After more than a year without in-person events, PSA TEC 2021 was hosted as a hybrid event last week, May 3-6, with around 200 people coming to the Sheraton in downtown Denver, Colo., and more tuning in online.

To ease virus-related fears, a strict code of conduct was put in place for those gathering in-person. Precautions included mask requirements, social distancing, and different lanyard colors for attendees indicating whether they were comfortable with handshakes and close contact.

After a year like no other, the pandemic and the new normal were a focus for many of the educational sessions throughout the week. Covering a variety of topics and angles, panelists from a wide range of backgrounds offered advice for integrators on the ways COVID-19 has altered the industry. 

“Get ready for the onslaught [of business], because it’s coming,” said panelist Abe Schwab, vice president of Care Security Systems, during an educational session on the first day from the PSA Sales & Marketing Committee on selling in the new normal. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Cybersecurity and its increased importance in the past year was also widely discussed throughout the conference. One session on the first day from the PSA Cybersecurity Committee, CIS Contols – Operationalize and Go from 0 to 60, walked integrators through the implementation of a comprehensive cybersecurity program.

“The thing I always try to help everyone remember is that there are two sides to this coin,” said panelist Josh Cummings, vice president of technology at VTI Security. “Internally we have to make sure our house is in order, but we also provide services, so we have systems and components we are supplying, and that’s a whole other aspect as well. You can’t just be outward or inward facing.” 

PSA’s Emerging Technologies Committee also held a session on the first day, about technologies making an impact today. They touched on artificial intelligence, drone detection, biometrics and their impact on privacy, building automation and data and business intelligence. End users’ desire for convenience is driving most of these new trends, the panelists all agreed.

“We’re seeing the onus put back on the customer to become self-sufficient, like the self-checkout at the grocery store,” said panelist Rob Kay, global director of professional services at Northland Controls. “Rather than having centralized security resources, we’re seeing more automation to allow users to take that administration on themselves and request the access they need, among other things. Technology will help people solve their own problems so they no longer need large operations teams to solve them for them.”

For those attending the conference in-person, day one concluded with a welcome reception, in which the following PSA award winners were announced:

  • PSA Superstar Vendor Achievement: Altronix
  • USAV Superstar Vendor Achievement: ALMO Professional A/V
  • PSA Star Vendor Achievement: ASSA ABLOY
  • PSA Star Vendor Achievement: Bosch Security
  • PSA Star Vendor Achievement: Hanwha Techwin
  • PSA Star Vendor Achievement: HID Global
  • PSA Star Vendor Achievement: LifeSafety Power
  • PSA Star Vendor Achievement: Security Lock Distributors
  • PSA Star Vendor Achievement: Windy City Wire
  • PSA MSSP Star Vendor Achievement: OpenEye
  • USAV Star Vendor Achievement: Legrand | AV
  • USAV Star Vendor Achievement: Sharp NEC Display Solutions
  • USAV Star Vendor Achievement: Shure Inc.
  • PSA Customer Service Individual Excellence: Beth Taylor, ScanSource
  • PSA Customer Service Team Excellence: Windy City Wire
  • USAV Excellence in Service: Liberty AV Solutions

“PSA and USAV would not be successful without our exemplary partners,” said PSA CEO Matt Barnette. “Each year we survey our members to determine who the outstanding partners are and ensure the highest honors are given to those who deserve it.” 

On day two, after a morning of education sessions, the State of PSA was discussed live for both in-person and virtual attendees. Here, PSA CEOs Matt Barnette and Bill Bozeman, along with PSA President Ric McCullough, and Chairmen Dan Budinoff and Darryl Keeler, talked about the current year and future vision of PSA. A great deal of the presentation emphasized the value of offering managed services.

“If you choose not to get yourself involved in cybersecurity or a managed service business model, you do so at your own peril,” Bozeman said. “Your customers will be demanding you’re proficient in both.”

“It’s disappointing to see how slowly our integrators are adapting,” Budinoff added. “It’s true Bill’s been beating the drum about managed services, and it’s going to be the wave of the future. Customers want managed services. They want the cloud. There’s a lot of new stuff out there — embrace the vendors who have these products and ask them how to get your people compensated. Bring in new people, bring in the Millennial group that is willing to learn new things. If you want to survive, you have to adapt — you just have to.”

Barnette said that less than 1 percent of PSA’s business today is managed services, so there is a lot of opportunity — especially since many of the products coming to market now have managed services as a component, making generating RMR even easier for integrators. 

That night, in-person attendees were able to come together for the PSA 50th Anniversary Dinner.

Day three of the conference — the last day for those attending the event in-person — featured the State of the Integrator, with Barnette, Sage Integration COO John Nemerofsky, IST Chief Strategy Officer Michael Ruddo and Northland Controls CEO Pierre Trapanese. 

Working in different areas of the country, each integrator was able to share their unique experience from the pandemic. While some have already been back in the office for months, the rest are rushing to bring employees back before customers return to the office and business takes off. 

“There’s some initial nervousness about coming in, but within an hour you see people smiling from ear to ear,” Trapanese said. “You need that human interaction. Over time we will be going to a hybrid model where people are coming in a few days a week.” 

The Security Industry Association’s Women in Security Forum hosted an educational session later in the day about cultivating and keeping young talent through inclusion — a pressing topic as the industry struggles to find qualified employees.

BCD International Director of Strategic Alliances Maureen Carlo, Brivo Vice President of Dealer Development Kelly Bond, Allegion Canada Multifamily Strategy and Marketing Manager Erin Mann and Sage Integration COO John Nemerofsky were the panelists for the session, which touched on the unique struggles of being a woman in the industry; ensuring young employees receive the training they need to succeed; recruiting diverse talent; and making security products accessible for those with disabilities.

“The industry is really unique in the opportunities to dig into your passion and find a place you belong, but when I entered the industry, I had no idea — it wasn’t until two years later when I applied for the RISE scholarship that I realized how dynamic and massive the industry is,” Mann said. “My biggest piece of advice to individuals entering the industry is to look for a way to get involved with the individuals in your organization first. If you are someone who wants a fulfilling career, there’s a plethora of ways and a plethora of opportunities.” 

After in-person attendees returned to their homes, the virtual conference continued on May 6, with certification sessions, educational sessions and the virtual exhibit show. 

One session — the State of the Cannabis Market and Video Surveillance — provided a window into a growing market for security professionals.

“We’re just getting started,” said presenter Chris Jensen, account manager for the Cannabis sector at March Networks. “The industry changes day to day and minute to minute sometimes. The biggest thing to know is that there is a huge opportunity. Security is at least 25 percent of your application when applying for a license [to sell Marijuana] so it is a big deal. . . . There needs to be more security professionals to come in and write these regulations."

Global Cannabis sales rose 48 percent to $15 billion in 2019, Jensen said. 

On May 7, there were still some certification sessions available for attendees online. After the event, the PSA team said they are very happy with how the hybrid conference played out.

“The entire PSA team is proud of the success of PSA TEC 2021," said Candice Aragon, vice president of marketing and events at PSA. "It was nerve wracking to be the first live event in security post COVID-19, but our team worked hard to ensure it was successful. While the in-person event was smaller than a normal TEC, we still had a great turn out of executives from our owners and members and were able to foster high-impact networking among peers and with vendors. It might take some time for events to be fully back to pre-pandemic attendance, but we learned a lot of key takeaways for hybrid events. The energy at the live event is hard to put into words. Attendees were thrilled to be back together again and the week showed us all how important human connection is.”  

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