I don't pretend to be a technology expert, but I've participated in many tours, lots of demos and more than my fair share of product pitches (often unwanted and unproductive since SDN doesn't do product reviews). So I don't get wooed by technology very often, but at this year's ASIS conference I saw a few things that impressed me.
The day before ASIS started, I was invited to a dinner sponsored by FLIR (that's my disclaimer) and saw a demo of their new color night vision camera. Like I said, I've seen a lot of camera demonstrations, but this time I must say I was impressed. In case you're not familiar with FLIR, they specialize largely in thermal cameras, which alone is a pretty cool technology and definitely solves a lot of the lighting challenges that comes with traditional camera installations. But, FLIR's color night vision camera was something I'd never seen before.
To demo the system, they sent two of their people out onto a dark golf course. I couldn't see them. Of course, the thermal picked them up, but you couldn't get much information from that camera. However, the color night vision camera was a lot different. I could see the color of their shirts, I could tell they were men. The resolution was grainy and certainly not "forensic quality" but it was good. It made it look like it was dusk and I was impressed.
The next day I went to visit the Raytheon booth. I had never seen Raytheon at a security show and I've made efforts to speak with them in the past but was denied, so I was excited about this booth visit. I spoke with Drew McBryde, their product director, who told me that they had a booth last year, but it was significantly smaller. I asked him what this meant in terms of Raytheon's business strategy and he told me that the company, which specializes in military-grade technology, sees a lot of opportunity in the civil security market.
The big obstacle, he said, has been the proprietary nature of the company's products. All the technology the company developed has been proprietary, for obvious homeland-security reasons. At the show, the company released its command and control product, ClearView, that allows end users to integrate Raytheon equipment with other technology in a central operating platform. The company spent three years developing this operating tool and this is just the start, he said. The company will continue to make equipment that's less costly and geared toward general security applications.
Like FLIR (who has only been playing in this industry for about five years), Raytheon will target municipal applications, critical infrastructure and law enforcement. And, they've got a lot in their arsenal to be a big player here. They've got the technology, they've got the expertise, and don't discredit the strength of their brand.
And I think it's a smart, if not necessary, move for the company. I talked to a few folks on the show floor about Raytheon's presence and several people thought it was probably a move to counter a reduction in government contract work. I don't know much about government security, but apparently the government tries to spread around its contract work and there's just less work to be had. So why wouldn't a company that has already spent a significant amount of money developing this technology, spend a little more to make it applicable to a wider audience? That just makes good business sense, don't you think? Just ask FLIR.