This may be viewed as an almost sacrilegious thing to say even 10 years after 9/11, but I’ll say it anyway: The real issue with security today is not just terrorism but overall public safety. That was true before 9/11 and it’s true now. Whether we’re talking about highway safety, violent crime, environmental dangers or any of a number of other safety related concerns, the reality is that these sorts of issues are faced by people around the country on a daily basis.
But there’s a deeper level to this as well. The real challenge of public safety today is how information is shared. The digital revolution has done much to improve how quickly and to whom information is shared. But there are still lots of gaps and the lack of a system in place in which security information can be easily shared across a nationwide network.
From the smallest gas station with a single video surveillance camera to the largest and most complicated kinds of security deployments, which could involve thousands of cameras, access control features, license plate recognition, face capture, fire and burglary alarm systems, etc., we have an almost endless supply of relevant security information that for the most part remains restricted within very narrow parameters.
Change rules for best results
For the most optimum use of such information, the rules and system by which we share it needs to change. Think of it this way: If all the various security systems are working together, the person who violated a doorway’s security system has his video image suddenly available to authorized security personnel in that building, that city and if need be, across the state and country.
Sounds very Big Brother, doesn’t it? But whether one argues the line of privacy rights, or for more access to such information, the evolution of security is headed naturally toward such sharing. Just as the Internet is changing the nature of social interactions, it is changing security as well. And just as some have found out the hard way that what you thought you said in confidence online can reverberate around the earth in seconds, security is going in the same direction. From the jaywalker to the roadway tailgater to the major international criminal, the time is coming when they will feel much less secure breaking the law because they will know that someone somewhere is watching it happen, or perhaps tracking them after the fact.
There is always resistance to change but inevitably, change happens. Facebook has created a social revolution where people willingly share personal information with the online world. Governments at the smallest and largest levels, as well as all the many strata of private enterprise, are gradually heading in the same direction as far as seeing the benefits of sharing physical security information through a nationwide system. The technology that will make such sharing possible is already being developed and refined. Will this create the Big Brother scenario many have feared? Time will tell. But there is also another possibility: that it will create more security overall, while maintaining a proper level of discretion regarding information that is not relevant and simply the province of private citizens.
More than 10 years after 9/11, we are still considering what real security entails. But while we are still debating that, we have a here and now responsibility to make everyone safer, not just from terrorism, but from everyday life’s real and present dangers.
Gadi Piran is co-founder, president and chief technical officer of On-Net Surveillance Systems Inc. (OnSSI) based in Pearl River, NY.