Ron Fellows

Associate Director

Author Bio ▼

Experienced, Security-Cleared Analytics and Information Management consultant who has worked at all levels in customer organisations in both technology and line-of-business environments. Experience split between public- and private-sector customers in virtually every industry and within a global remit.. Highly mobile with experience in Europe, Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions. Roles cover the entire project life-cycle from initial idea and business development through solution design to project / programme management. Experienced line manager, offering development director and business-builder. Driven by wanting to make the world work better for people. Specialise in building a trusted-advisor relationship with clients. Business-driven, IT-enabled.
November 26, 2014

Sign up to free email newsletters


Whitepaper: Normal service resumed? How video technology supports our new reality

How Facial Recognition, Social Media and Inter-Agency Cooperation Can Tackle Transport Terror

7 7 bombings

Ambulances in Russell Square after the 7/7 London bombings (Photo: Francis Tyers under CC by SA 3.0)

Millions of people take commercial flights every year, and to judge from queues at airport security, there is intense scrutiny of everybody boarding them.

However, we should never forget the deaths and injuries that resulted from the 7/7 bombings on trains and buses years ago. I sometimes sit on trains crammed with luggage and wonder at the potential for a terrorist to carry on board, without challenge, anything from a shoe-bomb to a small nuclear weapon.

How do you go about making public ground transportation safer? There are many possibilities but here’s a thought.

Some years ago, I was introduced to a UK start-up called Facewatch ( Bringing together CCTV and social media to spot potential (known) troublemakers on entry to shops, bars, nightclubs, etc, it provided an evidential base if problems occurred, with the local business community, the police and other stakeholders involved via social media (messaging).

Trains and buses already have CCTV and communication with control rooms. Can the Facewatch principle not be scaled up to provide early warning of someone on a watch list boarding (or for that matter waiting at a bus-stop or train station)?


There will be a chorus of outrage about personal privacy but CCTV has been used for years to track the movements of drug pushers and terrorists on the nation’s roads and nobody seems to mind.

How many times do you get caught on video during an average day, whether it’s driving your car, getting on a bus or train, visiting the bank or a supermarket?

Do you worry about it? Probably not. Should you? Probably not – at least while we have judicial checks on the actions of police and security services.

The Facewatch solution caught my eye because it harnessed the (relatively) new technologies of CCTV, facial recognition and social media to create a community of interest, with local businesses, community groups and law enforcement agencies coming together to bear down on petty crimes like brawling, theft, drunken behavior, etc. Not so petty if you’re on the receiving end!

Automatic notifications on spotting a potential or actual wrongdoing would warn other members of the local community and would, as necessary, either warn or summon the local police.
From small beginnings, it’s now winning accolades from a much wider audience all over the world – and it all started with a good idea in a bar, like all the best things.

What I’m looking for is the same concept but on a massively bigger scale. The solution could apply itself to petty crimes such as theft on a bus or a train, but I’m after bigger fish.

A terrorist boarding a bus or train will be forced through a fairly tight path on entry and this should improve the chances of the facial recognition subsystem picking them up.

CCTV on most public transport is pretty dire – usually the cheapest available option – but maybe we could spare some of the billions of pounds being earmarked for HS2 and HS3 rolling stock (for example) to improve surveillance for both quality and coverage.

We should also beef up onboard computing power, as anyone who’s heard the dreaded announcement about seat reservations not downloading will understand.

Finally, none of this is worthwhile unless the bus or train can communicate its ‘find’ to the command centre, so wireless communications will need upgrading. ‘Hurrah’, I hear everyone cry!

The basic design is in place now. The rest can be achieved by applying some thought to upgrading current kit or building more capability into new designs on the way.

What’s missing? The political will and the cash to make it happen.

How safe do we want our transport to be? Maybe nobody else is as suspicious of fellow passengers as me but it would only take another 7/7, but on a bigger scale, to bring it to the top of everybody’s priority list.

Download the Intruder Alarm Report 2020

Download this report, produced in conjunction with Texecom, to discover how increasing processing power, accelerating broadband speeds, cloud-managed solutions and the internet of things and transforming the intruder alarm market, and whether firms are adopting these innovative new technologies.


Related Topics

Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
December 3, 2014 1:02 pm

Good luck with the SECURITY TRANSPORT EXPO, it’s a very well timed, crucial event! Ref; Exactly what facial recognition can you obtain from a woman or man, come to think of it, as you cannot really tell who’s wearing the HIJAB, just as you can’t tell who is wearing the KKK costume, if they were to get on a bus or the underground! So yes, you are right, facial recognition can play a major role in counter terrorism, but apply this belief to all of the UK’s public who use the UK Transport system, and that is that at all… Read more »