As security technology gears up to meet growing demand in public places, those in the industry face the opportunity to keep up or risk falling quickly behind. Mark Visbal, director of research and technology for the Security Industry Association (SIA), Alexandria, Va., sees the security industry as a surfer, just cresting a giant wave. “We’d better be ready to start paddling, or the IT industry will step in and take over.”

Consider some signs of the times ahead. For instance, digital security cameras still are proliferating public places, but their users suffer from bandwidth shortages, making it difficult to upload what they record. That will change as bandwidth increases, which is expected to cause a rush for Internet protocol (IP) cameras in the near future. In the meantime, vendors are finding ways for cameras to accomplish storage without overburdening the bandwidth.

IPv6 coming soon

Access control has been in a holding pattern for several years as the market watches IP updates. It may soon take off again with the Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6), the next version of the World Wide Web, mandated for June 2008. The shift to IPv6 will begin in the government sector with the commercial world following behind.

“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.”

For public places such as malls, airports, museums, sports stadiums or other transportation hubs, security is a balancing act. Not only must these venues have technology that is effective and affordable, the end-users also must weigh whether it is too intrusive or inefficient. Vendors are working on a multitude of security solutions in public areas.

Automated patrolling

The vast quantity of surveillance cameras and the images they record is beginning to overwhelm security operators. With dozens or even hundreds of cameras operating in any given public place or community, operators simply cannot keep up with the volume. That is where technology provides some solutions.

One solution is from SyColeman Praetorian Surveillance Solutions, Arlington, Va., owned by L-3 Communications. Praetorian is selling surveillance technology that integrates multiple sensors into a single 3D display. With the integrated system, operators can look at one display and see a 3D view of the area provided by Video Flashlight while alarms flash automatically, letting operators respond before an incident has already passed.

This enables operators to virtually patrol security areas, using their mousepad to travel throughout the 3D 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 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 through a large public space seamlessly. Personnel also can communicate with the physical security guard attempting to apprehend that individual through a PDA device the guard carries.

Virtual patdown

For high-risk applications, Brijot, an Orlando, Fla.-based imaging company, is using millimeter waves for object detection, which can be deployed in public places such as airports or transportation hubs to locate weapons before they become a danger to crowds. Brijot’s BIS-WDS Gen 2 system can search for and locate potential threats on an individual quickly and discretely from a distance without stopping or subjecting them to a physical search.

The system is composed of a real-time radiometric scanner that images electromagnetic millimeter wave energy, an integrated full-motion video system, onboard computer and video detection engine.

The system’s 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 hidden beneath clothing. Concealed items such as explosives, weapons, or contraband or stolen materials appear as a black area in front of the blue human form. The system’s detection engine draws an indicator box around the potential threat or contraband to alert security staff of the need for a secondary screening or triggers a lockdown event.

Brijot recommends choosing a multi-camera deployment and integrating the system with automated flow-controls, such as turnstiles, designed to permit one person to pass at a time. That is why the system works best where a security screening system is already in place, such as airports, said Brijot senior director of marketing and public relations Nancy Noriega.

“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.”

Access control

For access control, The SDC Entry Check, from SDC Security, Westlake Village, Calif., includes a variety of stand-alone digital keypads, proximity readers and PC-based network card access control systems to scale a system up or down 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, general photo identification credentials and monitor, audit and control individual and group accessibility in real time throughout a facility.

Humidity sensors

Humidity sensors are widely used in public places in both analog and digital format.

One of the first mass-produced humidity sensors was the Dunmore type, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the 1940s, and it still is in use today. These sensors, as well as those made by Honeywell, are widely used in precision air conditioning controls to maintain the environment of computer rooms and as monitors for pressurized transmission lines, antennas and waveguides used in telecommunications. Relative humidity measurement control is required for many industries, such as heating and air conditioning, transportation, museums and offices.

Many have become a more affordable option when needed in large volume. For example, the Thermalogic, Hudson, Mass., RA33WD-10 thermistor temperature control is intended for applications where low cost is critical. It provides onboard, one or two fixed or adjustable set points and an output for heating or cooling logic.

Humisense, a humidity sensor from Thermalogic, also comes at an affordable price point. Other systems are finding their way to the public places market. Temperature alert, low and high water levels, and chlorine gas are a few examples of conditions that can be monitored with sensors and integrated into an existing security system.

Directional sounders

Escape signage has evolved in past decades from a basic light to sophisticated visual and audible signaling communications.

Some fire alarm systems have sounders built into the bases, which receive the detectors. These are referred to as “behind detector” sounders. 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 don’t 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 that can be difficult to see in smoke-filled environments. Directional sound devices, such as ExitPoint, System Sensor, St. Charles. Ill., lead people to exits using sounds. The Sounder Model PF 24 incorporates four different field-selectable sound pulse patterns. The devices can be heard above other noises, including fire alarms and shouting.

Protecting public and cultural vertical markets may take a new arsenal of products, but it can be done right and with the best interests of the end-user and their facility.

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