I spent several hours at ISC East in New York last week to see the latest security hardware and software.
I was disappointed because the conference and expo offered more of the same; nothing really innovative caught my attention, or that of my associates. It seems the industry is focusing on video technology: cameras, DVRs, IP, wireless, remote surveillance, and many flavors of software that all essentially accomplish the same result. There were a few lock manufacturers, alarm distributors, monitoring centers, and access control providers, but I thought the number of exhibitors was relatively slim.
The integration of sophisticated electronics, RF and transmission technology, optics, and RFID is all a matter of course now, which perhaps was the most incredible aspect of the show. However, the event did not present a wide enough view of the available security hardware and truly unique applications that I saw three weeks ago at Security Essen in Germany. For those of you that are responsible for keeping abreast of the incredible array of technology and applications that are available, Essen is one of the prime venues every October. Virtually everyone is there, representing every security and software vendor in the incredibly diverse security sector.
What did intrigue me at ISC East were the number applications that involve GPS technology and how it is being applied to anticipate and solve security issues. Location-based service, utilized by commercial and government sectors, will dramatically increase in the future. Already, there is a proliferation of this technology in phones, computers, vehicles, watches, cameras, communications hardware, tracking devices, and a host of other implementations.
Government has employed GPS and Assisted GPS for quite some time for tracking criminal suspects. In fact, Nextel was an early provider of location-based services for the trucking industry and, in so doing, also developed sophisticated mapping capabilities that were used by federal law enforcement agencies for determining the precise location of cell phones. The technology was so good, even five years ago, that the specific floor within a building where a suspect was located could be determined.
Law enforcement has been able to take advantage of GPS technology for tracking and catching criminals and terrorists. Almost everyone who uses a cell phone that was manufactured within the last few years is carrying a personal tracking device. The options available to investigative agencies are awesome, and I believe the public would be more than concerned if everyone realized the extent to which their "personal communicator"--first characterized in the Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV show in the 1960s--has evolved and come to fruition.
Cellular telephones and personal privacy are anathema to each other, especially if there are abuses by government agencies in exploiting the capabilities of the technology.
At ISC East, there were several vendors that specialize in the implementation of GPS technology for use in both the private and public sectors. One of those companies is Brickhouse Security, located in New York. It has been a leader in supplying and implementing this technology in a wide array of products for businesses and police. GPS can provide efficiencies in personnel and fleet management, asset tracking, and employee location and protection. Perhaps as important is the prevention of theft, which is a significant problem and is likely to increase as the economy slows down. Brickhouse also has developed hardware for video and audio surveillance, countermeasures, wireless solutions, biometrics, and other restricted applications.
I interviewed Todd Morris, president of Brickhouse, with regard to the current state of the art and two of his company's products. Brickhouse offers a device for tracking kids, up to 500 feet. It is simple and clever and can also be used to keep an eye on elderly people with dementia. The other system is the P-Track Pro, which uses a CDMA cellular link on Sprint to report the location of an embedded tracking device that can be placed virtually anywhere.
The proliferation of GPS already affects many facets of our mobile life. Although the integration of location-based technologies is almost endless, it does not come without risk. The potential to track the movements of a person and his or her vehicle can seriously erode rights of privacy. Already, spouses are placing store-and-forward or real-time tracking devices in cars to spy on their wives or husbands. Best Buy sells a system called Zoombak, which is a small package that can be implemented by anyone to instantly ping the location of a target and display the data on any computer that is connected to the Net.
By law, every phone in the U.S. must be capable of reporting its location for E911 services. The ability to locate someone who calls for help is obviously a desirable and necessary feature for public safety providers, but the flip side can lead to abuse. We have far surpassed the capabilities that were dramatized in 1984. While we are lucky that we have these sophisticated capabilities, we must also be vigilant as to their use. Presently, there is little legislation dealing with GPS applications to surveillance. I am quite sure that when lawmakers realize that their whereabouts can be instantly tracked, legislation will be enacted, just like when their cell phone call logs were obtained.