Securing New Ground 2020, like virtually every other industry event this year took place, well, virtually — for three hours each day on October 21 and 22. But within that format it managed to cover a lot of ground, as it always does. The event that bills itself as the security industry’s executive conference, seeks to look at the industry from a high level view and this year was no exception. 

Coinciding with the unveiling of the 2021 top 10 SIA Security Megatrends (artificial intelligence; cybersecurity of physical security; predictive data analysis; connectivity and the IoT of everything; cloud computing; touchless and frictionless solutions; facial recognition; responsive environments and intelligent spaces; emphasis on data privacy; and move to service models), SNG touched on all of these topics and more throughout the two-day event.

But to start off, Securing New Ground chose a different subject as its opening keynote: corporate citizenship. In his address, “Evolving Security by Evolving the Workforce,” Grady Crosby, chief diversity officer at Johnson Controls, spoke not about overt ways to attract new talent to the industry, but rather the more global and structural ways security companies should be behaving to draw diversity, both in their organizations and in their communities.

Crosby outlined three tiers of corporate responsibility to consider. The first, he said, is the easiest for the security industry: create products and services that change the world for the better. “As businesses concerned with security it is usually easy to check the box belonging to the good guys,” he said.

The second tier he identified is business practices, such as fair pay, recruiting for diversity, and ethical business relationships. The third tier is philanthropic investment and being involved in the community. “When a company invites its members to serve on local boards, everybody wins,” he said. “When a company’s employees are out in the community, the company has better visibility.” 

When companies are good corporate citizens, it is better for the company overall, and will help with the goal of evolving the workforce, he concluded. “Being a good corporate citizen is not just the right thing to do; it’s a winning strategy to grow your business and attract more talent. 

“In closing I want you to challenge each other and collaborate on best practices … The beautiful thing about this is we can collaborate. We don’t have to compete. Challenge each other to do better.”

Many of these same themes showed up in practice in the first panel session of the day, featuring Pierre Racz, president and CEO of Genetec; Howard Johnson, president and COO of AMAG Technology; and Kurt John, chief cybersecurity officer for Siemens USA. Moderated by North American regional president of Bosch, Brian Wiser, the opening question asked, “How has the pandemic impacted your company’s strategy?”

Racz stressed his company’s immediate desire to help customers in a way that wasn’t “ambulance chasing.” Genetec launched several pandemic-related solutions and gave them away for free to customers, he explained. For company employees, they had zero layoffs, even repurposing the kitchen staff of their in-house café to present online cooking classes.

John touched on the need for leaders to refocus to lead with more empathy, flexibility and trust during this crisis. 

Johnson added, “Companies that do the right thing by their staff in times of crisis will be rewarded. Pierre and Kurt and I are all aligned in that type of approach.”

There was also talk in this panel and most others about the impact of the megatrends on the security industry, from cybersecurity to AI to touchless technology. 

“We all have to come together to support this post-pandemic world,” said Valerie Curran, president and managing director of Boon Edam, during a panel on how the pandemic is changing commercial architecture and access. “When I look at touchless and frictionless access, I don’t think that will go away. It’s been in our market for decades. It will only grow in this post pandemic world. If you look at the SIA Megatrend report today, touchless was No. 6 on the list. From my perspective as a manufacturer of automated entry controls, we are pivoting to markets we hadn’t looked at in the past.”

Later on in the first day, the planned breakout roundtables were instead converted into lightning round two-minute talks about several of the megatrend technologies, including facial recognition, frictionless and touchless access, cybersecurity and managed services.

“We strongly believe that while there are both opportunities and threats, there are more opportunities than threats,” said Ric McCullough, PSA Security Network, during his turn. “We look at things like managed services and cloud-based products where, at a time when integrators have been forced to slow down a little, they realized this is the opportunity and the right time to look at those.”

One of the highlights of SNG, usually, is the honors night — normally a formal dinner and presentation. For this virtual event, SNG chose to sprinkle the awards throughout the two days, beginning with the presentation of the George R. Lippert Memorial Award to Denis Hébert, president of Feenics. “If I have contributed anything, I truly have done so because of those surrounding me,” Hébert said, on receiving his award. “It has been an honor to have served and contributed to the security industry association and the industry in general.”

