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11/7/2006
09:49 AM
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IBM Unveils Controversial Video Surveillance Technology

The S3 system can be programmed to spot suspicious behavior, such as prolonged lingering at an airport security fence. It could also nab an employee who's spending too much time in the lunchroom.

IBM on Tuesday rolled out new surveillance technology that will make it easier for authorities to spot terrorists, or for businesses to keep tabs on slacking employees.

The technology, which IBM is calling S3, features a host of software applications that work together to provide real-time analysis of images capture on video cameras. IBM says the S3 system can be programmed to spot suspicious behavior, such as prolonged lingering at an airport security fence. It could also nab an employee who's spending too much time in the lunchroom. S3 offers a range of additional surveillance capabilities, including license plate recognition, face recognition and badge reading. It's also designed to analyze data captured from physical sensors, such as electronic bomb and chemical sniffers.

Based on open standard middleware, it can also incorporate security applications from third parties, IBM says.

IBM is bundling S3 with security offerings from its Global Technology Services unit. The services include security and threat assessments, surveillance architecture design and security system integration. The company also plans to make the technology available through its Retail Loss Prevention product.

Video surveillance of public places is used widely in the United Kingdom, which has faced terrorist threats ranging from the Irish Republican Army to the July 7 subway and bus bombers. In the United States, it's just starting to catch on. Last week, the city of Rochester, N.Y., received $150,000 in state funds to purchase and install public surveillance cameras.

But despite the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the technology has failed to gain widespread use across the United States due to privacy concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union has urged Congress to investigate the privacy implications of video surveillance technology.

IBM says it's S3 system contains features that allow the images of individuals not under suspicion to be stripped out. The S3 technology will be available in the first quarter of 2007, IBM says. It's security assessment services are currently available.

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