How do contractors stay current with the latest security products? They could use a search engine and scour Web pages for hours on end. Or, better yet, they get hands-on knowlege by combing the exhibits at an International Security Conference & Exposition.

Held in various venues across the country-and next scheduled to stop in Chicago June 21-22-the ISC Expo gives electrical contractors a chance to see up-and-coming products and companies. In addition, educational sessions range from installation to management topics and are well worth the time for the entrepreneurial electrician who wants a feel for the industry.

Earlier this spring, the Las Vegas show drew record crowds. Of course, many of those who browsed the exhibit floor-for freebies and fantastic giveaways as well-were traditional security installing companies. But there was also a noticeable presence of electrical contractors who are finding that the vast array of niches in the market may present a valid opportunity for future growth.

See the future

There are so many different facets to security, and the show was proof positive with access control, closed-circuit television surveillance, remote monitoring, wireless signaling and controls, networks, wiring, cable, computer systems, software, fire systems, and traditional burglar alarm systems.

Many manufacturers agree that the niche is wide open to electrical contractors. However, they're not yet aware of the power of the market. They still hold the belief that electrical contractors are not specifiers. But they are.

According to the EC Special Report, Electrical Contractors: Their Involvement in Security Work, nearly 90 percent of security work is being performed in house, rather than being subcontracted to another firm, again emphasizing the integral role electrical contractors play in security work.

What follows is a sampling of innovative new products that caught the attention of show-goers:

· Hochiki America Corporation, Buena Park, Calif., is marketing to the United States a variety of fire systems and controls that are smarter than ever. For example, the HCP-1008E Fire Alarm Control is microprocessor-based and can be configured from the front panel or the system-compatible DH-98 photoelectric or ionization duct detectors.

· Radionics Inc., Salinas, Calif., introduced the PC9000 Enterprise Conductor. This high-speed data connection links or "conducts" thousands of 9000 Series controls to monitoring sites anywhere in the world using TCP/IP Wide Area Networks with Ethernet or Token Ring Connections.

· Linear Corporation, Carlsbad, Calif., featured a host of wireless systems, but most intriguing are the wireless devices which can provide myriad remote capabilities and access to systems and controls.

· Ademco Group, Syosset, N.Y., demonstrated the revolutionary Symphony product at the show. A new advance in security and home control, it allows homeowners to receive user-specific information services via the Internet, without having to turn on a personal computer.

· Sanyo Security Products Division, Chatsworth, Calif., unveiled a new digital DSP camera, the VCC-5774 Color Cube-Camera, that fits into a 5-inch dome or can be wall-mounted. The compact design and more than 480 lines of high-resolution designate the device for installations where space is limited but sharp color images are critical.

· HID Corporation, Irvine, Calif., featured the HID ProxTrak Property Pass Solution. It electronically links an asset to the person moving the asset to reduce the time and expense of asset tracking. The company also has a variety of proximity devices for hands-free access control.

Even more exciting than the products themselves is the reality that electrical contractors are increasingly designing and specifying security. That means you have the power to decide what to install, or which niche is the most logical for your business. Best of all, you can answer "yes" when your customer asks for a turnkey installation.

Attend a trade show, read literature about new products and trends in the security industry, and visit a local security products distributor or manufacturer. It's your key to profitability and an exciting business future.

For more on the ISC Expo, visit www.isc.reedexpo.com. For more information on low-voltage systems and services, attend NECA's Voice/Data/Video conferences, Consumer Electronics Shows, Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association meetings and National Sound and Security Contractors Association gatherings as well.

Editor's note: This column is about you. Your comments on the security market are welcome. If you are involved in security or related installations, Electrical Contractor wants to know about it. Feel free to call or send an e-mail.

O'MARA is the president of DLO Communications, Inc., in Chicago. She specializes in writing about the security market. She can be reached at (773) 775-1816 or domara @flash.net.