International Security Expo 2018: The Changing Demographics of the Security Industry
By Bob Falk, managing director of Evolv Technology
For years, going to the United Kingdom Security Expo in London has felt like going to a get-together with members of a fairly tight-knit club. Everyone was involved in the business of selling, buying and deploying high-powered security screening gear for airports, government buildings and other hardened locations.
This year, the vibe was noticeably different, with many new faces, from different industries, and with different priorities—emphasis on the word “many.” With the awful increase in mass casualty attacks on soft-targets such as schools, corporate offices and houses of worship, registrations for the show rose 38 percent from the previous year. This includes corporate security managers, hoteliers, government regulators and municipal law enforcement officials from around the world.
The show organizers clearly saw this change coming. Besides renaming the show—as of this year, it’s the International Security Expo–they set off a sizeable part of the show floor for the dozens of drone (and counter-drone!) security products on the market. The centerpiece exhibit was the football field-sized “Protecting Urban Spaces Demonstrator,” where visitors could get a sense of the user experience of various futuristic products in a simulated city, right down to a smart man-hole cover that looks out for wanted criminals while it also monitors the water and gas levels around it.
We definitely saw the broadening demographics of the security business at the Evolv booth. We had visits from multiple soccer clubs and other professional sports teams, all looking for ways to lower the odds of an attack in their stadium without taking any fun out of a night at the game. We spoke with police departments, who wanted to boost security at police stations and potentially at crime scenes. Large event planning companies kicked the tires, as well.
As a rule, these people had little interest in speeds and feeds, and most probably couldn’t tell you the meaning of the acronym AVSec (Answer: Aviation Security). They wanted to talk more about use cases, and how to create fluid, non-aggravating screening processes that wouldn’t feel like lining up in an airport security queue. Rather than create impenetrable perimeters to find every last pen-knife, many wanted the ability to quickly stand-up a “pop-up” checkpoint—say, for the night when a dignitary comes to a restaurant or if a municipal alert goes out about a violent criminal on the loose.
I suppose it’s no surprise that many of these newcomers to the show found their way to our booth. Evolv set out in 2013 to create solutions for the growing soft-target threat. More than 200 of our Edge systems are already deployed, in everything from corporate headquarters to concert halls. We’re not the only company targeting these applications, but I’d have no problem betting that we have the most experience helping customers in real-world applications.
In terms of the amount of real business that got done at the show, it no doubt took place at the booths and suites of those aviation security companies. With the European Commission mandating a shift from traditional X-ray-based technology to systems based on CT-scanners, there’s a lot of money to be made or lost in that huge market.
But I took the stream of new faces at our booth and the show as a solid leading indicator of expanding demand for a new generation of security screening equipment. It’s an unfortunate statement on the level of violence in our society today that schools, businesses and sports teams need to think about the safety of their visitors. But it’s also a positive sign that these companies and institutions are thinking about responding rather than accepting it as the new normal.
Check out Six Ways to Prevent Soft Targets from Terrorist Attacks to learn more about options to combating today’s security threats.