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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
November 21, 2014


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The Robot Security Guard, Biometrics Palm Scan and Other Cutting-Edge Security Innovations

Below are some of the mind-boggling security innovations recently or soon on the market, as well as an ambitious security project recently passed by the Arizona State Legislature.

Robot security guard

Robots don’t sleep. They don’t daydream. They don’t skive off for a fag. Best of all for their ‘employer’, they don’t demand a pay rise, or indeed, any payment whatsoever.

It’s not hard to see the attraction of replacing flesh-and-blood security guards with computerised sentries.

Silicon Valley startup Knightscope Inc is developing a robot called an “autonomous Data Machine”, which you can see in action below.

Seemingly based on iconic Star Wars robot R2 D2, the K5 and K10 models (aimed at vast open spaces or space-constrained environments respectively) will generate real-time data through a network of sensors.

A 360-degree HD camera means they dovetail as mobile surveillance cameras too. The silicon sentry will also boast mics, a thermal imaging sensor, infrared sensor, radar, lidar, ultrasonic speed and distance sensors, air quality sensor, and optical character recognition technology for scanning licence plates.

Knightscope says the police will be notified in real time of suspicious activity while businesses could analyse historic data to predict crime.

The robot can also measure temperature changes, calculate the travelling speed of nearby objects and people, have nightvision (infrared technology) and build a 3D map of the vicinity. Plans are also afoot to incorporate facial recognition technology.

While security is the technology’s most obvious application, Knightscope anticipates that the units could be used for everything from detailed traffic analysis to factory inspections.

Heat mapping

Innovations like heat mapping are already giving surveillance cameras applications beyond mere security. If historic mapping data can give security professionals the ability to predict crime hotspots then the technology can enable retailers to monitor shopping patterns.

It’s the high street equivalent of A/B testing – for anyone not au fait with the world of online marketing that’s the process by which marketers test alternate versions of a web page to compare performance.

heat mapping retail

From the Prism Skylabs website

Steve Russell, the founder of 3VR, which was founded in the wake of 9/11 to catch terrorists and other criminals, has spotted the potential for applying VMS technology to commercial imperatives.

“I’d just become fascinated with video as a source of information,” Russell told Contently.com. “I realised that there are tens of millions of video cameras in the world, and if we could use computer vision and search technologies to suss out the interesting information held by those cameras, it would be beneficial for many different businesses.”

Russell founded Prism Skylabs in September 2011 “to build a cloud-based SaaS business around unique physical infrastructures already out there.”

Harnessing retail cameras -and the legacy infrastructure often accommodates heat-mapping apps, so expensive new cameras aren’t necessarily required – the idea is for the VMS gathers huge volumes of data on shoppers’ movements around the store to determine the best positions for certain product lines and so on.

It’s all part of the shift from cameras as mere ‘surveillance’ tools to business-intelligence devices.

palms scanBiometrics palm scan

Fujitsu has unveiled a multi-factor authentication device that harnesses biometric technology to verify identity from people’s veins.

Protecting access, data and payment the Fujitsu PalmSecure ID Match device offers sectors that store and manage sensitive data – such as finance, retail and social security – a vastly more secure ID process than conventional password verification.

ID Match’s palm-vein technology, which is supplemented by a conventional multi-smart-card reader with pin code, comprises a PalmSecure sensor, touchscreen and processor board with the latest ARM technology.

A client/server-licence-based security software the PalmSecure trueidentity application is based on the technology developed in Germany’s electronic identity card project, which meets strict data protection regulations. Transfer of data as well as the data itself is protected from unauthorised access at the highest technical level, the Japanese electronics giant says.

Launching in Europe, Middle East, India and Africa early next year the device will then be rolled out globally.

border fence

A more traditional part of the US-Mexico border fence in Texas

Virtual fence

Arizona is planning to spend $30m to construct a ‘virtual fence’ to secure the US-Mexico border against drug smugglers and illegal immigrants.

The measure, which only narrowly got through the state legislature due to misgivings over price and privacy, is expected to include radar technology, infra-red video cameras and 300 watch towers that would survey 350 miles of the border between Arizona and Mexico.

A Utah-based company has been tasked with developing the technology and a test unit has been erected in the state capital.

It’s not the first time that a virtual solution to the porous US-Mexico has been proposed, with the the then President Bush first trying to build a virtual barrier back in 2006.

Originally expected to complete in 2011 project SBInet, as it was called, was beset by technical problems – for instance sensors failing to distinguish between trees and people in windy conditions and being slow in relaying data – and the project was formally abandoned last year.

Hardly surprising, then, that similar attempts in 1998 and 2005 were aborted when surveillance technology was less advanced after only 1% of alarm signals led to arrests.

Arizona taxpayers will hope for a better return on their outlay than federal taxpayers got. Figures from the Department of Homeland Security show that $1bn was spent on a system which only protects 53 miles worth of border.

But the US is not about to throw in the towel. It now wants to invest another $750m in an alternative project called “lntegrated Fixed Towers” (IFT).

Sensors are also supported by nine drone aircraft, which are equipped with radar, seven video cameras, an infra-red sensor and a powerful zoom. The unmanned aircraft, which each cost $20m, can detect people and vehicles from a height of 6,000 metres.

US government sources indicate the revised virtual fence should detect between 70% to 80% of intruders along the border, reducing the need for so many border patrol officers.

The Obama administration blocked a $1bn virtual fence project in 2011.

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