Anyone in charge of securing a building or restricting access to a network will be puzzling over whether to welcome fast-moving advances
in electronic security in which previously disparate technologies are
converging onto a single internet protocol backbone.
Until recently, physical access systems that restrict entry to a
place, and logical access systems that restrict use of a network, have
operated as two separate entities with two separate cost centres.
And electronic security has been a patchwork of technologies including
smart cards, biometric systems, sensors, radio frequency
identification and video surveillance.
But in the past five years, analog security technologies such as video
surveillance have been progressively moved onto a digital format,
putting them on the same platform as IP-based technologies.
That means IT departments are starting to take over security
surveillance, feeding data collected from IP cameras and
access-control readers into local area networks and accessing that
from an authorised workstation.
That's both good news and bad news for security specialists of any
"By linking these systems on an IP network, it creates many
possibilities down the track," says David Chadwick, senior solutions
adviser, identity & biometrics at Unisys Asia Pacific.
Chadwick points to a recent implementation at the Port of Halifax in
Novia Scotia, Canada, where arctic conditions made keys or fingerprint
scanning to control access for its 4000 workers unworkable. The new
system uses instead back-of-the-hand vascular scanning supported by
data embedded in smart cards.
That is linked to web-enabled databases integrated with the port's
existing credentialling-reservation system.
In other possible scenarios, an intelligent video surveillance system
can be added to this kind of security system to monitor anomalies in
movement - such as a bag left unattended for too long in one spot -
and check those against a database of more than 40 rules.
Or it could be linked to an automated track-and-trace system in which
data is downloaded from RFID tags to interact with any IP device so
that not only does the organisation know where something or someone is
at any time, but can also control movement.
"It opens up opportunities to do innovative new things with security
systems," says Chadwick.
Some recent technological advances in electronic security are poised
For example, the international standards body the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers has approved 100Gbps Ethernet,
which will bring a 1000-fold improvement in networking and computer
performance for security solutions that depend on high-volume,
media-rich data traffic.
That will boost the capacity of smart tracking services and
intelligent video analysis.
"Instead of having a team of operators looking at a bank of screens
all the time you can have intelligence within the camera that can pick
up abnormalities to the norm and send that data to the control room,"
says Roger Jowett, chief operating officer at Signature Security.
By embedding RFID tags on GPS devices attached to containers, tracking
systems go from being fixed to mobile, says Jowett.
And since the approval of the next generation internet, IPv6, the
number of available internet addresses is set to expand vastly.
"That means that every RFID item could have its own IP address and be
linked to an IP network," notes Chadwick.
These developments are feeding into access-control and track-and-trace systems.
"The exciting thing is that we are being asked to come up with
electronic prototypes which we then turn into new security solutions,"
says Jim Stamatelos, chief executive officer of Bio Recognition
systems. "There's a lot of customer-driven development happening."
He cites biometric security systems that combine RFID with optical
sensors to capture very high resolution images at 500 DPI beneath the
epidermis of the skin to overcome identification errors caused by skin
blemishes or dirt.
The image is then recorded as a digital number which is much harder to
Running these systems over the existing ethernet network delivers cost
But while industry insiders welcome these developments, they warn that
that putting all aspects of security onto the same network
significantly broadens the scope for attack.
"Some people argue that shifting to a common network protocol in fact
lessens security because it opens an organisation up to threats
directed at other systems," says Andrew Wells, research director at
Gartner. "And they may have a point. Organisations have to be careful
that they manage the network in terms of the robustness appropriate to
different levels of security."
On the other hand, says Wells, moving logical access control systems
onto an IP network has the spin-off effect of positioning surveillance
in the same market for research and development as information
Brave new world
* IT departments are starting to take over security surveillance.
* By embedding RFID tags on GPS devices attached to containers,
tracking systems go from being fixed to mobile.
* Experts warn that putting all aspects of security onto the same
network significantly broadens the scope for attack.
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