Security Consultant Conflict of Interest

By: John Honovich, Published on Mar 07, 2011

While security consultants should be totally committed to the needs of their customers, many fear that manufacturers have undue influence on consultant specifications. In this report, we examine those concerns and highlight a case where Axis recently paid for an extravagant Caribbean Cruise to 'educate' security consultants.

Role of Security Consultants

Medium to large projects in the physical security industry are often designed by security consultants, Architects or Engineers. Security managers depend on consultants to help find and plan the best solution.

Consultants are extremely powerful. Their decisions routinely impact hundreds of millions in security spending each year. The designs they select, the specifications they include and often the products they require all shape which manufacturers win and lose.

Manufacturer Motivation

Given the powerful role consultants have, manufacturers are hugely motivated to influence them. Almost all large manufacturers have sales teams dedicated to 'educating' and 'helping' consultants. The amount of help ranges from the benign (specs, webinars and whitepapers) to the dangerous (vacations, sporting events, even occasionally outright kickbacks). 

Concerns About Consultants

In our experience, security consultants are generally not well respected. Being a consultant demands greater expertise and stronger independence than most other roles. The inability of many consultants to live up to these higher standards is the likely cause of this disrespect.

Below are a few recent comments about security consultants that are representative of the frustration we hear:

  • Their knowledge: "Most I have worked with have very limited experience with security and are interested in finding someone who knows what they are doing that can assist them."
  • Working with them: "The best way to influence what ends up on the spec seem to be to offer to do the design work for them, spend money on them, or a combination of both."
  • "I assume all A&E's and sadly, even security consultants, are morons until they prove otherwise. I can count on one hand the people whose knowledge I respect."

The most consistent theme we hear is how little most security consultants know about the systems they specify - especially technologies like IP video surveillance. Manufacturers work hard to fill / exploit this knowledge gap.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Manufacturer Events

For decades, across technology sectors, manufacturers have run events to 'help' and 'educate' consultants. Often, these are as simple as 'lunch n learns' where the manufacturer pays for sandwiches and delivers a short presentation. Sometimes, the events are expanded into a full day workshop or series of sessions.

The pinnacle of these events is the multi-day off-site gathering where manufacturer can mix business and pleasure. While manufacturers generally pay all (or almost all) expenses, the cost is certainly worth the influence gained. Being able to become friends not only with the consultants but with their wives over the course of multiple days is a powerful sales advantage.

Axis A&E Summit Examined

Like many manufacturers, Axis holds periodic events to educate security consultants. The recent Axis 2011 A&E Event [link no longer available], including a 3 day Caribbean Cruise and excursions to multiple Bahama Islands, is particularly extravagant.

Here is an overview / breakdown of business and free time [link no longer available] for the conference:

  • 3 and 1/2 days total
  • morning training / education sessions (13 hours total)
  • Afternoon: free time - cocktails, dinner, land excursions to Bahamas, etc.

Axis covered the following costs [link no longer available]:

  • 1 night at luxurious first class resort
  • 3 days and nights on Caribbean Cruise Ship
  • Meals and cocktails (including 4 dinners)
  • Land Excursions to islands in the Bahamas
  • Includes Guest accomodations, Axis hosted meals, receptions and pre-planned excursions

Airfare was not included. We estimate Axis paid approximately $1,500 per consultant for the accomodations, meals, drinks and excursions (including costs for consultant and guest).

The event drew a sizable crowd as shown in their Event group photo [link no longer available].

We shared our concerns with Axis and asked them for feedback and input on the event. Here is their response:

"Multi-day events are more effective because attendees have the time to ask detailed questions, provide feedback and network with other experts and partners in the field. For Axis, we received valuable feedback that will go directly to the R&D teams. For the consultants, they received approximately 5 hours of sessions each day, with time slotted for ASIS course credits, feedback sessions, and partner technology showcases from 13 other companies. Also, each evening, specific networking receptions were scheduled so that attendees had opportunities to meet and have deeper discussions with fellow industry experts, Axis partners, and management.

The main reason we chose the cruise was because Royal Caribbean has an extensive IP camera installation on board this ship and it provided the perfect venue to show a real-world scenario, which was used throughout different sessions. While Royal Caribbean is an Axis end-user, not all cameras on board were from Axis – so it gave an example of the openness that can be achieved with network video."

Ethical Concerns of the IAPSC

We asked a leading Security Consultant organization, the IAPSC [link no longer available], for input on these practices. The IAPSC provides guidelines on consultant practices and allows some expenses to be paid by manufacturers during education events [link no longer available]. We asked them for clarification on what expenses and how far manufacturers can go:

"The IAPSC's guidelines for independence allow for manufacturers to pay for simple items, such as lunch, during the course of education events. However, our guidelines do not allow for manufacturers to pay for extended trips, vacations, expenses for guests, etc. Such activities would be reviewed as potential ethical violations."

- Norman Bates, President of the IAPSC [link no longer available]

The Conflict

Users trust security consultants to deliver the best solution for the user's needs. A clear expectation exists that the consultant's interests are aligned with user's interests. 

