Bears, Borders and Integrated Security Solutions

Did you hear the one about the bear that nearly caused a nuclear catastrophe?

It was in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. A guard at Volk US Air Force Base – home to a number of armed nuclear bombers – spotted a shadowy figure apparently attempting to scale the fence. The supposed Soviet saboteur tripped the alarm, which was fatefully miswired, triggering a maneuver to scramble US interceptor jets to shoot down incoming enemy nuclear bombers. There were more American armed nuclear bombers already in the air nearby – the scene was set for a friendly fire incident of nuclear proportions.

Just before the jets took off, the command center realized what happened and sent orders to stand down. Crisis averted – just. Oh – and the Soviet saboteur that tried to sneak in? It turned out to be a curious bear.

With security technology having considerably advanced since 1962, we shouldn’t see a repeat episode like that anytime soon. Today we face different threats. Our fears of international state on state conflict have been eclipsed by the threat of international terrorism, and – though military security is always crucial – protecting borders has become one of the most pressing security needs of our time.

However, there are still lessons to be learned – safety and security are impossible without smart, integrated security solutions that can work in any weather, day or night. Two notable trends are helping organisations and security integrators shore up their defenses: advances in uncooled thermal imaging technology, and the move towards a security-solutions based approach.

The advance of uncooled thermal imagery

With conflict and other crises causing mass migration of refugees around the world, the importance of border security has leapt up several places on national leaders’ agendas.
When borders stretch across hundreds or thousands of kilometers of land and sea, it can be a very difficult and expensive task to secure them.

To answer the limitations of CCD day cameras, each is mounted in tandem with a thermal camera. The decision to use thermal then begs the question: cooled or uncooled cameras? Cooled cameras undisputedly give the best performance, offer unmatched distance visibility, and are more user-friendly than ever before. Whereas once a cooled camera would require a tank of cooling liquid nitrogen or similar substance, now electric systems – much like a fridge – keep the camera cool.

Uncooled thermal cameras, coupled with cutting edge analytics applied to the image data, are capable of covering huge distances like never before – up to fifteen kilometers away. This allows for fewer, cheaper, lower-maintenance cameras, hugely reducing the total cost of ownership when extrapolated across hundreds or thousands of kilometers.

When then taken by a system integrator and combined with other security equipment such as ground sensors, motion sensors and patrol cars, modern uncooled camera systems create a compelling holistic border security solution. And these systems would have revealed the Volk bear’s furry identity pretty quickly – avoiding a near disaster in the process.

Smart systems are integrated systems

But land and sea borders aren’t the only places countries need protection. Think about airports for a moment: some of the most security-conscious civilian transit sites in the world. They too, need efficient and cost-effective border security, and stand to benefit hugely from advanced uncooled thermal imagery solutions. They’re also a good illustration of why integrated security systems are vital. Following the tragic events of 9/11, the focus shifted to individual security – stopping the passage of dangerous individuals and items onto planes. However, in recent years we’ve seen terrorists resort to cruder, less easily managed methods of destruction, such as vehicular and lone gunman attacks.

The challenge for system integrators is to deliver systems that handle a range of threats. To that end, it’s imperative that thermal cameras, CCTV cameras, radar, motion sensors – everything – are linked to a control terminal, informing and updating security personnel and creating a comprehensive picture of the security network in real time.

System integrators have more choice than ever before when it comes to building these integrated solutions. In fact, rather than sourcing individual components from individual manufacturers and agonizing over esoteric operating systems and protocols when trying to link them, they can now choose from complete, integrated, interoperable security solutions, making life infinitely easier.

Today, these two trends of advanced uncooled cameras and the easy integration of multiple systems, allow system integrators to build powerful connected systems to keep us all safe. After all, there are much more dangerous things out there than curious bears.

Reducing Fire Risk at Waste Management and Recycling Sites

Humans produce massive amounts of garbage each year. In the US alone, 700,000 tons of trash are produced per day.  All that garbage must go somewhere, and much of it ends up in waste management and recycling sites. These sites are at constant risk of fire. As the waste pile decomposes, chemical reactions that happen deep under the surface produce hot gases that are extremely volatile. In recycling facilities, highly combustible “fluff” materials can burn down a facility in minutes. Self-combustion is a constant threat in these facilities, and usually, by the time a fire is identified, the conditions are already such that the damage is widespread.

In addition to the financial damage these fires cause, there are serious environmental issues to consider. Due to the large amount of runoff from firefighter’s efforts to put out these fires, waste fires are a danger to the environment and public health. Stringent regulations of emissions from these facilities make early detection necessary, as unchecked fires could lead to large fines or even plant closures.

The most dangerous times are when the facilities are unmanned, as an unobserved fire could completely ruin an operation. In order to protect these facilities, several needs must be met. First, any detection system has to work equally as well at night as it does during the day. Next, the systems should be able to integrate seamlessly with the existing framework, and they should have IP capabilities, so that they can connect back to the main control center or be accessed remotely. They also need to have a very low occurrence of false alarms.

The best hotspot, smoke, flame, and fire detection solutions are thermal cameras with fire detection analytics. Thermal cameras that have all of these qualities are an effective technology for fire and loss prevention. They can detect a tiny rise in temperature, and when something in the region of interest passes a pre-set temperature threshold, an alarm is sent to the control center. Alerts can also be sent to anyone with remote access, and can be programmed to alert the local fire department as well, bringing the response time down significantly and saving millions in lost property damage. They can also lower insurance costs for facility owners and managers, as they significantly reduce the risk of massive fires, currently the biggest threat to these operations.

Safer Airport Security Systems

Are airport security systems effectively protecting today’s travelers?

What safety measures actually make airports safer, vs. just making us “feel” safer?

Many people pass through international airports every day, and this high volume of people presents an irresistible target for terrorists. Add to this the destructive potential of a bomb on a large plane like the Russian Metrojet plane that exploded over Sinai in October of 2015, or the huge death toll possible when hijacked planes are used as weapons of destruction, as in the 9/11 attack, and the need for a layered and extensive approach to security measures becomes instantly clear.

The March 2016 suicide bombings in Brussels have renewed the debate over whether security checks at the entrance to airport terminals should be added along with other more stringent safety measures, or whether the security procedures currently in place are sufficient.

While some of the following measures may seem extreme, the airports using them are rated as some of the safest in the world:

  • Monitoring remote airport perimeters and critical areas with smart thermal and day/night camera systems
  • Using checkpoints to monitor vehicles entering the airport premises
  • Extensive screening of airport personnel
  • Monitoring the departures entrances and parking areas
  • Using military troops as backup for airport security
  • Using facial recognition software linked to international counterterrorism databases
  • Using software that reads facial expressions to determine malicious intent or extreme anxiety

Of course every airport is different and has different regional realities, needs, and concerns. What they all have in common is that they all operate around the clock, and they need security measures that do the same.

Smart thermal cameras are one such measure, and are at the forefront of land-based security technology. They improve situational awareness by providing round-the-clock intruder detection. Using these systems can increase security awareness without slowing down airport traffic; improving safety while cutting manpower costs in the long term.

So what is stopping international airports from anteing up in the security department? One reason is that large scale changes take time, and can seem costly. As a result we usually only see the short term solutions of governments and airport management, like temporarily stepping up security, law enforcement, and military presence in airports. These are effective measures for calming the public for the moment, but are not realistic long term solutions, as the costs have no long term return on investment.

The demand for an overhaul of long term security protocols to protect travelers and their families has become abundantly clear.  As it turns out, several international airports have already begun improving safety conditions by purchasing and installing smart thermal camera systems, and those that haven’t should consider following their example. The next time you decide to fly, what security measures will you want to see implemented in the airports you choose to fly in and out of?