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Virtual Reality, Racing, and the Final Frontier

​ORLANDO, FLORIDA, where this year’s ASIS International Seminar and Exhibits is being held, is best known for Disney World. But the metropolitan area is also home to a flourishing $13 billion technology industry. Additionally, more than 150 international companies representing 20 countries have offices in Orlando. The following three case studies illustrate how businesses in the region cope with security threats.

Cubic Defense Applications
Anyone walking into Cubic Defense Applications in Orlando, Florida, would think it is a typical office building. But lurking behind the nondescript front lobby is a combat training center that includes a Humvee, a shooting range, and high-tech virtual reality simulations.

The company’s Cubic Security and Enforcement Training Institute (CSENTRI) provides a training environment for live exercises. The 98,000-square-foot facility includes 12 specific training arenas, such as fully furnished mock-ups of a house, an apartment, a small grocery, and a garage.

An outside area is equipped with buildings, cars, and moveable barriers to allow trainees to practice cover, concealment, and tactical maneuvers. Every area has tracking systems to monitor the movement of trainees as well as audio simulations and tactical-weapons simulations.

Founded in 1951, Cubic specializes in computer-generated training systems that allow soldiers, pilots, law enforcement, and private security personnel to experience combat situations without traveling to a foreign country or using live ammunition.

In addition to CSENTRI, the company has 130 locations worldwide staffed by 7,500 employees. The company’s largest customer is the United States military, but other U.S. government agencies and private security groups also use Cubic training products. This mix of clients has been key to Cubic’s development, according to Brooks Davis, sales and marketing manager with Cubic.

The company has everything from fighter aircraft to armored vehicles to infantry simulations as well as virtual reality scenarios. Cubic uses many of these products at CSENTRI.

Among its offerings are a laser weapons training program and virtual reality training. The Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Simulation (MILES) uses eye-safe lasers to provide weapons training. Each trainee carries a real weapon that has been stripped of its components and retrofitted with the laser system. The system accurately depicts the firing capabilities and effects of the weapons, including any kickback. A backpack unit keeps track of the trainee’s position and “kills” are recorded for later analysis.

CombatRedi uses virtual reality technology to place trainees in a virtual battle space. Users wear helmet mounted visors that immerse them within the scenario environment, providing both sights and sounds. They wear sensor suits that wirelessly transmit their movements to the system.

Trainees can be placed in a variety of environments as a team. The system senses the movement of all the trainees and accurately depicts them in the scenario. If a trainee falls to the floor, all the other members of the simulation are aware of this movement.

The company is constantly innovating, according to Davis. “As computers become faster and software becomes more mature, we can do more with image generators. Computer power brings a level of fidelity to what has historically been okay but is now more mature and realistic. What we can do now is phenomenal compared to even two years ago,” he says.

As an example, Davis cites voice interaction and speech recognition technology. The company has long incorporated voice commands into scenarios. In the past, the trainee would yell at a screen, and an operator at a remote location would tweak the scenario accordingly. “Now, the computer can hear the user and can make the computer-generated characters react to those instructions directly,” he says.

These innovations could reduce the cost of training by taking live operators out of the scenario training. Since 9-11, Cubic has altered training scenarios to meet the needs of its customers. For example, several years ago, improvised explosive device (IED) training was added. “Currently, we are seeing a call for cultural training,” says Davis. “We are developing holographic programs where the user will be interacting with an avatar that is speaking Kurdish, for example, and culturally acting as someone from that part of the world would act.”

Similarly, the military has been pushing for “home station” training, meaning that instead of sending troops to training facilities, the preference is to train at the soldiers’ home base.

The technology developed by Cubic is being used for unique applications as well. For example, the same technology that tracks soldiers in a virtual environment or runs combat scenarios can predict evacuation patterns during a fire. “We can run those simulations and find bottlenecks to improve evacuations and fire safety,” says Davis, adding: “Technology that hasn’t previously been available to architects could now help create safer buildings. This is the constructive side of simulations. This has become meaningful technology.”

Daytona International Speedway
The Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, was built with its fans in mind. When the track was designed in 1958, it included banked turns to allow drivers to achieve higher speeds and spectators to have a better view of the cars. Numerous design changes over the years have enhanced the experience for fans. Lights were installed around the track in 1998, making the speedway the second-largest single lit outdoor sports facility in the world. The infield was renovated in 2004, and the track repaved in 2010.

Fans have also witnessed tragedy at the speedway. Twenty-seven competitors have been fatally injured during events such as auto, motorcycle, and powerboat racing. The most notable was the death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., from a crash during the 2001 Daytona 500.

John Power, director of security for the speedway since 2002, has observed many of these incidents. Though he only began working full-time at the speedway in 1996, he has worked every event there since 1972, beginning as a volunteer when he was a law enforcement officer.

Given his extensive experience at the speedway, Power used to think that he could anticipate the kinds of security issues that would arise; he had already dealt with everything from ticket scalpers to drug dealers. But the events of 9-11 led to security changes that he could never have anticipated.

