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Picture of Innovation

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In security, an image can be worth far more if it helps to detect or deter an incident. Advances in the systems that yield such footage were on display at the recent ASIS International Seminar and Exhibits, along with a range of other innovations.

One creative application comes from Immersive Media, which uses an 11-camera globe to capture all aspects of a scene and then create 3-D video. That video is used for situational awareness training by first responders and law enforcement. Pipeline companies have the company fly over remote routes, capturing 3-D video that engineers can view to assess the site as if they were there.

Another innovative technology is 3-D facial recognition by ALIVE Tech, Inc., a company partnering with Johnson Controls. (PLEASE NOTE CORRECTION: The text originally incorrectly attributed the technology directly to Johnson Controls.) After capturing a pair of pictures, the system combines them, creating a 3-D image with 20,000 points (versus about 50 points for two dimensions). The image can be rotated up, down, and sideways; the system can recognize a face from many angles and isn’t fooled by sunglasses or beards. It currently requires cooperative enrollment, but the company plans to test it in a bank lobby without voluntary enrollment soon and within two years hopes to roll out a version that could achieve the holy grail of face recognition—picking a person on a watch list out of a crowd.

Important innovations in compression technology are also occurring. One comes from newcomer Avigilon. While conventional systems compress all images equally to reduce the amount of data that must be transmitted or stored, Avigilon’s system can save one uncompressed image among the 20 or 30 frames per second being captured. That gives you one high-quality picture to go back to for forensic purposes.

Another CCTV system advance concerns maintenance; a new software now being beta tested by GE Security will detect if someone disrupts the picture by obstructing the camera’s view. Most recorders only know if cameras are broken, not if the image is impaired.

Elsewhere on the technological landscape, IT dominates as well. Diebold is “productizing convergence” with a biometric networked safe. And Assa Abloy has teamed with Cisco Systems to create networked smart locks that, for example, log you off the corporate intranet when you leave the building.

Several advances in sensing technologies were notable as well. ECSI is testing technology for nuclear radiation detection in water supplies; current systems can only test the air. The Pentagon is testing a system by ICx Technologies that detects biothreats like anthrax in real time, working as a smoke alarm would. And Plextek is testing a motion sensor that uses Doppler to differentiate whether a target is a person, car, or animal.

That’s just a small sample of the new technology likely to change how security gets the job done in 2007 and beyond.