As security technology proliferates to meet the growing demand in public places, those in the security industry have a choice to make: Face the opportunity to keep up with the explosion of technology coming into the market, or fall out of the business entirely.

Mark Visbal, director of research and technology for the Security Industry Association sees the industry as cresting a giant wave.

“We’d better be ready to start paddling,” he said, or the IT industry will step in and take over.

Digital cameras are proliferating in public places, but their users suffer from bandwidth shortages, making it difficult to upload what they record. That is about to change with more bandwidth generated from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The overall increase in bandwidth and development of more bandwidth-efficient technology are expected to cause a rush for Internet protocol-based cameras. In the meantime, vendors are finding ways for cameras to accomplish storage without overburdening the bandwidth.

Access control has been in a holding pattern for several years as the market watched IP updates. This year, however, the industry may be moving forward, as the mandated Internet protocol 6 took effect on June 30. The shift to protocol 6 begins in the government sector, with the commercial world following behind. This means government agencies and commercial users must buy hardware that is protocol 6-compliant or have a migration plan to move the system to the new protocol.

“The next three to five years are going to be very interesting,” Visbal said. “Either the security industry will drive these changes and survive, or the IT industry will absorb it. We’re at the beginning of a crossroads, and either we will come out strong, or we won’t be here anymore.”

New technologies are offering options business owners have been seeking for years: the ability to automatically locate and identify risks in a large public place, for example.

Automated patrolling

The vast quantity of surveillance cameras and the images they record are beginning to overwhelm security operators. With dozens or even hundreds of cameras operating in a public space or dispersed throughout a community, operators are simply unprepared to keep up with the volume. That is where technology must provide some solutions.

SYColeman Praetorian Surveillance Solutions, Chantilly, Va., provides one such technology. Praetorian sells surveillance technology that integrates multiple sensors into a single 3-D display. The company’s Common Operating Picture offers three capabilities: Video Flashlight, Hawk and VisionAlert.

With the integrated system, operators can look at one display and see a 3-D view of the area, provided by Video Flashlight, while alarms flash automatically, letting operators respond before an incident has already passed. Video Flashlight combines multiple video surveillance data feeds into a single-screen display. This enables operators to virtually patrol security areas using their mouse pads to travel throughout the 3-D environment. End-users can navigate indoors to outdoors and even review recorded video from different perspectives in a matter of seconds, said Mark Redlinger, Praetorian chief operating officer.

The Hawk feature enables a central control workstation to receive surveillance information from remote sites, and VisionAlert provides alarm configurations and detection of motion, breach, loiter and left-behind objects.

“The advances in technology are permitting us to go from a soda straw view to a view with full spatial awareness,” Redlinger said. In his scenario, security personnel can easily pull up records of an incident that happened in a specific place, then follow the perpetrator throughout a large public area. They also can communicate with the security guard, attempting to apprehend that individual, through a PDA device the guard carries. With Praetorian, the image of the person can be viewed on the guard’s PDA screen, so he knows who he is looking for.

The system also has become easier for installers. Praetorian makes it possible for the contractor to bring up a virtual image of what a camera would see from any specific location before the camera is installed. In this way, he can demonstrate to the customer just where cameras are needed and collaborate with them on the best location for each, potentially saving the customer money on redundant cameras and saving time in adjusting cameras after they are installed.

The most important element of this technology, Redlinger said, is its open architecture.

“If a customer buys the product today, and someone comes along with a new camera later, we can bring it into the system,” he said.

He calls this future-proofing the technology, since new hardware will be able to integrate with an investment the end-user has already made.

Virtual pat down

For a very different application, Orlando, Fla.-based imaging company Brijot’s BIS-WDS Gen 2 system uses millimeter waves for object detection. It can be deployed in public places, such as airports or high-security transportation hubs, to locate weapons long before they enter a crowded area. The system can search for and locate potential threats on an individual quickly and discretely from a distance. Security screeners can be automatically alerted and then pinpoint concealed objects without physical searches.

The system is composed of a real-time radiometric scanner that images electromagnetic millimeter wave energy, an integrated full-motion video system, on-board computer and video-detection engine. The passive radiometric scanner can detect concealed objects by distinguishing between the millimeter wave energy naturally emitted by the human body and the energy of the concealed objects, even when they’re hidden beneath clothing. Concealed items, such as explosives, weapons, contraband or stolen items, are shown as a black area in front of the blue human form. The system works best in places where a security screening system is already in place, such as airports, said Nancy Noriega, Brijot senior director of marketing and public relations.

“It’s what we call the most polite way to pat someone down,” Noriega said. It can be set to capture an item hidden against a person’s body by detecting where the person’s body energy is blocked. There are 150 systems deployed and others being piloted, she said, in locations such as airports and retail establishments to capture theft or weapons.

Access control and sprinkler systems

For access control, The SDC Entry Check, from SDC Security, Westlake Village, Calif., includes a variety of stand-alone digital keypad readers, proximity card readers and PC- based network card access control systems, from the most basic to the most sophisticated computer-management applications. This access system can be installed indoors or outdoors to be used with digital keypads or proximity card readers, either as a stand-alone system or PC-based. Computer-based access control enables the end-user to set access parameters; provide photo ID; and monitor, audit and control individual and group accessibility in real-time throughout a facility.

Then there are sprinkler systems. Members of Congress are being asked to sign a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would accelerate depreciation for installing fire sprinkling systems from 39 years to five years. If passed, the bill could spur an increase in fire sprinkler installations, which security installers and contractors often monitor for tampering and water flow.

Exiting

Escape-route signage has evolved in the past decades from a basic light to sophisticated visual and audible alarm systems. Some fire alarm systems have a sounder built into the detector base. Such sounders usually are located on the ceiling of the protected area. The specifications of other fire alarm systems require the use of wall-mounted sounders. Such sounders are stand-alone units and do not incorporate detectors. Most sounders are powered directly off the communication lines and, as a result, the power available is small.

Directional sounders, on the other hand, offer an improvement over visual-based emergency way-finding aids, such as emergency lighting and photoluminescent guidance strips, which can be difficult to see in smoke-filled environments. Directional sound devices, such as ExitPoint by System Sensor, St. Charles. Ill., leads people to exits using sound.

All these technologies are offering automation where physical security needs support. That automation can be expected to revolutionize security in public places in the next few years and can add retrofit construction dollars in the pockets of electrical contractors.

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.