Size matters. The speedway is huge, covering 480 acres. There are also two satellite parking areas, one 170 acres and another 200 acres. The infield sports a 29-acre lake that is used for events such as skiing competitions, parasailing, and fishing tournaments.

According to Power, the speedway hosts events 340 days a year. These events range from high school proms to car club meets. Motocross races require the building of dirt berms, and the annual Jeep beach celebration includes a concrete and dirt obstacle course.

The biggest challenges for security are the number of people who attend events—which can be as high as 200,000—and how long they stay. For a Saturday event, fans start arriving on Monday. And for big NASCAR races, such as the Daytona 500, people show up in mid-January and stay until mid February.

The speedway has a camping area that accommodates 1,100 RVs. More RVs, often for race participants or their families, are parked in the premium spaces in the infield.

To allow people to leave in a safe and orderly fashion, the speedway gives fans 24 hours after an event to exit the property.

Personnel and procedures. Before 9-11, the speedway had basic security procedures including a 24-hour guard posted at the main gate and roving patrols at night. Proprietary security guards joined off-duty police officers to patrol during events. Though the number of security personnel at events is undisclosed, Power notes that the combined public and private force is in the hundreds.

Major changes and security upgrades have occurred since 9-11. Now Florida National Guard members and bomb-sniffing dogs from the local sheriff’s department check RVs and cars as they come into the speedway. Sheriffs do additional sweeps randomly throughout the event. Other changes include bag searches, a text notification program, magnetometers, radiological detectors, and a camera system.

Searches. Since 9-11, security officers and off-duty police search the bags of anyone who comes into the speedway for an event. Because the task was new to the speedway, Power approached the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and asked if it could help him create a training video. The TSA agreed to help, and the result is a training tool that demonstrates how to conduct a basic search and what to look for.

For example, the video shows what the parts of an IED look like, including wires, blasting caps, and detonation cords. The different types of plastic explosives are also covered on the video.

The video is especially helpful during large NASCAR events when Power calls on members of an ROTC program from a local college to serve as volunteers. “This helps both parties,” says Power. “We are able to easily train extra staff, and the college students get hands-on experience.”

Text program. Three years ago, Power launched a text notification program. Fans were urged to text security with concerns, reports, and questions. Texts are forwarded to the command center, and they are answered by the appropriate group—security, fire, medical, or transport. People are also urged to use the text service to ask questions about seating assistance and to report facility issues, such as broken chairs.

The program has been so successful that Power plans to expand it. He hopes to get more personnel involved to answer basic questions fans might have about the facilities or the event.
Magnetometers. “Our culture does not work well with magnetometers,” says Power. He explains that fans hold tickets for multiday events, and those tickets allow fans to move in and out of the venue. Also, fans are permitted to enter the stands six hours before an event starts, making magnetometer use too onerous for standard events.

However, during special events, magnetometers must be used. For example, when President George W. Bush attended a race at the speedway in 2004, Secret Service personnel were on site for a month in advance. They required that each person entering the speedway be screened. “We screened 20,000 people with the magnetometer before the event started,” says Power. “By the time it was over, we had scanned 60,000.”

Radiological detectors. Personnel from the FBI and the Department of Energy are deployed during large events to search for radiological materials, such as those that might be present in a dirty bomb. Plainclothes officers walk through the crowd; each carries a detector in a backpack or fanny pack.

Anyone who has recently had a medical scan involving radiation can set off the detectors. If the detector is triggered, the technicians are trained to ask a series of questions, such as whether the person recently underwent a medical procedure. If the answer is yes, the technician engages the person in a conversation, asking what the procedure was for and what kind of doctor oversaw the test, for example. Those answering truthfully will have a ready explanation.

“The response to the radiological detection program has been positive,” says Power. “People are usually very impressed that this technology exists.”

Camera system. Installing a surveillance system became a priority after 9-11, but other needs delayed the implementation. Finally, in 2010, Power worked with the Daytona Beach Police Department to apply for a grant under the Buffer Zone Protection Plan. The $200,000 grant was approved in May 2011. The system was still being designed when the site was visited for this article.

Administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this grant program is designed to enhance the preparedness of communities that include critical infrastructure, including stadiums.

Because private entities cannot apply for the grant directly, Power worked closely with police and local FBI agents as well as the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the region to apply for the grant. Under the terms of the grant, the camera system will be installed and maintained at the speedway, but it will be used by both speedway security and local police. The camera system will remain police property.

The DHS has an approved product list that grant winners must use. Power and his public sector partners, along with a local vendor, went through the list to determine what products met the speedway’s needs. Based on Power’s criteria, the group chose a system by Mobotix.

Though the exact number of cameras has not been decided, Power will install a wired, IP-based system. The grant includes funds for a command center, but Power also wants a system that can be viewed and controlled from anywhere via PC if necessary. The majority of the cameras will be fixed, but some mesh cameras will be deployed and controlled by the police at major events. The camera feeds will be monitored in the command center at the speedway and recorded for later use.

Power is unsure when the system will be installed. “We have a lot to do before we can think about installation,” he says. “But I hope we can have the system up and running by early 2012.”

Kennedy Space Center
The Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on July 8, 2011. The Atlantis mission marked the end of NASA’s space shuttle missions, which spanned 30 years and employed thousands of skilled technicians. “This historic ending and the beginning of a new era is very challenging for NASA’s security program and KSC’s program specifically,” says Mark Borsi, head of security for KSC.

Those challenges include transitioning from an active shuttle program to commercial ventures. Unfortunately, this transition will take a toll on workers, as shuttle employees are laid off and a much smaller force stays to help make KSC attractive to private business.

KSC security. The launch site for every U.S. human space flight since December 1968, KSC is located on Merritt Island, Florida. The geography and challenges inherent in the landscape mean that KSC must be well prepared at all times. “It’s a wild place…alligators, feral pigs. Our geography drives a lot of our security,” says Borsi. “We must have our own fire and emergency response. We can’t rely on local response.”

Local response is also hindered because KSC facilities cover a barrier island that is 36 miles long and 10 miles wide. KSC’s 144,000 acres include only 80 acres of dry land. The rest is swamp.

In addition to fire and emergency response, KSC has its own SWAT team, a full 911 center along with dispatch and monitoring, and a canine team that sniffs out narcotics and explosives. Borsi, who came to KSC immediately after 9-11 to do operational security, is in charge of these groups, which fall under NASA’s purview. He also oversees the various contract security groups that represent companies and other government agencies that work at KSC.

Transition. With the last shuttle flight over, there is a transition period where the remaining employees for the shuttle program will make sure that the shuttles are cleaned of hazardous materials and ready to go to museums. Security priorities will also shift. “Now I’m guarding a bank,” says Borsi. “Soon, I will be guarding a building that used to have money in it.”

However, the transition brings its own set of security threats, including workplace violence and preparing for new commercial ventures at KSC.

Workplace violence. On May 14, a 53-year-old employee who had worked on the shuttle program for 28 years, jumped from the top of the launch pad. A suicide note in the man’s pocket indicated that his declining health and lack of job prospects drove him to take his own life. The tragedy brings home the reality of the effect on employees losing their jobs. It’s possible that some people will react to the stress by wanting to harm themselves, their co - workers, or the company. Thus, the main risk to KSC during this difficult period is workplace violence, says Borsi.

Prior to the transition, Borsi consulted with human resources at KSC to devise a program addressing the needs of employees, decision makers, and managers.

“The way to prevent workplace violence is to encourage reporting of suspicious behavior,” says Borsi. To help with this, KSC has an employee assistance program (EAP). When employees contact the EAP, either to report a coworker or to seek help for themselves, they are referred immediately to the appropriate person. This may be medical or psychological personnel if the problem is depression or HR if the issue involves benefits or compensation questions. In approximately 75 percent of cases, according to Borsi, this intervention helps mitigate the situation. In the other 25 percent, KSC has to take steps to remove the employee.

Security is trained to talk with the troubled employee and escort him or her off the property if necessary. In such cases, employees are allowed to collect their property; they are escorted to their vehicles; and the vehicles are checked for weapons. Then each employee’s ID badge is canceled, revoking access to the site. In extreme situations, the SWAT team is on standby in case the situation becomes violent.

KSC also has a Threat Assessment Team (TAT) made up of representatives from various departments. The TAT meets to respond to specific concerns or complaints about employees. Then TAT members— drawn from medical, psychological, legal, HR, and security—meet with the employee’s supervisor to determine what course of action to take in each case.

Another aspect of the program is a training course designed to educate employees on the nature of workplace violence and how to respond if an incident occurs. The course includes commercial videos, lectures, briefings, and hands-on training. The course helps employees recognize potential signs of workplace violence and gives them information on reporting such signs to the EAP.

The course also addresses what employees should do if they get trapped with an angry or violent coworker. Training covers sheltering in place as well as defensive tactics and a demonstration of a fire arm being discharged so that employees can recognize what an actual gunshot sounds like.

Commerce. The transition also involves preparing KSC for its future role—making the facilities available and attractive to commercial activity. KSC will rent out space to private companies interested in pursuing commercial space flight. From a security perspective, this means offering tenants a ready-made security program.

Because these programs already exist, security will repurpose them to appeal to private industry. KSC can offer tenants fire, emergency, and medical service as well as an existing access control program. “We can provide an ID management system that will allow companies access to the secure perimeter and to their specific leased building,” says Borsi.

The system can also be programmed to allow companies to form partnerships. Two or more companies can contact security and arrange for these groups to have access to each other’s facilities.

Borsi’s security team will continue to provide its services to the remaining government groups at KSC. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration is sending 50 people to the site to handle the logistics of commercial entities’ going to space.

Even after the shuttle program closes down, KSC will remain a tourist attraction, with millions of visitors coming from around the world each year. In the short term, the level of tourism may increase since one of the shuttles will remain onsite at the museum. But, because of the change in the mission, some of the homeland security concerns go away.

“The value of the target will be diminished for a while,” says Borsi. “If we begin to build or fly [commercial] rockets, security will have to ramp up again, but we won’t be a symbolic target for a while.”