ASIS New Zealand Chapter member and scholarship awardee Chris Lawton reports from ASIS International’s 63rd Annual Seminar and Exhibits (ASIS 2017), which convened 25-28 September in Dallas, Texas, USA.

As they say in the USA, Texas is a big place and anything can happen there. It’s not every day you get to listen to a former US President (George W. Bush) speak in person while attending the world’s foremost security expo!

The ASIS Annual Seminar and Exhibits event for 2017 was hosted at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. It’s the flagship annual event for ASIS International, the world’s largest association for security management professionals.

Originally called the American Society for Industrial Security, the organisation rebranded to ASIS International in 2002 to better reflect its growing number of chapters around the world.

For over 50 years, the US-based ASIS Annual Seminar and Exhibits has been the premiere security event attended by security professionals from around the world. Not only is it the large public exhibition of trade goods and security solutions that you’d expect, it also provides industry education opportunities.

This year’s show was held just as Hurricane Harvey had smashed into areas of Texas, and as other disasters around the world were keeping news feeds busy. These events, and in particular Harvey, were predicated to have a potentially serious affect, significantly reducing the US GDP. However, they didn’t stop the annual show from being rolled out as scheduled.

The event was opened by Thomas J. Langer CPP, the 2017 president of ASIS International, who commented “from the standing-room only education sessions to the jam-packed exhibit hall, ASIS fulfilled its promise to deliver the security industry’s premier event.” He wasn’t wrong.

Keynote speeches were kicked off with an informal chat with George W. Bush, former President of the USA, followed by Mark Cuban, an American businessman, investor, author, television personality, philanthropist and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

Later, we heard from Scott Klososky, an author, writer and futurist who has been on the forefront of technology and industry. He is an owner in TriCorps Security, which provides a host of cybersecurity services, including internal and external assessments, vulnerability testing, forensics, remediation, and team member training.

Keynote speakers focused on sharing their perspectives on the current threat landscape and the risks/potential​ of innovative technologies reshaping society and the way we do business.

The interesting follow-on from these speakers were the discussions on integrated private-public sector collaboration, particularly with the ‘Global Responses to Global Threats’ panel of international security experts, which focused on this area.

You name it and it was covered at the exhibition centre: access control, alarms, asset tracking, CCTV, communications equipment, computer and IT security, covert video, door control hardware, executive protection, identification products, integrated security systems, intrusion detection equipment, locks, perimeter protection, publications, surveillance, training etc.

The program also included 180 expert-led case studies, panel discussions, learning sessions, and general sessions.

These included sessions on active shooters, business operations, architecture, engineering and design​, communicating and demonstrating the value of security, crime and loss prevention, crisis management, critical infrastructure, cyber security, enterprise security risk management, hot topics and current events, information security, investigations, legal, physical security, terrorism, workplace violence, and much more.

While not something I attended but of interest to many, the event also accommodated various breakfasts and dinners for, amongst others, ATF retirees, former FBI agents, former Secret Service agents, former US State Department special agents, the International Organisation of Black Security Executives (IOBSE), retired US military veteran ASIS members, as well as the National Association of Security Companies.

Wednesday 27 September was a special day – Law Enforcement & Military Appreciation Day, which honored the individuals who make communities and world a safer place. All active-duty law enforcement, military, and first responders received free admission to the events held that day.

Keynote speakers on the 27th focused on the issue of global responses to global threats, with presentations on bomb threat response and management, how terrorist networks use espionage to recruit, plan, and execute attacks, and security in high risk locales. In the latter, speakers gave first-hand accounts of responses to recent terror attacks.

Retired FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers and Former Boston Police Department Commissioner Ed Davis, talked on the hunt for Boston Marathon bombers the Tsarnaev brothers). Lieutenant-colonel Christophe Roland Beuzit of the GIGN and City of London Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Barnard) provided information on how Paris and Manchester responded to their respective attacks.

The show’s numbers were staggering. More than 20,000 top-level security professionals from across industries attended the event. If you had the time you could visit all 575 exhibitors, each one showcasing their products presenting new, innovative and emerging products and technologies such as machine learning, robotics, forensic analysis, and artificial intelligence.

While the event focused on the security world it also reached out to the city of Dallas. In conjunction with the event, ASIS gave back to the Dallas community through its Security Cares program.

Security Cares is an ASIS International community safety and security initiative designed to educate managers of small to medium-size businesses and cultural/community institutions—places that traditionally have not considered themselves targets—about the fundamentals of security prevention and preparedness.

One thing I took away from this was a copy of President George W. Bush’s book Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors. The book is a collection of oil paintings and stories by the former President and now painter honoring the sacrifice and courage of America’s military veterans.

No matter what one may have thought of his presidency here in New Zealand, it was a fascinating aspect of the man that I wasn’t aware of, and I must say that the book – as well as listening to his candid (although probably scripted) answers – has certainly enlightened me considerably.

In many ways the attendees left empowered with new information, confirmed existing knowledge, developed professional networks, and were exposed to the products and services they need to go about their work as security managers and consultants.

The event certainly promotes the ASIS commitment to excellence and ongoing training and education for all professionals no matter what their background or current level of expertise. I will certainly be heading to Las Vegas for ASIS 2018.