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Gated community ditches guard service, goes to live-monitored video


SAN ANTONIO—The upscale, gated community of Vineyard Subdivisions, located outside of San Antonio, and its more than 800 homes continued to experience extensive property damage, despite having security measures in place.

Video analytics textbook released


BOCA RATON, Fla.—As definitions and nomenclature continue to evolve in the field of video analytics, two editors have taken a stab at codifying things with a new textbook from CRC Press, Intelligent Video Surveillance: Systems and Technology.

Security jealousy: Port folks get all the cool toys

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When it comes to technological advancements, ports tend to have a lot of the latest and greatest. Many have those mega-video walls in their command and control centers that allow them to track ships as they come into the port, sophisticated land and water radar systems, video surveillance that allows them to see miles, and even robotic cameras to monitor what's happening in the water. I've been fortunate enough to see some of these technologies in action (check out the video from my tour of the Port of Long Beach) and let me just tell you: It's cool. And, I'm sure there's even cooler stuff they don't let us journalists (or the public) know about.

And, it just keeps getting better. Here's an article about some of the newest technologies being deployed at the POLB and Port of LA. These new security measures include a ship that can screen cargo vessels as they come into the port, a radiation detecting helicopter and a dog that can sniff chemical and biological weapons. Cool.

Apparently, the $3-million screening ship is the first of its kind in the world:

It can scan the contents of a ship through its hull as it is being escorted into port. The security ship can transmit the data to shore-based authorities. It also has a submersible rover that can search hulls for explosives in zero visibility conditions.

And even the dog seems pretty cool:

The sheriff's department says he has one of the most highly trained noses ever. He can sniff out chemical agents at lower concentrations than any instruments. He's also the only dog in the sheriff's department with his own badge.

I can almost see all you port folks just salivating over this stuff. If you're nice, maybe the California security guys will let you walk their new, cool dog.

Are more unmanned drones the solution to border security?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Enhancing border security continues to be one of the biggest challenges to our national security efforts. In case you didn't get a chance to read Sam's blog a couple weeks ago discussing a 60 Minutes episode on the ineffectiveness of the technology along the Mexican border, now would be a good time.

The basic theme of the episode (and Sam's blog) is that security professionals (namely Boeing, who many would not consider to be a security company) dropped the ball big time on the installation of technology along the border and basically wasted taxpayer's money. According to the show, $1 billion dollars later and only 28 miles of the border is protected (out of 2,000) and the technology along those 28 miles only "sorta works."

There are many people out there who argue that implementing video-analytic technology along the border just isn't feasible (and there are reports backing them up). So, now that we've wasted this kind of money and effort on a fruitless project, what to do now?

I just read this article in the Dallas News that the governor of Texas (who is currently campaigning for election) is calling for the Department of Defense to bring in more Predator drones to help protect the border. I'll be honest, I had to Wikipedia 'Predator drone.' According to this ever-useful online source, a Predator drone is "an unmanned aerial vehicle which the United States Air Force describes as a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV system."

And Gov. Rick Perry wants more of them along the border to provide security as well as real-time data to law enforcement.

According to the Dallas News: Already, there are three Predator B, or unmanned aerial vehicles, in use at the Arizona border for remote-control surveillance of drug and migrant smuggling by U.S. customs and Border Patrol officers.

Perry said this type of technology is critical to the overall security of the border. Law enforcement officers are frequently "outgunned and understaffed and do not have resources" to do their jobs, Perry said. "The federal government has been an abject failure at sealing our international border."

While the federal government certainly has a role in these border security failures, let's at least put some of the blame on the companies who promised to help the federal government do a better job. From Sam's blog:

Boeing promised the government it would have 2,000 miles of surveillance (video-analytic based, radar integrated, outdoor surveillance, no less) installed in three years? No one there has been introduced to the old “under-promise/over-deliver maxim” I’m guessing. Sure, they’re under pressure to get the bid - nobody sneezes at $1 billion in revenue - but, as Borkowski rightly says, “shame on us,” shame on the government administrators, for believing that promise.

