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11/20/2001
08:15 AM
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Ramping Up Security With Streaming Video

PacketVideo, a company that had been focused on making it possible to stream video to consumers via wireless networks, suddenly has found itself branching into an unforeseen market: security.

The events of Sept. 11 have given the business world many reasons to pause--to reconsider security, travel practices, business-recovery plans and, in some cases, business models. PacketVideo, which until the attacks had been firmly focused on providing software for streaming video content to consumers over wireless networks, suddenly has had to branch off in a new direction: security.

It hasn't come as a total surprise. As the story of passenger heroics on Flight 93 unfolded the day after the attacks, it became abundantly clear, PacketVideo chairman Jim Carol says, that his company's technology could have provided a streamed video feed from inside the aircraft, allowing federal officials to see the events as they occurred. In the ensuing weeks, Carol says, PacketVideo has been inundated with inquiries about how its technology could be used to ramp up security of everything from aircraft to oil refineries.

As a result, PacketVideo set up a separate subsidiary to develop what Carol calls a "government and homeland defense" system. Companies and agencies that use PacketVideo's wireless video streaming technology can send wireless, real-time video "alarms" of security breaches to PDAs, mobile phones, and notebooks. In addition to straightforward break-in alerts, Carol says, he envisions the technology speeding responses to potentially life-threatening situations by streaming video of suspected terrorists directly to the CIA director's PDA, transmitting images of anthrax symptoms to physicians, or even sending scans of retinas, facial features, or fingerprints to law-enforcement officials. The new direction represents an unhappy opportunity for a company that's received $150 million in funding to develop consumer apps. "There wasn't a market for this before Sept. 11," Carol says. "There wasn't a need to secure our country like there is now."

In fact, the demand reaches well beyond U.S. borders. One of PacketVideo's first customers is Fastcom Technology, a Swiss company that's developed a so-called Wireless Alarm Terminal, which detects security breaches and triggers live PacketVideo streams to remote security personnel. The system, which Fastcom is targeting for use in monitoring ships, aircraft hangars, buildings, and tunnels, was on display at the recent Sicherheit 2001 conference in Zurich (Sicherheit is German for "security"). Pierre Oberholzer, Fastcom's chief operating officer, says the company selected PacketVideo because it has the most mature streaming video application that conforms to MPEG-4, a widespread standard for accessing video on wireless devices. Oberholzer says the technology opens new doors for Fastcom, whose products had been desktop-bound. "The natural step was to go from the wired world to the wireless world."

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