A conflict of interest arises when:

  • Contrary interests provide gifts or compensation to the consultant
  • The consultant develops personal relationships or friendships with the members of the contrary interest

Both of these conflicts are clearly happening in the Caribbean Cruise. Regardless of what education occurs, the event is intimately bundled with activities that raise conflicts.

Everyone Loses ... But Big Manufacturers

When the ante to 'educate' consultants is raised to giving away vacations, the only organizations that can pay hundreds of thousands to do this is very large manufacturers. The outcome is simple and obvious: the 'education' of consultants is biased to the interests and abilities of these companies. Small manufacturers, integrators and other industry members will struggle to get their voice heard as consultants minds and bellies are filled by the biggest manufacturer's largess.

 

1 report cite this report:

Top 12 Reports for 2011 on Dec 25, 2011
Here are our top 12 reports for 2011, starting with the state of the...

Related Reports

Convergint Coronavirus Cuts on Mar 25, 2020
One of the world's largest security integrators, Convergint, has made a major...
Cancel or Not? Industry Split Over ISC West on Feb 26, 2020
The industry is split, polarized, over whether ISC West 2020 should run or be...
Train Your Team With IPVM Courses From Experts on Mar 01, 2020
You trust and use IPVM for reporting and research and you can also have your...
Mobotix Thermal Detection Camera Tested on Jun 09, 2020
For years Mobotix has struggled but now sales are surging driven by Mobotix's...
FLIR A Series Temperature Screening Cameras Tested on Jun 04, 2020
FLIR is one of the biggest names in thermal and one of the most conservative....
Emitted Energy TempScan Thermal Screening System Examined on Apr 28, 2020
Emitted Energy has specialized in temperature measurement using FLIR cameras...
Bosch Presents MIC 7100 Extreme PTZs on May 21, 2020
Bosch presented its MIC 7100 Extreme PTZs at the April 2020 IPVM New Products...
JCI / Tyco Security Products Layoffs on Jun 05, 2020
Johnson Controls / Tyco Security Products has confirmed COVID-19 related...
ISS Presents Face As A Credential and UVSS on Apr 30, 2020
ISS presented its security platform, including access control integration,...
Converged vs Dedicated Networks For Surveillance Tutorial on Feb 12, 2020
Use the existing network or deploy a new one? This is a critical choice in...
Hazardous & Explosion Proof Access Control Tutorial on Feb 27, 2020
Controlling access to hazardous environments requires equipment meeting...
Spectron IR Thermal Fever Screening System Examined on Apr 14, 2020
Most are quick to avoid "fever screening" and "medical" labels, but...
Vehicle Gate Access Control Guide on Mar 19, 2020
Vehicle gate access control demands integrating various systems to keep...
Facial Recognition 101 on Mar 18, 2020
Facial recognition interest, use and fear is increasing. This guide aims to...
Brivo Presents ACS100 Single-Door Combo Controller & Reader on Apr 27, 2020
Brivo presented its first integrated reader and controller, the ACS100 at the...

Recent Reports

Genetec CEO Declares "We Don't Negotiate Payment With Patent Trolls" on Aug 11, 2020
Are patent trolls like terrorists? Genetec's CEO is coming out strongly...
Hanwha AI Analytics Camera Tested on Aug 11, 2020
Hanwha has released their Wisenet P AI camera, adding person and vehicle...
Alabama Schools Million Dollar Hikvision Fever Camera Deal on Aug 11, 2020
The Baldwin County, Alabama public schools purchased a $1 million, 144-camera...
Dahua Taunts Australian Government, Continues To Sell Illegal Fever Cameras on Aug 10, 2020
Dahua is effectively taunting the Australian government by continuing to sell...
HID Releases VertX Replacement Aero on Aug 10, 2020
HID is replacing two established and broadly supported types of access...
NDAA Compliant Video Surveillance Whitelist on Aug 10, 2020
This report aggregates video surveillance products that manufacturers have...
Telpo China Temperature Tablets Tested on Aug 10, 2020
The provider for overseas companies ranging from Canon Singapore to US'...
Dangerous Hikvision Fever Camera Showcased by Chilean City on Aug 07, 2020
Deploying a fever camera outdoors, in the rain, with no black body, is...
"Grand Slam" For Pelco's PE Firm, A Risk For Motorola on Aug 07, 2020
The word "Pelco" and "grand slam" have not been said together for many years....
FLIR Stock Falls, Admits 'Decelerating' Demand For Temperature Screening on Aug 07, 2020
Is the boom going to bust for temperature screening? FLIR disappointed...
VSaaS Will Hurt Integrators on Aug 06, 2020
VSaaS will hurt integrators, there is no question about that. How much...
Dogs For Coronavirus Screening Examined on Aug 06, 2020
While thermal temperature screening is the surveillance industry's most...
ADT Slides Back, Disappointing Results, Poor Commercial Performance on Aug 06, 2020
While ADT had an incredible start to the week, driven by the Google...
AHJ / Authority Having Jurisdiction Tutorial on Aug 06, 2020
One of the most powerful yet often underappreciated characters in all...
SIA Coaches Sellers on NDAA 889B Blacklist Workarounds on Aug 05, 2020
Last month SIA demanded that NDAA 899B "must be delayed". Now that they have...