The Security Week That Was: A Recap - Dec. 9-15, 2006

If you ever wanted a good example to explain why electronic access control can be an advantage over purely manual, lock-based access control, a city building in Columbia, Mo., just might be your prime example. A vandal was able to break-in because one of the building’s locks had failed due to weather. The vandal pushed the door open and committed what sounds to have been thousands of dollars of damage inside the building. For those of you in charge of facility security, or even those of you selling and installing access control products, it’s a great example of the limits of unmonitored access control, and why electronic access control, even if it’s just door position sensors or managed locks, can be so essential in crime prevention.

Technology Buzz of the Week
We’re watching how you walk

Let’s get straight to the news of the past week, and we start with a question: Are you walking with a double helical structure?

I couldn’t tell you whether I am either, but researchers in Maryland have found that they can use CCTV cameras to record how people are walking and then can use complex analytics to analyze what that means. Apparently the unloaded body uses its legs in a figure 8 manner (hence the double helical structure). Humans who are carrying something will subtly change how they walk. According to researchers, the analysis could be used to find out whether there just might be a big package (perhaps a bomb?) hidden under that oversized coat. As if that wasn’t good enough, the U. of Maryland research team is looking at a system that would be able to tell you how tall someone is in a camera’s field of view.

Security on the Rail
U.S. unveils new program for improving rail security

Rail security draws attention because of the volume of hazardous materials that can be moved through highly populous areas. That risk yet again drew attention this week when a Department of Homeland Security rail security proposal was released. Key components of the proposal were to 1) keep rail cars in secured areas when not in use, 2) require rail companies inspect their cars, and 3) give the TSA the power to inspect rail systems and rail vehicles. Critics charge that it ignores the real solution – rerouting of hazardous rail cars away from populous areas. It’s my suspicion that the rail lobby has “had an ear” with DHS in making sure that (often costly and time-consuming) rerouting wasn’t part of this security proposal.

Separating the Mole from the Tunneling Bank Robber
Israeli company applying pipeline protection technology to banks

Magal Security Systems, an Israeli company that had developed a pipeline security system which could be implemented to detect attempted intrusions into energy supply lines, has adapted its PipeGuard system to protect bank vaults. The system listens for vibrations in the ground (and sorts out the false alarms), and has been hired on for six bank vaults, the company said.

Applause Worthy Security
Video monitoring guards catch a video voyeur

Our applause this week goes to the two unnamed store LP/security guards who were monitoring the CCTV system at a K-Mart in Fort Lauderdale and who managed to spot the Peeping Tom who was using his personal camcorder to look up women's skirts. The two guards were able to detain the man until police could arrest him. These are the kind of success stories that happen in our industry every day and which rarely make the news. If you want to tell us your own success stories of how your department was able to prevent crime, you can do so in our forums as anonymously as you wish.

In Other News
More tidbits shaping our industry

- The Stanley Works (Blick, Frisco Bay, Stanley Security Solutions, etc.) has announced its intention to purchase HSM Electronic Protection (a monitoring company focused on the commercial space and national accounts) for $545 million, further placing Stanley’s security division as a “one-stop-shop”.

- Integrian, known for its mobile video solutions (the systems are used in public transit and police cruisers) has purchased Signal Innovations Group, a company which is developing video analytics.

- It’s been somewhat common knowledge that children sleep so soundly that alarm signals don’t always wake them. New research on the subject out of Columbus, Ohio, says even the pre-recorded voice designs -- the kinds of smoke alarms that can record a parents vocal instructons – aren’t foolproof. To get around the problem, researchers suggest placement of alarm notification devices in multiple locations in the home, especially near the places where children may be sleeping.

- The GAO, the watchdog of so many big government projects, didn’t have much positive news about border security this week. It noted that biometric entry is going OK, but conversely warned that the proposed biometric exist program is a traffic clog waiting to happen.

That’s the word from the street in the world of security. We close with a look at our most read stories of the week, including one perplexingly popular announcement about a new homeland security solutions firm: