I have never been a great fan of IT exhibitions. I can remember those times when I was working in sales and marketing where you would be stuck for hours on end manning a stand at an IT show in the forlorn hope that some significant, undiscovered prospect would see your organisation in a different light. I always felt as if I was marooned in a sea of technology with everyone around me talking irrelevant gobbledegook. As such, I was not really looking forward to catching up with former ACS president John Ridge when he invited me to meet up with him at the recent Security 2002 conference in Sydney.
However, in the end I found the event a fascinating experience. I had expected to see loads of software vendors talking about things like virus scanning and disaster recovery. I was completely wrong. The most dominant stand from the outside was the key manufacturer Lockwood's. The NSW Police had a stand promoting home safety issues. There was a supplier of safes. Burglar alarms were big business. Yet, blossoming out among all these traditional security products was an array of IT solutions.
These were not the archetypal computer stands that I had grown accustomed to over the past 20 years. There was no dogma on feeds and speeds promising some technological nirvana. Instead, all around me were practical examples of IT in action. I saw video monitoring systems where the images were digitised on PCs and servers for enhanced storage and recovery. I had a demonstration where my fingerprint was scanned and tied to a smart card to provide me with a truly unique ID. It seemed in almost every facet of traditional locks and bolts security there was an IT solution offering greater reliability and protection.
Locally, IDC has been tracking a number of security technologies within Forecast for Management for some time. Categories include smart cards, biometrics, business continuity planning and virtual private networks. CIO respondents are indicating that all these areas will show sizeable growth over the next 18 months. In fact, of the 50 technologies and management disciplines included in the survey CIOs are predicting the greatest percentage jump in use over the next two years will be for biometrics technology (423 per cent) followed by smart cards (262 per cent).
In the end I left the exhibition with a renewed sense of enthusiasm about the IT industry. Here was IT away from offices and accountants, creating new solutions that offered us an enhancement on the security that bars and locks have provided up until now. How many more industries can IT similarly galvanise? We all know in our hearts that IT has barely scratched the surface in its potential. As new solutions appear they will require a whole new wave of IT skills to support them. If nothing else, that's good news for IT workers.