Hello? Security Contractors Weren’t Born Yesterday!

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently obtained a document that wasn’t made public until now. According to the report, during a test at Boston’s Logan Airport, facial-recognition systems failed to detect volunteers posing as terrorists 96 times as they passed through security checkpoints. They were correctly detected 153 times. The report declared this rate of inaccuracy “excessive.”

Similar circumstances led to the removal of a facial-recognition system in Ybor City, Fla., after no criminals were detected during a multiyear trial.
Why did these systems fail to make the grade? Because they were based on the theoretical rather than being grounded in reality.

In the case of Ybor City, the cameras were exterior-mounted high on streetlight poles and viewing the streets below with wide-angle lenses. Any veteran CCTV technician can tell you it’s ludicrous to mathematically compare a person’s facial features – such as cheekbones, eye sockets, nose size – when the camera is located in an uncontrollable environment and aimed downward looking at the bald spots on people’s heads!

I am fed up with companies entering the electronic security industry that don’t have any real-world experience in it. They pretend (as in living in the land of make-believe, like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”) to be “security consultants” by telling the whole world they are saviors against terrorism – after they artificially inflate their stock prices, naturally!

Typically, these companies seemingly appear out of nowhere, coming in with a crush of PR hype, stirring up lots of mainstream media attention and then vanishing once everyone catches on to the fact that they are nothing but smoke and mirrors. Ultimately, this scenario is harmful to all concerned.

It doesn’t do our industry any good when the general populace (the people we are trying to protect with tried and true equipment) is used as guinea pigs. On the contractor side, the truth is professional installing companies (which comprise the silent majority) refuse to be used as guinea pigs as well. That’s why many bona-fide installing security contractors are losing interest in attending industry trade shows.

One of the real tragedies in all this is that, on a daily basis, I observe small and large manufacturers bringing out a new product or service that really does offer installation contractors a valuable and viable solution. Because of the damage done by the pretenders, they may never receive the attention they deserve in the marketplace.

The good news is contractors are open to new products and services, especially from suppliers that truly understand their business. That means providing them with solutions that are innovative, yet realistic; reliable; fairly priced; delivered on time; and well supported.

Most of our industry’s installers are far too experienced, professional and savvy to fall for a “bill of goods.” They are willing and able to adapt to progressive technology, but they do not take kindly when someone tries to pull the wool over their eyes by pitching them vaporware or bombarding them with marketing mumbo-jumbo. However, once they encounter a vendor that truly “gets it,” they become loyal, productive business partners.

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