Asset Protection Technology

If our grandfathers wanted to protect an asset, they would lock it up somewhere secure and hire a security guard to stand around and watch it. Our fathers expanded on asset protection with the introduction of intrusion alarm systems and CCTV technology, which allowed assets to be viewed and recorded on time-lapse videotape. Again, guards were hired to watch the CCTV monitors. The new technology allowed one security guard to watch multiple video screens and thus multiple assets. When the guard did not observe the asset being tampered with, the videotapes became a source of evidence for investigators.

The technology available today has come a long way. The technical areas with the greatest capabilities in asset protection are CCTV, access control, radio frequency and infrared technologies.

The various digital video systems on the market today provide many new asset protection features. Most digital systems will allow the user to sound an alarm when there is movement in an area viewed by a camera. This alerts the person monitoring the system of the activity and automatically presents the video of the activity for viewing and assessment. Such an active system replaced the old analog systems where the persons on duty might be watching for activity on many monitors. Now their focus is just where there is actual activity.

A number of the digital systems available will allow the user to program what area of the CCTV picture should be monitored and provide alarms to the persons monitoring when there is activity in that area of the picture. For example, you may have a CCTV camera watch an asset that is located in an area where there is much pedestrian traffic. Your interest is not on the normal pedestrian traffic passing near the asset but only on the individuals who turn and approach the asset. The systems can be programmed such that when there is movement from the normal pedestrian path towards the asset, an alarm will sound.

Other systems will allow you to receive alarms in the event an asset is moved or a new object is added to an area. In the former instance, the moving of an asset from its assigned location will trigger an alarm from the CCTV system and provide the person monitoring with the historic activity prior to the asset being moved. The other feature indicating when an object has been left in an area uses the same technology and has become popular with security groups looking to be alerted when suspicious packages are left in the areas of their responsibility. They receive an alarm when a new object is left in an area viewed by a CCTV camera so that the new object can be immediately investigated.

There are even three-dimensional CCTV systems available that will evaluate the activity in a single area from the views of more than one camera. Thus, while some activity in the area is acceptable to the system, other activity will cause an alarm.

An additional improvement on the original analog time-lapse video technology when dealing with asset protection is the ability of many of the digital CCTV systems to be programmed to increase their rate of recording during periods of activity or alarms. Under the original analog systems, the tapes ran at a particular speed, recording activity at various intervals. The systems could be set up to record from 12 hours to a week on one tape. Many users found the one-week recording speed much more convenient, since they didn't have to change the tapes as often or keep such a big library.

The problem came when they actually had to use the tape in court. The recordings had large gaps, in some cases seconds long, between each video picture recorded. This could be enough time to miss a person passing in front of the camera. Cases have been lost and security departments successfully sued when legal actions were taken using these original time-lapse recordings, because defense attorneys could prove the tapes did not actually show their client carrying out the illegal activity.

Many of the digital systems of today can be programmed to increase their rate of recording when an alarm is activated. The systems may also have the capability to be programmed to record the period before and after the alarm is activated. Thus, when there is an alarm or some activity that may be threatening to an asset, the recording will be closer to live action and easier to utilize for legal purposes than the original time-lapse technology. This saves recording space on the hard drives and provides a better-quality recording of activity.

Access Control
Access control systems have, of course, increased the ability of users to protect assets. If you can control who has authorized access to the area where the asset is located, then you can, of course, reduce your risks. Access control can begin with something as simple as an intrusion alarm system where each individual authorized access has his or her own code to arm and disarm the system.

The access control systems available allow you to assign an access card or other identifier to gain access to a restricted area. With the introduction of these systems, potential security issues arise. For example, if someone steals your access card, that person could gain authorized access to the restricted areas. Also, if you are the authorized individual who opens the door to a restricted area, how many unauthorized persons may follow you through the door?

New technology was brought into play over the past few decades to solve these problems. Turnstile systems were created that controlled the number of persons who entered a restricted area after the access system authorized them to enter. These controllers ranged from systems with arms equipped with sensors all the way up to floor-to-ceiling turnstiles where the individuals entering are weighed to confirm they are entering alone.

One new addition to this family of systems is the doorway sensor. Turnstile systems take up floor space and often have a high price tag. The newer doorway hardware allows you to equip a normal doorway with a sensor system that confirms the number of persons who enter each time an access device authorizes entry.

In dealing with lost or stolen access cards, many end users are turning to technology that allows for a confirmation of identity beyond just displaying an access device at a reader. The earliest identity authenticators were keypads that required the user to enter a PIN. More advanced identity confirmation came with biometric systems. Now the individual responsible for asset protection can truly confirm the identity of the individual gaining access to the area where the asset is maintained.

Today's technology also allows the majority of the systems we have discussed to be integrated. That is, one system works with the others to provide the persons monitoring a complete picture of the situation. For example, the systems can be programmed to automatically display the picture of a doorway where an access device was just presented. If the doorway sensors are in use, they can provide the person monitoring the systems an alarm on the access control system indicating multiple entries while the CCTV system displays the video. Obviously, such systems are far more effective than just having an individual watching a video screen for hours trying to see unacceptable activity.

Radio Frequency & IR
The use of radio frequency (RF) and infrared (IR) technology in asset protection has grown dramatically in the last decade. This tracking technology actually started with the bar code, which had to be scanned to be read. The tracking systems grew to the original contact smart card technology that provided read-only as well as read/write capabilities. The card had to be inserted into a reader. This smart card system was then enhanced by RFID technology, which also provides read-only as well as read/write capabilities with cards held from three to five inches from the receiver. The IRFID technology provides real-time IR or RF wireless communication, which can be used at distances of 50 to 150 feet.

