9/11 Makes Security Priority No. 1
The World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11 was not only monumental in terms of U.S. history but also the single most significant catalyst of change for the electronic security industry. For this 10th anniversary observance, high level perspectives are presented from suppliers, integrators, market analysts and others about the indelible impact this tragedy has had on security, and how it continues to shape its future.
A dome camera stands like a sentry above smoldering debris following the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. For many days after the attacks, wireless, battery-operated pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) cameras were set up around the perimeter to monitor Ground Zero. Employees from Pelcos Orangeburg, N.Y., facility, joined by wireless specialists who were taking a training class at the facility, jumped to the call to build the systems in a matter of hours. Courtesy Pelco by Schneider Electric
“Whether they be ADT or Siemens or Diebold or Securitas Systems, any large integrator was still doing basic analog and standalone systems,” says Jeff Kessler, an industry analyst and managing director of Imperial Capital. “Post 9/11, they began to realize these systems had to provide coordination among a lot of points. Those points would entail being on a network.”
Placing equipment and systems on a network introduced a new type of organizational expense. Enhanced security aside, the cost for deploying these systems was now required to be justified in the name of return on investment (ROI). The ramifications of this dynamic continue to reverberate throughout the industry today.
“The drive toward ROI is the No. 1 reason why the security industry overall has been hiring people who can figure out how to make security much more of a daily part of the business process, and that is critical,” Kessler says.
R&D Put on Fast-Track
For the traditionally product-centric security industry, what are among the most significant effects 9/11 had on technology and systems development? Gauging the overall impact is not necessarily black-and-white. The billions of dollars poured into R&D efforts by the federal government and private investment only served to fuel the enormous hype behind futuristic technologies that ultimately failed to deliver in many cases.
The likes of facial recognition and biometrics entered the psyche of the general public. For the first time, explosive detection, radiological detection and various WMD-style detection technologies were deployed to enforce sterile zones inside airports and elsewhere. The efficacy of the equipment and the exorbitant cost for development and deployment continue to be debated.
“In the case of some of these technologies, they are research and development projects, and the research can go on for a long time before you know what to build,” says John Moss, CEO and co-founder of Framingham, Mass.-based S2 Security Corp., a provider of integrated physical security management products. “It’s not that it was a waste of money. We didn’t adequately estimate the cost of the research. It required more than what was done because things like facial recognition never really caught on in a big way. They were never developed to the point where they could be deployed.”
In terms of what technologies did 9/11 actually spawn that could be deployed at the enterprise level, “Not much,” Moss says.
Steve Van Till, president and CEO of Bethesda, Md.-based Brivo Systems, a provider of Web-based access control solutions, concurs.
“I am perhaps a bit of a contrarian in this regard. Everyone likes to talk about how the [9/11] attacks have changed so much, but I think that most of the technology we are using to protect facilities — mainly access control and IP video — were already in existence, and that their evolution was largely on its current path already,” he says. “The exceptions may be related to detection of volatile materials and bomb components, but that’s not where most of the industry lives.”
Other emerging technologies that were being incubated in R&D labs at the time of 9/11 did receive a boost from additional funding and the inevitable rush to deploy them in the field.
For example, video analytic development is at least five years ahead of where it would be had 9/11 not occurred, says Jay Hauhn, CTO and vice president of industry relations for ADT North America.
“I am a firm believer that, as reliability increases, video analytics will be the primary enabler for innovation in access control, intrusion detection and game-changing managed services offerings,” he says.
Advances in technology also continue to come to fruition based on standards and requirements such as FIPS-201 and other government mandates born from HSPD-12.
“At the core of identity assurance is biometrics. A few companies felt that biometrics were important, and had proprietary solutions that were deployed only in areas where extremely high assurance was needed,” says Codebench President Bob Fontana, who was serving as director of integration services at Siemens Security in 2001. “After 9/11, when it became clear that biometrics were the key, biometrics went from being a luxury to being
The increased necessity for networking and integrating disparate IP-based systems in a post-9/11 world has also helped the industry nudge forward in its sometimes fitful efforts to provide truly open systems. Never before had the calls for open standards — a sacred norm in the IT world — rang quite so loudly in the security industry.
“The fact that many systems were interfaced instead of integrated, along with the fact that most true integration was proprietary, drove awareness of the need for standards,” says Hauhn. “Standards are great but the development process is by necessity, slow. That has opened up the door for PSIM [physical security information management platforms] that truly integrate disparate systems from a multitude of manufacturers.”
Collaboration among private industry stakeholders and end-user customers has seen a significant uptake since 9/11 as well. Where once working in proprietary silos was the tradition, the drive to design and install solutions that meet customers’ life-safety and organizational needs continues to grow.
“Probably the biggest evolution I noticed personally [in manufacturing] is the voice-of-the-customer process,” says Allen Fritts, president of Honeywell Fire Systems, who is also a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Durham, Conn. “We’re talking to the customer but also the fire officials and others as well. The audience of people we talk to for information to make sure we are designing the very best equipment has expanded tremendously. The private industry as a whole has a lot to be proud of.”
That message resonates deeply with Tom Von Essen, who served at Ground Zero on 9/11 as New York City Fire Commissioner, a position he held for five years ending Dec. 31, 2001. A 30-year career firefighter, Von Essen, who personally escorted President George W. Bush into Ground Zero days after the attacks, is quick to acknowledge the efforts of the fire/life-safety and security professions.
“The private sector is key to the security of the United States,” he says.“Technology and the people that design and install these systems is the solution.”
Rodney Bosch is Managing Editor for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. He can be reached at (310) 533-2426.
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