Some Things to Watch at ASIS 2007

Sept. 25, 2007

Being a trade journalist, a lot of people assume I just get to wander around the exhibit floor looking for that next hot technology or killer app (actually most of a security trade journalist's time is spent poolside with models and actresses). The most common question I hear at these tradeshows is "What did you see that just blew your mind out there?"

Needless to say, most people who ask this question are probably not interested to hear about the time I spent checking out a two-channel video encoder with built-in analytics or the integrated access control-video system. Those are indeed impressive, I say, and I mean it, but they want to be stunned as if they just left a Cirque du Soleil performance.

So here's what I saw that was just stunning: An automatic ray gun combined with a surveillance camera that can spot terrorists at 400 feet and zap them out of existence faster than you can "explosives belt". Best of all, it's entirely legal for use on civilian properties, has never had a false alarm and costs less than most wide dynamic range color PTZ domes!

What booth can you see the ray gun? Well, to come clean, most trade journalists don't spend their time poolside with actresses, and there's also no ray gun here at the show. But what is really pretty cool is the depth at which our industry can push existing technologies.

Cases in point:

Over at Johnson Controls they have a number of fire-like things you probably would write off as bizarre booth decorations. But they're not decorations at all. The company is testing out some technology that would use cameras to identify fires by the flames, the reflections of flames or even by the smoke, and the goal is to do it before traditional smoke detectors could sound the alarm. Is it proven or fully functional? Maybe not, but what cutting edge technology really ever is all of the above? Give it a look at booth 2861.

FLIR's thermal imaging cameras aren't exactly predicated on brand-new technology. In fact, the company license its core technology at the sensor level from Honeywell which came up with the concept (which is WAY to complicated to explain on a blog) decades ago. What they've been able to do is to push that technology further and further. While all of their new gear for thermal vision (which is not night vision, as it can be used in day or night, and even through fog and other weather conditions) builds upon existing technology, it's still pretty neat to be able to look through a long-range camera at a ridge with power transmission equipment on it that is miles away and see every thing distinctively. Side note: It's also prety neat to look through a set of military-grade thermal imaging binoculars and watch a guy come out of his house and settle into a poolside lounge chair -- especially when the naked eye can't even see the house.

So until I find those camera/ray gun units, we'll keep looking for the real technologies which are grounded in common safety and security needs.

FLIR thermal imaging

[Above: even when a thermal video feed from FLIR is captured subsequently by a cheap-o digital camera in the hands of an unskilled photographer like this blogger, the clarity still looks good. Trust me that this imager looked dead clear in real life...]

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