The Security Week That Was: A Recap - Jan. 6-12, 2007

Robert LaPenta believes in biometrics. After all, you don't put your money where your mouth is if you don't believe. This is the guy who just today has offered $1.05 per share of ComnetiX, a Canadian biometrics company that does fingerprint recognition, especially for police departments.

Of course, LaPenta (via his biometrics investment arm L-1) isn't the only one going after ComnetiX. BIO-key, another fingerprint recognition player is also making a thirsty offer for the shares of Comnetix.

So, who are they after? Well, Comnetix has been around for quite sometime. I dug up some earlier info on this company and it seems that back in the summer of 2004, for every 2 dollars they brought in, 3 dollars went out the door. This was a company that had previously operated with profits. Then in the summer of 2005, the company jumped on the chance to acquire Paragon Total Solutions, a biometrics firm based out of a small town near Atlanta, Ga. That acquisition further placed ComnetiX in the public safety/law enforcement space.

So now, with L-1's offer topping a previous offer by BIO-key, and with the ComnetiX B.o.D. telling its shareholders that this is a good thing, it looks like the L-1/ComnetiX deal is about to be served. And that will further grow L-1, which has been buying up the biometrics space with a bit of a splash.

LaPenta is waiting for, of course, that critical instance when biometrics technology starts to take off like personal computers. It took a long time, admittedly, before PCs were commonplace in U.S. homes, but I'm not sure we're that far away from it happening with biometrics. And that, I think, is what makes LaPenta -- who is first and foremost a savvy investor -- a true believer.

Also a Big Deal?
You bet it is! Tyco/ADT acquires Retail Expert, Agilence gets into license plate recognition

In other news, we watched a number of big vendor deals that impact our business. This being just before the start of the National Retail Federation's "Big Show", it wasn't surprising that one of the big announcements related directly to store security and loss prevention.

On that side of the plate was Tyco's acquisition of Retail Expert Inc., which is a software firm that provides something like a Cognos software specifically for loss prevention. The company's business intelligence software not only offers analytics that can be used for loss prevention, but it's also designed to tie in with a variety of other store management systems that can produce data. The acquisition puts a feather in Tyco's cap, especially since Tyco already owns the Sensormatic product line and is a commercial security integrator (via ADT) for a number of top retailers.

Big vendor deals also included Agilence's agreement to bring to market InPlay's automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) as part of the company's event-based video analytics platform. The other vendor deal of note was the formal partnership agreement between Milestone Systems (network video management) and IQinVision (megapixel cameras).

Surveillance Transmitters inside Coins
Unnamed defense contractors unknowingly carrying spy coins

Far and away, the most juicy story off the site for the week was the revelation that some unknown spy agency had managed to use Canadian coins to be the conduit for micro-sized transmitters. The coins were reportedly found on Department of Defense contractors who had classified security clearances. At first this sounded like a bit of a fake, but the Pentagon's U.S. Defense Security Services said that, yes, indeed, the spy coins were an actual incident, but were not attributed to the Canadian government.

Biometrics in Banking
Biometrics vendor not so sure world's technology is ready for facial recognition in online banking

Biometrics has long been eyed for applications in financial transactions, and one of the ideas has been to use facial recognition at a person's computer to validate them before accessing their financial records. In this day and age of identity theft and network crimes, it sounds like a great idea. But here comes the sound of screeching brakes from a biometric company itself. Identity recognition firm Cogneto's CTO Patrick Audley told Bank Technology magazine in this month's issue that the technology is still 10 to 15 years away due to the prevalence of cheap Internet cameras that use low resolution sensors. Cogneto has reportedly found a way around that technology slow-spot by using the facial recognition it provides as only one component of the user verification process. You'll want to read the article to further understand exactly how they intend to overcome that roadblock.

We close with a look at our most popular stories of the week. From mobile surveillance to a new security fence around a section of rail track, this is what your peers were reading about: