HSPD-12 pushes government to interoperable security

Six large video screens illuminated the center of ADT's SecTech Security Expo held earlier this week, showing several video feeds and digitized maps with icons representing electronic locks on doors and security cameras.

ADT officials called the display a model "command center" and said it embodied one of the highest priorities for their homeland security business -- the combination of convergent technologies into a single operating platform.

Scott J. Dowd, vice president of services for Proximex, an expo exhibitor that designed the software for the command center, said it was created to work with a large number of different sensors, including cameras and ground-based radar, as well as physical access technology such as ID card readers.

But the convergence idea goes beyond putting information gathered by a large number of different security devices onto a single network, he said. It involves creating systems that can merge the data, cross-referencing it and looking for patterns. He used the example of a door repeatedly opening and setting off an alarm, saying that the command center could tell operators that the problem might be maintenance, not security.

"The goal is true convergence," he said. "Nobody's there yet. What you want are open systems that will get you there at some point. . . . We're making it easier to process alerts and events."

John N. Pearce, ADT's manager for national accounts worldwide, said that idea of open, integrated systems is one his company sees as an opportunity in the marketplace. He said many of the customers ADT was trying to reach at the SecTech Expo were information technology experts from across the federal government interested in convergence. While exhibiting companies had everything from cameras to scanning checkpoints on display, Pearce said a common message is that all of those technologies can be integrated.

"Increasingly important are the IT conversion network groups," he said. "That which was analog yesterday is digital today."

Pearce and Paul Brisgone, national director of ADT's federal systems division, said part of the emphasis on convergence and interoperability is the legacy of an unlikely source: Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, a 2004 initiative with the original goal of putting a common "smart" ID card in the hands of all federal employees and contractors by 2010.

Several departments, including Homeland Security, have missed HSPD-12 deployment dates, though, and ID and reader companies say they have been left waiting for contracts that have not materialized.

"HSPD-12 turned the whole industry upside down," Brisgone said. "The problem is, the payback hasn't been there."

Pearce cited a General Services Administration program that would have given agencies direction on what to procure. Agencies are now proceeding on their own, he said, adding that ADT is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But, Brisgone said, "There's still no money for it."

Both officials said they expect to see the ID aspect of HSPD-12 implemented at some point. But they also said the initiative's larger impact might be on a broader industry shift to interoperable systems.

"That part will never go away," Brisgone said. "I just don't think it's going to be the enormity they thought it was going to be. . . . We're starting to see clear evidence that the same qualities to come out of HSPD-12 -- interoperability, common operations, are making their way on down to the state and local levels."

And, eventually, to the private sector, he said. Although he said American private industry has not adopted smart ID technology the way Europe has, he said he expects the trend to shift in that direction.

Near the exhibition's command center, Alan Brown, of the identity management company Intercede Group, agreed, saying that the technology has applications including credentialing, background checks, and bank account holder verification.

To remain competitive for government contracts, ID solution companies are designing their products to conform with HSPD-12 and other standards, Brown said. At some point, the private sector is going to realize that they can purchase the same equipment, but, since they might have lower-level security needs, at a cheaper price. Where a federal agency might need a smart card that stores 10 fingerprints, a bank might only need a thumbprint, he said.

"The commercial industry seems to be seeing that it may be to their benefit to take advantage of these standards," Brown said.