Min Kyriannis of the JMK group expressed both surprise and gratitude on receiving the Jay Hauhn Excellence in Partnerships award.

In true “Oscars-style” fashion, the awards were presented by last year’s winner. Maureen Carlo of BCD International presented the Progress Award to Andrew Lanning on behalf of the Women in Security Forum for his work on the WISF scholarship program this year. “Here’s the thing about progress; it can be incrementally deceptive, like a stone in a stream, or immediately impactful, like a light turning on,” Lanning said. “Our forum is somewhere in between. Reaching across the chasms of gender bias to build a better industry and better nation, I am confident that this forum will make great waves in this industry.”

Day two of the event kicked off with the session, “Executive Insights: The Business of Integration” which featured ACRE Chief Product Officer Kim Loy, Convergint Executive Vice President Mike Mathes and North American Video President and CEO Jason Oakley. 

Loy led the conversation, first asking the other two panelists how the pandemic has affected their business, and whether any new technologies had resulted from the crisis.

“It’s become very essential for our customers to minimize downtime and stretch their systems, even in situations where they don’t have the normal amount of staff present,” Oakley said.

Mathes added that a lot of customers are asking for ways to use existing technologies for new use cases like contact tracing and visitor management, “I think if people invest in these, then the technologies will stick around in the future.”

All of the panelists said they were hesitant to push out new products catering to emerging issues without allowing for the proper vetting time.

“You don’t want to promote equipment that came out in a hype situation that doesn’t perform for customers,” Loy said. 

Cybersecurity was also a major point of conversation in the session.

“Cybersecurity has gone from building a firewall . . . to watching devices and making sure they’re behaving in a way that’s expected,” Mathes said. 

Oakley added, “There’s a lot of network design that goes into creating a standalone system cut off from the outside world, and we have to monitor whether there is an intrusion.”

Next, attendees were treated to a session about navigating the pandemic with Boston Medical Center’s Chief of Public Safety Connie Packard. She discussed how the hospital and her safety and security team has responded to fast-changing concerns over capacity, building access, visitor management and infectious disease control. 

An executive interview with Don Young, ADT’s chief information officer and executive vice president for field operations, revealed his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities ahead for the security industry. The majority of the discussion focused on ADT’s partnership with Google. 

“We’re really understandably excited about what Google’s prowess and capabilities will bring,” Young said. 

He said ADT employees are excited about the partnership, and that the announcement has invigorated the culture at the company. 

“We are no longer going to be accused of being behind anyone else when it comes to innovation,” Young said in reference to the partnership.

Young also wanted to dispel the fear of DIY security replacing professional installation services. 

“What we’re really happy about is the customer might have the appetite to go ahead and do it themselves with nothing other than a website [to guide them through the installation process], but some might need a technician to sort of hand hold them — that professional sort of certified wisdom,” Young said. “To be able to give a customer a choice on how to maximize the value of what they’re buying is an idea both companies [ADT and Google] are really excited about.”

Starbucks Chief Security Officer Cheryl Steele delivered the keynote for day two, addressing why security matters to an organization’s culture, what it means to be resilient and why the concept of being a business enabler is so important to the field of security. 

Steele also talked about her own personal career journey that brought her to Starbucks, Starbucks’ 50th anniversary this year and the importance of vulnerability in a leader.

SIA Security Megatrends Advisor and Brivo President and CEO Steve Van Till provided a preliminary look at the 2021 SIA Security Megatrends, and asked attendees to share their own input on the decided trends via an interactive survey. 

As a thank you for their participation, all SNG attendees will receive a copy of the report following its publication in early December.

The two-day event concluded with the session “Investment Insights for the Security Industry: Perspectives from Wall Street and Private Equity.” In the session, Imperial Capital Executive Vice President John Mack III and Raymond James Managing Director and Head of Diversified Industrials Alper Cetingok provided insight into Wall Street, private equity and recent mergers and acquisitions within the industry. 

Approximately 500 security executives ended up attending the virtual event. Learn more at