But if a huge company like Boeing can't get some cameras to work properly, is it really more feasible (or beneficial or cost effective) to get these unmanned planes out there? I'm skeptical, especially after reading this story that drone planes in North Dakota were just grounded following a major software glitch.

The former Director of the Homeland Security unmanned aerial vehicle program at Grand Forks air force base says a software glitch grounded the two Predator B drones used for northern border patrol.

Mike Corcoran says that during a flight in early November the remotely piloted aircraft did not respond properly after the communication link with the base center was lost.

We don't want these things accidentally dropping bombs everywhere, now do we? That's not exactly helping to secure our borders.

An alternative to video analytics for anti-tailgating and people-counting?


AUBURN HILLS, Mich.—Luxembourg manufacturer IEE Sensing has U.S. headquarters here for a reason: For 20 years, the company has been manufacturing sensors that detect when you’re sitting in your car’s set, to trigger things like those annoying seat-belt beepers and to turn on passenger side airbags.

PSIM enables port to add more layers of security


DELRAY BEACH, Fla.—While a record snowfall may have prevented Captain Mike Brewer of the Virginia Port Authority Police Department from appearing in person at the 6th Annual TechSec Solutions conference on Feb. 2, he was still able to share his experience (via teleconference) regarding the port’s challenges with technology.

Virtual worlds on the horizon for security


DELRAY BEACH, Fla.—Virtual worlds and augmented reality are not just the stuff of the gaming world anymore. “A lot of this technology isn’t as futuristic as we think, it’s upon us now,” said Frank Yeh, senior security and privacy architect at IBM, who delivered the keynote address at TechSec Solutions Feb. 1.

McDonald's, Saks begin first install of HDCCTV


DENISON, Texas—While thus far most talk of HDCCTV has been theoretical, a McDonald’s franchise in Texas and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York are two of the first corporations to begin implementing the technology.

Islip schools mix old with new to improve monitoring


BOHEMIA, N.Y.—When the Connetquot Central School District of Islip outside of New York City decided to make the transition from analog to IP, the administration wanted to ensure that it could leverage its previous investments.

Public outcry to remove cameras. The solution: Stop running red lights

Monday, January 18, 2010

Over recent years there has been a significant push to install video surveillance systems in municipalities to improve police presence. I spoke with Sergeant Chris Kovac from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department on sdnTVnews at ASIS International last year (our most popular video, by the way, with over 5,400 views), and he discussed the installation of a wireless video mesh network throughout the city.

He said an integral part of this system was utilizing license plate recognition software to improve traffic monitoring, and the agency had experienced impressive results in their ability to identify and track stolen vehicles.

More and more cities are relying on this technology to capture traffic violations as well. Cameras mounted at traffic lights identify cars that illegally run red lights, capture license plates and automatically issue traffic citations to the registered owner of that car.

However, an article in USA Today found that such technology is causing a backlash from many communities across the country.

The cameras, billed as safety devices since their introduction in the USA nearly 20 years ago, are increasingly viewed by many motorists as unreasoning revenue generators for hard-up local governments.

According to the article, there are at least seven states (Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Wisconsin) who have banned red light cameras.

Even lawmakers who were once proponents of the technology have changed their stance on the technology and say the use of the cameras needs to be limited:

"They were sold to us in a different manner than what they're being used for," says state Rep. Jack Franks, a Democrat. "The municipalities have put them in areas where they're just to make revenue." He says that since 2006, crashes have increased at half the intersections in Illinois that have cameras, stayed the same at 25% and decreased at 25%.

Frankly, I don't understand the argument here. Motorists should not be running red lights, period. This type of system is actually a great example of how technology can improve the effectiveness of police agencies. There is no way any community has enough personnel (or money) to place officers at all or even a small percentage of its traffic lights and this type of technology can actually supplement police presence. I live in a city (albeit a small one), but I see people running red lights all the time in an effort to get through intersections. It's illegal and it's dangerous and people should be held accountable for their actions. Sorry public opinion - you're wrong on this one.