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Can Integrated Security Catch A Thief Or A Terrorist?

IBM, Cisco, and other vendors are introducing systems that combine digital and physical security in an effort to provide a more comprehensive system that's easier for businesses to use.
IBM Tuesday introduced digital video surveillance technology straight from its labs that furthers the trend of integrating IT and physical security systems. The Smart Surveillance system, developed by the Exploratory Computer Vision Group in IBM T.J. Watson Research Center is a piece of middleware for use in camera, radar, chemical-sensor, or audio-based surveillance systems that uses computer algorithms and analysis to detect suspicious activity and send up red flags when necessary.

Using Smart Surveillance, a truck parked in the wrong area of an airport, an airline passenger attempting to enter through an exit corridor, or a customer removing an item from a shelf and walking past the cashier line without stopping would all initiate pages, text messages, and other alerts to security personnel, who could then act immediately to head off trouble.

IBM has already been using its Smart Surveillance system as part of its internal security systems and has demonstrated the technology to a handful of government agencies, law enforcement units, and companies. IBM early next year will include the Smart Surveillance middleware's advanced analytical capabilities as part of the company's oxymoronically named Digital Video Surveillance Service Product, which is really more of a service than a product. The Digital Video Surveillance service is currently available, and includes IBM servers and storage hardware, Tivoli Storage Manager and other software, and, of course, services.

Another important aspect of Smart Surveillance and the new service will be the ability for security professionals to use the technology to more quickly and efficiently search archived digital video footage. The tedium of scanning hours, sometimes days, of footage delays security investigations and is much less precise than using an algorithm to search for a specific image, something IBM promises to deliver with its Digital Video Surveillance service.

Digital Video Surveillance is designed to connect surveillance equipment over an IP network with retail point-of-sale and inventory systems and have access to customer and employee data. This is good news for retailers as the holiday season approaches, as IBM says that industry loses nearly $50 billion annually due to fraud, theft, and administrative error.

IBM isn't the only major player in the market for integrated digital and physical security. Cisco has made moves over the past few years to deliver converged network and physical security. In September, Cisco expanded its Intelligent Converged Environment lineup through a new interface that will add IP-based access control and unified identity management capabilities to Assa Abloy AB's badge readers and door lock components featuring that company's Highly Intelligent Operation lock-technology. Cisco created its Intelligent Converged Environment unit in April after acquiring SyPixx Networks, a maker of video surveillance software and hardware.

Imprivata Inc. this month begins shipping the latest version of its OneSign appliance for integrating physical and IT security. Version 3.5 improved the appliance's single sign-on and authentication management capabilities and uses the standards-based Service Provisioning Markup Language, or SPML, interface to allow a company's user-provisioning system to create and maintain user accounts, applications, and authentication credentials within OneSign. "We capture the event of entering the building and feed that event to correlate with your identity in the system," says Imprivata president and CEO Omar Hussain. "In the past these systems generally haven't talked to each other."

OneSign also includes a built-in Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service, or Radius, server to let users access information remotely using passwords or a Digipass token from Vasco Data Security. OneSign can also manage combined password and Upek Inc. finger biometrics authentication, giving companies the ability to protect their systems and data using combined IT and physical security methods.

The challenge for IBM and other providers of smart-surveillance technology moving forward is to make the systems faster, cheaper, and scalable enough to connect all of the cameras in any given facility. "If you can only attach two cameras to a server, nobody's going to use that because it doesn't scale properly," says IBM Research Labs' CTO of security and privacy Charles Palmer.

Assuming the technology can scale to accommodate the sprawling security systems located throughout, say, an airport, converged IT and physical security promised improved defenses against the gamut of criminals, from small-time shoplifters to international terrorists.