The security week that was: 09/25/09

A weekly surveillance of the news shaping your profession


ASIS 2009 recap

For those of us who cover the industry, the ASIS show represents a long, tiring, action-packed week. I had the joy of my arm being in a sling while mending a broken arm bone/wrist, and the first thing I want to say is that ASIS attendees are truly gracious, and the reason I say that is not once did any attendee bump into me. Of course, maybe it wasn't graciousness, but simply a lack of traffic on the show floor. Certainly traffic seemed to be off quite significantly at the show, and while I'm not privy to exact numbers, I can say that while visiting one vendor, I was the only person in their booth for 15 minutes...and this was a pretty significant vendor with a somewhat decent booth position.

While attendance was down, there certainly was a lot going on in Anaheim in terms of partnerships and new product introductions. As they did at Vegas for ISC West, the video management system companies really seemed to be dominating the attention from attendees (well, the guy with the sub-$300 remote control helicopters might have attracted more attention than all the VMS companies, but they gave the copter a run for its money). The only concern I had from the VMS visits is that they are getting so feature-rich that these systems may be overwhelming for most users.

Another top trend I am watching is that many more systems are offering data for integrators to do system health checks for the equipment they manage and service. The old story was that you didn't know your system was down until you had an incident; now that can change.

For more from ASIS 2009, visit our ASIS coverage page here, and check out SD&I editor Deb O'Mara's blog here for her ASIS posts.

Foiled terrorists
Fashion mag bombs and a Dallas plot

What do you get when put together hydrogen peroxide and nail polish remover? Either a woman with bleached hair and newly cleaned nails ... or a plot worthy of attention from the Department of Homeland Security. Najibullah Zazi is being held without bail while he is charged with planning to use such chemicals to bomb commuter trains in New York.

A 19-year-old in Dallas conspired to bomb a downtown skyscraper that held a Wells Fargo branch, a restaurant and other business offices (including the EPA). Fortunately an FBI agent was able to break up the plot by infiltrating an extremist website. The would-be bomber was given a fake bomb in an FBI sting.

Analytics hype machine still running
Piled higher and deeper by scientists from Queens University Belfast

A team of scientists from Queens University Belfast are pretty sure they can make a public transit surveillance camera system so smart that it can actually identify who is about to commit a crime before the crime is actually committed. One of the signs the analytics system would recognize is someone who switches seats. That’s right, if you move seats on a bus, we’re going to send an alert, role SWAT and take you to jail, because moving seats is a definite sign of imminent violence.

These sorts of claims do such a disservice to video analytics. Every time such a claim is made, real security professionals get a "ding" on their B.S. meter, and profitability in the analytics sector gets delayed by another year. For example, if a company claims that their analytics "thinks like a human", it may get a new product award, but most people tell themselves that there is no way they're buying it until the claims get toned down and the system works...all the time without a boat-load of false positives.

Here's what analytics developers need to do: Less promising, more delivering.

Fortunately, most active analytics companies seem to have realized that need to deliver more reality and less hype. "I don't think people are still promising pie in the sky type of stuff," said SIW assistant editor Joel Griffin after meeting with a large number of video analytics companies on the ASIS show floor. "I think people are more grounded about analytics now."