of the coolest parts of ISC West is that you could go there looking for an access control system to integrate into, say your clinic, or your construction facility, and then end up at a demonstration with advanced drones and things like that. You can go for one thing, you see all of these other things, or you could find some smart home solutions and so there is a lot of overlap and crossover in terms of interest.
What would you say are the ‘can’t miss’ events of this year’s conference no matter what background you’re coming from?
ISC West: A couple of things that I think will set the tone for leadership and innovation amongst the security practitioners and integrators is making sure people check out our keynotes. We’ve really elevated the stature of our keynote speakers at ISC West. The great thing about it is they take place 8:30 am to 9:30 am on both Wednesday and Thursday, April 10th and 11th before, the expo floor opens. So, they’re open to all attendee types as well. And speaking of both our main keynoters, this year, have some stuff in relevance to biometrics, if you think about the topics.
Our first Wednesday morning keynoter is William Bryan, from Department of Homeland Security and specifically the Science and Technology division. I think most of us in the industry know how much advance technology work and fantastic R & D the science and technology group at DHS is doing and then just think about all the things going on with airport security, and certainly, biometrics is a big, big part of that discussion. So, really excited to have him keynoting. William Bryan is going to talk about protecting critical infrastructure and then also technology advancements for first responders and law enforcement. That’s going to have some really good over arching tie-ins, but I definitely think will have some interesting biometric technology tie-ins as well.
The second keynote speaker on Thursday morning, April 11th is Russ Butler, he’s V.P. of Security for the San Francisco 49ers and the Levi Stadium up there in the San Francisco area. Stadium security is actually an area we’ve really beefed up our content on this year. It ties in so many pieces from very traditional, physical security to the guest experience, attendee experience, all the way to protecting data. Obviously, identity management is critical when you’re trying to protect 60,000 to 70,000 people in a building and in an event and the whole surrounding area. So, that’s going to be really, really interesting. When I think about that as an overarching area, I think it’ll be very relevant of a huge sports stadium and how that experience relates to biometrics. I think there’s no question, we’re starting to see stadiums utilizing it.
CLEAR certainly has cleared a lot of people use for airports, shortening your lines at the airports. It is interesting to note – I was recently looking at their info – they’ve got CLEAR access and technology at a lot of the big sports stadiums now. San Francisco Giants baseball, Seattle Seahawks NFL, Atlanta Braves baseball, Miami Heat NBA, LAFC Major League Soccer. So the stadium security keynotes going to be, I think really, really interesting and have some good tie-ins for your audience as well.
Those are a couple I would say ‘can’t miss’ on the big picture.
FindBiometrics: Absolutely, and it is interesting to see how much those are extremely, heavily, biometrically, involved. As soon as you said ‘stadium security’ I thought of the CLEAR deployments, specifically the Seahawks stadium one. Again, going back to what we were sort of talking about the overlap in verticals, so much of those stadium deployments show you the sort of universal access thing where people need to be credentialed, but if there’s a big customer experience aspect to it as well, and they’ve integrated payments and age verification. You can buy beer at Seahawks stadium with your biometrics and things like that. So there’s a lot of cool things going on.
To finish up, you mentioned that there are some big new biometrics exhibitors showing this year?
ISC West: Yes, I think it’s interesting and I’m pleased that there’s a mix of great alumni exhibitors so to speak, but also some cool new ones. So, I will just reference three or four of the tried and true companies that have been with us for multiple years in a row. CrucialTrak is one. They’re once again in a large booth. IDEMIA like you mentioned, Princeton Identity, and then BioConnect from Toronto. It’s nice to see some international companies. Those are all some of our alumni biometrics exhibitors, so they’re going to be showing some great solutions.
But, interestingly as well there are some emerging, newer, exhibitors that are biometrics focused. One is called FaceFirst and they’re very focused on perimeter security aspects for facial recognition. Another company called FaceCon and they’re a new exhibitor for biometrics, and then also Ayonix face technologies. So, those are companies that are in smaller exhibits but I really encourage attendees and the media to make sure you’re checking out some of those new and smaller companies because there’s going to be those hidden gems in those booths as well.
So, a nice mix of returning exhibitors in the category, and some new companies, which is neat.
FindBiometrics: That’s great. That really reflects the overall biometrics landscape, I think. There is a long history and a lot of established players but because things are evolving so quickly you have those exciting start ups, and we’re also seeing a lot of partnerships between the two, so it’s really great that you can be on the exhibition floor and see everybody. And you know, they can contact each other too.
ISC West: Definitely. We’re also there to put people together and help good things happen.
FindBiometrics: Absolutely. Well thanks again for taking the time to talk to me Will and looking forward to the show.
ISC West: Thanks so much Peter, looking forward to it.