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Autonomy to power Olympic surveillance

Software from the company will help Greek security forces look for terrorists at this summer's games.

Technology originally developed to help companies organize and access information on their systems will play a role in trying to prevent terrorist attacks on the Olympic Games this summer.

Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a U.S. company that has been awarded the contract to provide information technology security at the Olympics, signed a deal with U.K. software developer Autonomy this week.

The software will be used by the Greek police to monitor communications traffic for words and phrases that could suggest terrorist activity.

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"Autonomy's software will be used to help automate the processes of analyzing, routing and delivering content, irrespective of format or storage location, and monitor potentially suspicious activity to help increase the efficacy of intelligence operations," Autonomy said in a statement this week, adding that "enormous amounts of data in both English and Greek" will be analyzed automatically during the event.

Autonomy representatives were not available to discuss the deal in more detail.

Information published by SAIC about the system it's developing for the Olympics, called C41, suggests that the Greek authorities will be monitoring communications traffic carried by Internet service providers and telecommunications companies.

"Our C4I system is composed of 30 subsystems that will allow Greek authorities to collect, analyze and disseminate information. These include a command and decision support system, a communication and information system, a digital trunked radio system, a port security system, and fixed and mobile command centers for the Greek police and firefighters, the coast guard, the Athens Olympic Committee Security Division and the Ministry of Defence," according to information posted to SAIC's Web site.

SAIC also plans to set up an electronic fence around the Olympics, using infrared and high-resolution cameras, along with vehicle-tracking systems. An airborne surveillance center will float above the Olympics' site.

Autonomy was one of the U.K. darlings of the dot-com boom, with software that finds links between seemingly unconnected pieces of information held within unstructured data. Autonomy's claim that its products would help enterprises search their masses of electronic data helped make founder Mike Lynch a billionaire on paper.

Autonomy already has a major contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, under which its software is installed on 200,000 desktop computers in the United States. It is used by 21 agencies to look for natural language links between various text, audio and video sources in the hunt for terrorists.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.