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Cisco Plans To Buy Video Surveillance Expertise To Improve Security

The network equipment vendor will spend millions to acquire SyPixx and its technology for integrating video surveillance with IP networks.

In a move to promote the convergence of IT and physical security, Cisco Systems last week revealed plans for the $51 million acquisition of SyPixx Networks, a privately held maker of video surveillance software and hardware that lets analog video systems operate as part of an IP network.

Cisco is looking to add intelligence to video security systems so that they do more than just record and play back an analog history of events. It's difficult for companies to access and analyze much of the analog video surveillance footage available to them today, but "when you make it digital, it becomes a snap to pull up relevant content," says Marthin De Beer, VP of Cisco's emerging market technologies group, which will oversee the security convergence work.

Use of IP networking to control video surveillance also means footage can be shared anywhere the network reaches; security professionals don't have to run to a central surveillance booth to screen images. SyPixx offers encoder technology that lets existing coaxial-connected video cameras digitize their feed to an IP network.

Cisco expects to close the acquisition in its third fiscal quarter, ending April 28. SyPixx, which was founded in 2004, has 27 employees in Arizona, California, and Connecticut. Cisco plans to make SyPixx's surveillance products part of a new business unit in Cisco's emerging markets technology group, reporting to De Beer. "As the world has changed over the past five years, people have become aware of the need to move the surveillance technology that's in place to a more scalable system," he says.

Such convergence sets the stage for a variety of security technologies that people know more about from TV shows such as 24 than from reality. One is the ability to capture an image of a person moving through a facility and use facial-recognition software to match that image against a database of criminals.

This technology is still being improved. Poor lighting and the inability to always capture a clean image of a suspect's face make positive matches difficult. Companies such as A4Vision, a maker of 3-D software and facial-recognition cameras that are largely being tested outside the United States, continue to work on such problems. Last month, Motorola said it would include A4Vision's technology as part of a set of biometric identity management and security products that Motorola is working on for issuing secure national ID cards and passport documents.

"Once you put video on an open standards network like an IP net, application vendors can write software that can much more intelligently monitor what's happening," De Beer says. "This is only the beginning, but we expect rapid integration over the next two to three years."

When video data more widely becomes part of the IT infrastructure, possibilities open up for security software that sends alerts via pager, E-mail, or cell phone to flag situations such as when people are moving in the wrong direction at airport exit lanes.

Digital video recording equipment, which plays an important role in allowing video footage to be captured, stored, and reviewed, generally hasn't been part of IT networks. This will change soon as several vendors are expected to move into that market. The latest is Courion, a provider of provisioning software used in identity management systems, which said last week that it will resell Spike Server voice-based biometric technology from Diaphonics, providing users with another access option for Courion's PasswordCourier self-service password-reset and synchronization software.

Exacq Technologies plans in April to introduce its ExacqVision System, which includes digital-video recorder technology plus open APIs for integrating video-analysis software, access control systems, and other IT security applications with either digital or analog video systems that have up to 1,000 cameras.



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