ASIS International Convention, Las vegas 1999

Dec '99 News

Since his liberation from Dedicated Micros Jeff Berg light-heartedly describes himself as being on a long walk back to the UK.In this article he finds himself in Las Vegas at the ASIS convention.ASIS is the American Society for Industrial Security.Its annual convention is hosted by a different city each year. The venue is usually chosen top provide a bit of an incentive to visit the show.Previous ASIS conventiond have bben held in San Francisco ,Orlando,San Antonio,Washington,Atlanta and New Orleans.

This year was the turn of Las Vegas which some people describe as a jewel in the desert. I tend to think of it more as a glittering wart. It is a city where you get to do anything you want, you can smoke anywhere – in the street, in the hotels, in the casinos. Surprisingly, prostitution is legal, but if the city is depraved, it enjoys itself.

My last visit there was five years ago and today it seems to have doubled in size, with a population of 1,8 million and typically 60 million visitors per year.

Las Vegas hotels

The rapid expansion of Las Vegas has been due to the city offering a lot more than just gambling. Every new hotel is built around a theme, indeed the whole city could be described as a giant theme park.

Hotels have recently been copying the great landmarks, one is built in the shape of an Egyptian pyramid, complete with Sphinx. If you like Paris there is a half size replica of the Eiffel Tower, complete with lift, observation tower and restaurant. Another hotel is in the style of Venice, with a frontage like the Doge’s Palace, a copy of the Rialto bridge, St Marks tower and a canal with gondoliers to ferry you around the hotel shops.

A collection of popular New York skyscrapers have been bolted together to create a place that seems to distill all the dirt, grime and noise of New York into a single hotel.

It occurred to me that you did not have to wander the world to take in all its wonders. You could just visit Vegas and see it all in a week. I could not help wishing I had enough money to replicate and build the Johannesburg Experience Hotel, with the pool area infested with Parktown prawns and each bedroom with an individual electric fence.

“This year was the turn of Las Vegas which some people describe as a jewel in the desert. I tend to think of it more as a glittering wart.”

The Convention itself

America actually hosts three major security conventions or exhibitions. ISC East, ISC West and ASIS. While the ISC East and West coast shows cater more for the security installer the ASIS show has always attracted more end users.

ASIS International 1999 had over 650 exhibitors occupying 35 000 square metres of exhibit space (about 10 times the floor space of Securex!) with a visitor count of 15 000 plus.


The industry is still in love with PC compatible computer solutions. Even CCTV systems are starting to lean towards IT based product. That is a CCTV installation that can become part of a company’s computer network. Long term we are most likely to see a larger involvement of IT departments in the general security of company premises.

While there are quite a lot of systems capable of connecting via Ethernet to a computer network there seemed to be little in-depth knowledge of how to implement the available technology.

“While there are quite a lot of systems capable of connecting via Ethernet to a computer network there seemed to be little in-depth knowledge of how to implement the available technology.”

This apparent lack of immediate expertise prompts one or two questions; will present alarm/CCTV/security companies be leap-frogged by the IT solution providers or can they master the implementation of the new technology?

There were a surprising number of companies offering employment screening. Your past, background, beliefs etc can be supplied for a small fee to any prospective employer. Not only that, the proliferation of do-it-yourself abuse testing kits allow employers to screen for recreational and hard drugs, alcohol dependency and the possibility of having eaten a hot curry within the last two months.

What’s new

Quite often people complain that they visited an exhibition and didn’t see anything new. When something new does come along it really makes the visit worthwhile.

A 360° camera system, called I-MOVE, records everything within sight of the camera head in a panoramic media format. The multiple video streams allow playback facilities akin to using a pan, tilt and zoom camera.

For example, if the camera was mounted on a car and driven through a city street, playback would allow you to look ahead, perhaps pan round and watch cars following, or even look sideways at shoppers passing by.

It’s like taking the journey yourself and deciding just where you want to look.

Another little gem was the robot security guard. Now the best robot I have seen so far has been little better than a self guided vacuum cleaner.

Now this robot was taller than me, and before you say that’s not difficult, it was taller than you too!

Apparently the height is needed for the gas/smoke/fire detectors and a reasonable angle of view for the CCTV camera. Remembering early sci-fi B movies of the fifties, and how to disable alien robots, I asked, “What happens if you throw a blanket over it?” the answer is – “The robot reports back that there is something wrong”. Another question: “Is it armed?” answer “We hadn’t thought of arming the robot”.

Then the salesperson told me of one customer that had 16 robots patrolling his factory at night. Now I don’t know about you but just one robot in an empty factory would scare the willies out of me, but 16, it’s practically a tea party.

At the end of the day the robot is just like a mobile bundle of alarm detectors, it’s a long way from Robocop.

“Then the salesperson told me of one customer that had 16 robots patrolling his factory at night. Now I don’t know about you but just one robot in an empty factory would scare the willies out of me, but 16, it’s practically a tea party.”

Every time someone announces that biometrics will be really big ‘next year’ I keep wondering just when it will start to happen. This year I saw two really neat facial recognition systems that promise to leave other biometric techniques out in the cold.

Claiming to compare a million images per second they promise hands off access control, detection of known felons in crowds, terrorists at airports etc.

While the systems are not as unique as fingerprint or eye geometry techniques (iris identification) they do offer a lot of potential. There is already a trial at a shopping mall in the UK specifically targeted at keeping known shoplifters out of the area.

It can’t be long before all of these technologies meld together. I have this nightmare vision about being chased round a mall by a robot that shouts out former misdemeanours such as ‘Didn’t return library book in 1965’ or ‘four outstanding parking tickets.’

It could get worse.

And finally – PGA golf

The PGA (Professional Golfers Association) convention was also running alongside ASIS. I was tempted to visit but remembered a recent medical when my doctor had shook his head and said, “Too old for squash, too young for golf”, maybe next year then.

For details contact Jeff Berg of Remguard (UK) on tel: (0944) 7771 667204, fax: (0944) 1744 894752, or e-mail:

American Convention-speak

Those of you planning to visit a convention in America might as well start learning the lingo right now:

Have you seen our product yet? – Can I bore you with a parrot style demonstration of our equipment?

We hadn’t quite thought of that application for our product – If we did that, they would sue our ass off.

Cost-effective – It’s going to be costly.

Low lease maintenance – It’s going to be costly.

The price is not important – It’s going to be costly.

Passes all safety tests – Passes all safety tests, except for the European ones.

Multi-language package – In English and Spanish.

Unique – There are five other booths showing similar products.

World Wide – Only in America.

View from the front of the Las Vegas Convention Center

The author with the robot security guard

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