Veteran conventioneers tell me that these expos used to be dominated by "Get Smart"-like hidden cameras and concealed microphones. But now that everyone knows they are being looked at all the time, and nobody is candid, and nobody cares, overt surveillance sells well too. Still, when you approach a booth, they lean in intimately and ask you if you are "covert or overt" like it's your sex, or your fetish or your bellybutton.

They all try to arrest your attention in desperately creative ways. Coherent Communications decided a great way to show off their covert cams would be to dress a smiley male mannequin in a cowboy outfit and prop a granola box in its dead arms, with a sign: "Easily concealed transmitter and camera!" That's right—that message is brought to you by Coherent Communications.

The richer, overt CCTV companies have huge kiosks with black lights and spinning dice and people in matching uniforms to win your waning, short-spanned attention. Security companies need to look futuristic and clairvoyant to seem trustworthy. Digital Monitoring Products has a HUGE light show that jets into action every twenty minutes or so, booming dance music and spitting fake smoke and scribbly green lasers. One zappy monitor reads: "Anticipating a need for custom alarms in the tradition of innovation."

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