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America’s worst neighborhoods and the push for more security

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

For residents of the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in America, terrorism probably doesn’t top their list of concerns. But with video surveillance in the spotlight after the Boston bombing, those cities now have a chance to take advantage of the attack in the name of safety.

The danger list, presented last week by the research website Neighborhood Scout, includes the usual suspects. Detroit, Chicago and Flint, Mich., all made the lineup, with Detroit taking the top three spots based on the predicted number of violent crimes per 1,000 neighborhood residents.

No surprise there. What is surprising is the number of smaller cities that are cited, places that aren’t typically associated with murder, rape, armed robbery and aggravated assault. A neighborhood in Greenville, S.C., comes in at No. 8, Indianapolis shows up twice, and even Nashville takes a hit—residents of the Eighth Avenue South/Wedgewood Avenue area have a 1-in-14 chance of being a victim of violent crime in any given year.

"So many people think, well, I live in a medium city so it can't be that bad, not like big cities like New York or Los Angeles," Andrew Schiller, the founder of Neighborhood Scout, told The Huffington Post. "But those cities aren't that dangerous overall—of course they have dangerous neighborhoods—but they aren't nearly as dangerous as places like Indianapolis."

Schiller’s contention is backed by FBI data from more than 17,000 local law enforcement agencies, making it tough to dispute. For the cities on the list, it can only be seen as a black eye. But for those who see better security through video surveillance, it’s an opportunity to add to a growing chorus in the wake of the Boston bombing.

In the past three weeks, there has been an official push for more video cameras—and for greater integration of surveillance systems—in cities including Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles. The successful use of video in identifying the suspects in Boston has tempered criticism of the cost and given rise to discussion of public and private partnerships to share video data.

"If [a company has] a camera that films an area we're interested in, then why put up a separate camera?" said Dennis Storemski, director of Houston’s office of public safety and homeland security, in an interview with The Associated Press. "And we allow them to use ours too."

That kind of cooperation holds promise for cutting crime and increasing arrests, but only if the network is properly set up, integrated and monitored. Success will also hinge on addressing privacy concerns and fears that freedom will fall prey to technology run amok, especially if the surveillance extends beyond city centers and into residential areas like those cited by Neighborhood Scout.

 “Look, we don't want an occupied state. We want to be able to walk the good balance between freedom and security," Deputy Chief Michael Downing of the Los Angeles police told The Associated Press. "If this helps prevent [and] deter but also detect … who did [a crime], I guess the question is can the American public tolerate that type of security.”

Right now the smart money is on “yes.”

Need lower attrition? Balance price and value

Analyzing customers’ habits can be the key to long-term retention, says Devcon’s Brandon Savage
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05/07/2013

YARMOUTH, Maine—When it comes to alarm services, customers can choose packages ranging from a Pinto to a Ferrari. If you’re lucky, they’ll pony up for a Ferrari. But will they get their money’s worth by putting it through its paces?

Las Vegas installer likes ‘green’ solution

Communication Electronic Systems’ executive says Cooper Notification’s new speakers with LED strobe and hi-fi sound good for ECS and more
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05/06/2013

LAS VEGAS—A new Cooper Notification solution that combines an LED strobe with high-fidelity sound in speakers that save energy and are so intelligible they can be used not only for emergency messaging, but for general paging and background music, is a boon to dealers, according to Josh Claunch of Communication Electronic Systems.

Video surveillance after Boston: Carte blanche for Big Brother?

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

There has been a lot of debate in the past few months about the government infringing on the privacy and rights of its citizens. Most of the heat has been generated by the standoff over gun control, but you don’t have to look far to find people who think Big Brother is lurking around every corner—at the IRS, DHS and even your local cop shop.

So what about video surveillance? Did the fact that video helped take down the Boston bombers give the powers-that-be carte blanche to watch your every move, whenever and wherever you go? Will there soon be blanket surveillance every time you step out your door? And if that’s the case, where is the outrage and pushback?

Apparently there won’t be any. In a poll taken after the Boston bombing, The New York Times and CBS News found that 78 percent of Americans favor installing video surveillance cameras in public places, judging that any infringement on their privacy is worth it to help prevent terrorist attacks.

That sentiment bodes well for the security industry, which stands to profit from the increased public and private spending. Even before the bombing, IMS Research was projecting a 114 percent increase in the global market for video surveillance equipment, from $9.6 billion in 2010 to $20.5 billion in 2016. IMS is in the process of revising that forecast, no doubt making it even rosier.

Which brings us to drones (or maybe not, but that’s where I’m going). Last week, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said he would be interested in using aerial surveillance technology to monitor events like the Boston Marathon. He wasn’t talking about helicopters—the price of drones has gotten to the point where local police departments are using them, particularly in rural areas.

The security industry might be able to benefit from that development too. The question is, when will the privacy line be crossed in the minds of the public? You might feel safer knowing that your bank or train station is under surveillance, but how will you feel when a police drone flies over your house? Or am I being paranoid?

It will be interesting to see what happens on that front. For now, though, protection has trumped the freedom to remain anonymous, at least when it comes to surveillance on the ground. The Tsarnaev brothers can attest to that.

Market for card-based EACS to reach $8.6 billion by 2018

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04/30/2013

The global market for card-based electronic access control systems is projected to grow from $5.1 billion in 2012 to $8.6 billion by 2018, driven by increasing concern about security breaches at government and enterprise facilities, according to a new report from Global Industry Analysts.

Undergrads develop apps for Axis

Company announces partnership with Wentworth Institute of Technology at ISC West
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04/29/2013

LAS VEGAS—For camera customization, network camera giant Axis Communications is tapping the talent and imagination of undergraduate engineering students at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.

