The Security Week That Was: A Recap - May 20-26, 2006

SIW Editor Geoff Kohl gives a weekly surveillance of news shaping your profession


Let's get started right away with the big news of the week -- securing America's borders. It's been the topic du jour for all the national media, something that Fox, CNN, ABC and the rest just can't get enough of. And while it's been positioned as a major political battle with our President promising National Guard troops and the possibility of a Gaza-strip-like wall, the story for our industry is really one of "ultimate perimeter protection."

There was a lot of speculation as to who would get involved in this type of project, and without much surprise, it's the standing cache of government contractors/integrators. Northrop Grumman announced its bid earlier this week, and their bid illustrates the nature of these mass-scale projects. NG partnered up with a variety of big names in system design, including government-focused engineering and architectural companies, networking companies like Nortel, database companies like Oracle, communications companies like Motorola, biometrics company Identix, as well as government "staples" like General Dynamics and L-3 Communications.

The partner list for Northrop Grumman tells the story of security today (see article for full list of NG's proposed partners). This, like so many of today's projects, isn't about what equipment is used, or how many guards are deployed. Rather it's focused on how we merge and communicate the information we receive in the security system. That, good reader, is why a database company like Oracle, and communications companies such as Motorola, and Sprint/Nextel are factoring in so heavily in today's projects. It's also why Cisco made such a big splash when it made its earlier move into the physical security sector.

The long list of top-level partners also raises another potential question about how we approach large-scale integration projects. There has been a great deal of consolidation in our industry, something proved further this week with Assa Abloy/HID's plan to acquire Fargo Electronics, and the end result is that dealers and integrators and end-users can now more easily choose one vendor for a complete solution. What you have to look at today, especially as unified systems appear (e.g., a complete Pelco video system, a complete GE airport security checkpoint system, a "unified" MDI system, etc.) is whether it's better to choose one vendor or to integrate a variety of hardware and software sets into your physical security solution. The pre-consolidation approach was to choose a variety of vendors and have your integrator/dealer assemble them into a working system, but now, the top manufacturers in our industry are saying you no longer have to do that. Nonetheless, as Northrop Grumman's bid for the Secure Borders Initiative project demonstrates, complex systems still require complex integration and product sets that one vendor can't provide. As you move into your own projects, this is something you'll have to wrestle with every day.

More government & homeland security news

Don't breach us, or we'll breach you. Government base breaches were a top focus of this week on SecurityInfoWatch.com. At the top of the list was a story about a man with a history of mental illness who breached security at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Detroit. The man was able to drive through a security checkpoint and lead security on a high-speed chase before he was eventually killed in the following pursuit.

Our second story on the topic of air base perimeter security breaches occurred back in March at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tuscon, Ariz. In a story submitted by one of our readers, a pick-up truck tried to run a perimeter security barrier and got the predictable results of going from 50 mph to 0 mph in about one inch. The photos tell the story of what perimeter barriers can do.

Cameras in the Subways

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