SFO: Steady Vision, New Tools

Nowhere has the image of counterterrorism activity been more vivid than at the nation's airports. The exposure for catastrophic human damage, the scope of commercial assets at jeopardy, and the potential for socioeconomic havoc occasioned by a wounded...

Smart Surveillance
NEC will soon pilot a smart surveillance system, a la the artificial intelligence model used by McKinley in the baggage domain, that will identify unauthorized intruders and will integrate within SFO's existing CCTV configuration. Cameras will have object recognition software on board, running on advanced video processors. Security operators would be notified when an exception to an accepted protocol took place, as in two people going through a gate when only one has permission or when someone is carrying a package when none is allowed. At the same time, the system's robustness has to include a low false negative ratio—that is, it can't jeopardize the access of the honest majority.'

An intelligent camera approach would diminish the need to have squadrons of employees looking at displays hour after hour waiting for something of interest to happen. To the degree that the intelligence can be moved to the camera (as in InVision's equipment), the efficiency of the system is increased. The backhauling of useless information decreases; the discriminating power of the technology network increases.''

The goal of an NEC-like system is to show a quantifiable increase in security and public confidence without incurring delays or inconvenience for employees or customers.''

About Attitude
Both Denari and McKinley have to work within the economic constraints at SFO. Additionally, they each have to deal with a host of constituencies—collaborating with technology firms, integrators, union workers, TSA officials, airline employees, and, of course, community leaders. Each recognizes that in the final analysis it is securing the entire transportation network that is important, not just SFO. In short, an appreciation for interdependency and integration is at the root of their perspectives.'

Moreover, both communicate a desire to build systems that not only pass muster today but that also have the ability to absorb the lessons of experience, to learn from mistakes in pursuit of the better solution. Redundancy across solutions is good; redundancy and learning is even better. It is not only an intellectual honesty that is being honored with such a commitment but also a pledge to give society the security and peace of mind it deserves.


Nicholas Imparato, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University (imparato@hoover.stanford.edu) and Professor of Management, University of San Francisco (imparato@usfca.edu), is also a member of the policy and planning committee for the Bay Area Economic Forum's homeland security initiative.