Video takes down Boston bombing suspects

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Looking back on it, it was a little too close for comfort: Walking the streets of Cambridge at about the same time the Boston Marathon bombers were killing a police officer at MIT, just a few blocks from a nightclub where I was heading with a friend. Investigators had released photos of the suspects a few hours earlier and they were now on the run, with a carjacking, police chase (more on that later) and shootout to follow.

The two men should have known they wouldn’t remain anonymous for long. Given the extent of video surveillance at the bombing site and the number of people taking photos of the race on their cellphones, it was only a matter of time before authorities put the pieces together. Credit for identifying the suspects goes not only to the police and FBI, but also to the technology that made it happen.

The use of that technology extended to the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect who fled on foot after surviving the shootout on the night of April 18. Holed up in a shrink-wrapped boat in Watertown, his presence was confirmed by helicopter with the help of thermal-imaging cameras provided by FLIR Systems.

In a black-and-white image that has gone viral since Tsarnaev was taken into custody, his glowing body can be seen through the covering on the boat. Police later sent in an unmanned vehicle to lift the covering, which allowed them to determine that Tsarnaev was not wearing an explosive vest. They soon moved in and apprehended him, ending four days of high anxiety.

My night in Cambridge ended with an improvised escape from town. After leaving the club we found the streets buzzing with dozens of police cruisers, all screaming west toward the shootout in Watertown. Think of the chase scene from “The Blues Brothers” movie—no intersection was safe to cross, even if you had a green light. The main routes out of Cambridge were blocked, so we had to pick our way through a maze of side streets until we found our way home.

What we didn’t know that night was that the MIT slaying and the bombing suspects were connected. That information was confirmed after we made it out of the city, which was soon under lockdown. I'm not sure I would have changed my plans, but I'm obviously glad our paths didn’t cross.
 

Stanley partners with guard company U.S. Security Associates

Companies expect to reap ‘several million dollars in ancillary business’ as result of collaboration
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04/22/2013

FISHERS, Ind.—Stanley Convergent Security Systems has partnered with U.S. Security Associates, the fourth-largest guarding company in North America.

IPVideo Corp. gets $12m investment

Capital will be used to hire 30, build video ‘fusion center’
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04/17/2013

BAY SHORE, N.Y.—IPVideo Corp., a VMS and PSIM provider that is launching a new video surveillance “fusion center,” has received a $12 million investment from Westbury Partners, the company announced April 12.

Authorities closing in on marathon terrorist suspect?

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Updated 3:40 p.m. April 17

Both CNN and the Boston Globe on Wednesday, April 17 reported that a suspect has been identified in the Boston Marathon terrorist bombing and that an arrest has been made or is imminent. Both backed off of that assertion about an hour later, and the Boston Police made a statement saying that no arrest had been made.

From the Globe:
“ …authorities have an image of a suspect carrying, and perhaps dropping, a black bag at the second bombing scene on Boylston Street, outside of the Forum restaurant.
Investigators are “very close” in the investigation, said the official, who declined to be named.That official said authorities may publicize their finding as early as this afternoon.The same official also said a surveillance camera at Lord & Taylor, located directly across the street, has provided clear video of the area, though it was unclear whether the image of the suspect was taken from that camera.  “The camera from Lord & Taylor is the best source of video so far,” said Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “All I know is that they are making progress.”

Most experts hope that crucial information will be gleaned from video—footage from city surveillance systems, local businesses and videos from the smartphones of those watching the marathon.

This morning the LA Times reported that analysts from the FBI are “sifting through more than 10 terabytes of data for clues about who might have placed the bombs near the finish line. The data include call logs collected by cellphone towers along the marathon route and surveillance footage collected by city cameras, local businesses, gas stations, media outlets and spectators who volunteered to provide their videos and snap shots, said the federal law enforcement source.
The FBI has flown analysts from field offices across the country to Boston to watch and log hundreds of hours of video, he said.

I asked Amit Gavish, GM, Americas, BriefCam, via email, what he thought the prospects were for finding clues in the various video footage taken in the area of the finish line. In addition to working for Briefcam, a manufacturer of video synopsis systems which enable the very quick review of hours of video [],
Gavish, is a CPP, with 16 years of security and military experience in the U.S. and Israel. He served as the Deputy Director of Security at the Office of the President of the State Israel and was in charge of physical and information security. Before joining BriefCam, Gavish was a risk management consultant specializing in risk assessment, development of emergency plans and training programs.

Gavish said it will be important to look at video footage taken days before the marathon: “In my opinion, the person was there before. The person who did this most likely did some dry runs before the event, even days before and probably was there hours before the event.”

He said the footage from Monday is likely “crowded to the point where you can’t see who put the device at the scene, and you have to go back a few days prior and see who was there … who looked suspicious, who was just walking by or loitering.”

He said there “are hundreds of cameras that could potentially have something. There are good cameras there—Boston PD, public cameras, stores in the neighborhood—but part of the effectiveness of the investigation is how fast you can get to something that you can work on,” he said.

I also did an email interview with Zvika Ashani, CTO of Agent Video Intelligence (Agent Vi). I asked Ashani how a product like Agent Video’s VI-Search would  examine video from multiple sources.

Vi-Search can be “used in an offline mode on cameras that are not part of a large pre-installed surveillance system. For example, video can be retrieved from a store or a gas station, which is in the vicinity of the event. This video can then be quickly processed by the software (at a rate of about 10x) and then searched using the same query structure.”

 
 

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