The technology has evolved from those early, expensive large plastic attachments that we saw on clothes into small adhesive tags with much lower prices and greater transmission ranges. We see many products being manufactured these days with the security tags built in. The library industry is one example of where these tags have been effectively used for asset protection. Libraries are now adding the tags to their books, CDs and other assets. The tags are deactivated when the asset is officially checked out or it will set off an alarm when the item is carried through the detectors at the facility exits. The tag is then reactivated when the asset is returned.

The passive technology has also been replaced with more active systems in which the miniature transmitter has a built-in power source. These systems can transmit the signal at much greater distances. With this increased capability comes the ability to transmit an individual signal that separately identifies each item. Depending on the size of the areas being covered, RF or IR technology receivers could be positioned in a work environment to determine the exact location of tagged assets in the facility.

This technology can also be used to track personnel. Remember the computer on Star Trek telling Captain Kirk where a particular crewman was located on the Enterprise by tracking the communicator on his chest? Well, today's technology would allow transmitters the size of small nametags to be carried by all personnel at a work site. Receivers in each room would then track the location of each employee. This may sound a little too much like Big Brother, but in a work environment where the location of all employees is important in times of emergency, this technology might quickly reduce search-and-rescue response times.

We are also seeing luxury vehicles now on the market that refuse to start unless they identify an authorized driver in the driver's seat. The authorized driver has a special transmitter card in his or her wallet. When the individual sits in the vehicle, the card tells the vehicle the person is authorized to punch the button on the dash to start the engine without using a key. These systems even allow the cards for each authorized driver to automatically tell the vehicle how to adjust the driver's seat and what radio station to tune to.

The newer technology also brings enhanced security protection. The next generation of wireless radio frequency transmitters used for access control and personal security is being introduced. As the demand for more sophisticated security systems increases, the popularity of data encryption and error checking has soared. These features ensure that data transmitted via RF is secure and error free. Data is transmitted as a string of bits that is read by a receiver. The longer the string, the more sophisticated the error detection and encryption, and the harder it is to crack the code. With the introduction of 64-bit codes, Active Control has shattered the previous standard of 26 bits and provided the industry with a powerful new security tool.

For an organization with hundreds of laptop computers, this RF technology could solve many concerns. For example, IBM introduced IR security technology into some of its laptops. IBM “Asset ID” RF-enabled technology was intended to help companies keep track of their notebooks by providing an RFID tag that can be read by a handheld RF scanner. The tracking system stores information about each ThinkPad that has the feature enabled. In a building equipped with an RF security sensor, the ThinkPad will automatically become password protected if removed without permission.

One thing to remember if you are thinking of adding this type of technology to your laptops or other assets: Make sure you are not voiding any manufacturers' warranties when you open your laptops or other electronic hardware to insert these RF devices. Another thing to remember is that these transmitters can be blocked by some metals, so an individual placing the asset in certain containers may bypass the sensors. If you are going to use these technologies, it may be important not to advertise you are using them.

Keep an open mind about how you can integrate these RF and IR tracking systems with your other security systems to make the whole asset protection process more efficient. For example, you may have RF receivers at the exits of your facility. You may have 1,000 laptops in the facility, each equipped with an individual RF transmitter, which authorized employees may take off-site. With an integrated system, as a laptop is taken out of the facility, the RF receiver may transmit to your access control system the RF identification number of the portable computer. The access control system stores the date, time and location where the laptop passed. This can also be integrated with your CCTV system to provide you a picture of the person carrying the laptop. If you want to be real fancy and have entry/exit turnstiles at the facility, the system can determine if the individual identified by the turnstile is also authorized to be removing that particular laptop.

Either way, if the laptop is reported stolen from your workplace, you can conduct a quick search of your access control system to determine when it left the building and have a video recording of the person carrying it.

This asset protection covers the items being taken out of your facility. Remember, in the case of computers, technology is available to be loaded on each unit that will identify the location of a stolen computer if connected to the Internet. Remember to evaluate the systems available for this purpose. If the thief is not interested in the software on your computer but just the hardware, he or she might reformat the hard drive, erasing all software and possibly your Internet security tracking feature at the same time. Look for packages that would not be removed if the stolen hard drive were reformatted.

The technology for asset security has grown remarkably in the last 10 years. As Vikram Raghupathy of ILI Technology, LLC mentioned in a recent presentation, we always tell our clients not to jump on any new technology until they have determined how it will work with existing security systems and how it might be adapted for future needs. Look at the needs for the whole environment. Raghupathy told of visiting client sites where he had observed multiple RF and IR receivers in a single room tacking different assets or staff. This proliferation of systems results from different departments or entities within an organization each purchasing their own system to meet their particular needs. They thus end up with many types of systems serving numerous needs, each of which has to be administered separately. One well-thought-out system would have handled everyone's needs at a lower cost.

I also would recommend never being the guinea pig for new technology. Before you buy, make sure you have a consultant with experience with the system. If you like to handle projects in-house, at least ask the vendor to provide you the names and numbers of other clients who are using the technology in the same configuration. Take the time to check with those clients to make sure they are happy with the technology and to find out what rough roads they may have traveled to get the systems off the ground. These few phone calls may give you a higher comfort level when it comes time to sign on the doted line.

Richard D. (Rich) Maurer is an associate managing director of the Security Services Group of Kroll Inc., where he manages teams responsible for conducting risk and security assessments of facilities worldwide. He has more than 30 years of law enforcement and security management experience. Rich is the Chairman of the ASIS International Physical Security Council and gives workshops across the nation on the aspects of balanced physical security. Rich can be reached at 212-833-3239 or at .