IBM Upgrades Security Intelligence

Long synonymous with IT, IBM aims to optimize networked physical security systems by applying sophisticated analytics to maximize prevention and response. A top executive reveals the full story and presents the case for partnering with IBM.

Even those who had been skeptical about the blending of logical and physical security had to take notice when the biggest name in information technology, IBM, announced a security partnership with GE Interlogix. That was back in 2003, and the convergence shift has only intensified since then. IBM, which has been expanding its stake since launching a digital video surveillance product in 2006, remains in the thick of it all.

Founded in New York as International Business Machines in 1924, IBM’s legacy reads like the history of computing and IT itself. The company has progressed from decades of hardware innovation – including punch-card, mainframe, PC and notebook systems – to primarily focusing on software and business intelligence. Today, the firm considers itself as much a systems integrator as manufacturer. This transformation has allowed IBM to provide the connective tissue linking together countless applications the world over, including security.

Security has a lot of meanings for a company with the breadth of IBM. Under its IT Services banner, the company differentiates six areas of security specialization. The holistic approach includes: Data Security; Identity and Access Management; Managed Security; Physical Security; Security Governance; and Threat Mitigation. The core objective of IBM’s Physical Security business is optimizing networked digital video and applying sophisticated analytic tools to enhance decision making for safety and commerce alike.

One of the highest profile U.S. deployments has been IBM’s recent teaming with IP camera-maker Axis Communications and video management system (VMS) specialist Genetec on what has been billed as “the world’s first intelligent networked video system for public safety” for Chicago’s Navy Pier. The project integrates cameras, alarms, sensors, audio and IBM’s Smart Surveillance Solution (SSS) analytics technology. North of the border, Canada’s Edmonton Police Service now relies on IBM business analytics technology to help reduce crime, improve force effectiveness and increase public safety.

IBM’s growing interest in and development of technology specifically aimed at physical security, as well as its global reach and unique ability to universalize technologies has profound ramifications for the industry. The good news, as Steve Russo, director of physical security technology for IBM Security Services, details in an exclusive chat with SSI, the IT powerhouse’s go-to-market model is predicated on partnering with security equipment manufacturers, integrators and end users.

How is IBM positioning itself in the physical security space in terms of its relationship with other suppliers versus integrators versus end users?

Steve Russo: There are two key areas where we position ourselves. One is as a large-scale systems integrator where we can work on very large, complex projects and bring all of the pieces together. So that is one area.

The second is in our research technology and our information processing capabilities, which historically has been a major strength for IBM and is something we bring to the physical security realm. We don’t make cameras, we don’t do video management directly, so we require in our solutions to have key partnerships with the providers of components like cameras and sensors, as well as video management software. We then take that and pull intelligence out of it, taking advantage of large-scale information processing so we can now add the next level of intelligence to many of these systems.

We are concentrating on that intelligence level where we can help public safety entities and other types of customers understand situations, solve crimes faster, do forensic analysis faster, as well as understand their security posture. We are seeking to help make sense of literally millions of events that may be occurring across their campus or area of responsibility to identify vulnerabilities they can do something about before something actually happens. It’s about taking these systems and making them much more proactive rather than just responsive and reactive when something occurs.

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