Ovation for Innovation

By Sherry Harowitz

It can be depressing to work in security, with its focus on the dark side of human nature. But at the ASIS International seminar and exhibits each year, I see evidence of our better nature—camouflaged amid the flashing lights and flashy sales pitches in the exhibit hall is the indomitable spirit of innovation.

One example this year was the brainchild of Eric Rubenstein, who as a NASA astrophysicist worked on keeping gamma rays from interfering with the Hubble telescope’s imagery. Fortunately for all of us, his thoughts did not stay focused beyond the stratosphere.

In the summer of 2002, Rubenstein saw surveillance cameras being installed around New York City and thought he knew how to make the cameras double as radiation detection devices. That would make it cheaper and easier for a city or a public venue to protect against a dirty bomb.

Rubenstein developed an algorithm that looks at the image data from the camera and recognizes “the particular image artifact,” as he puts it, that results when gamma rays from radioactive material hit the CCD sensor and produce a high number of electrons in one or two pixels. It took five years of work—including most recently extensive validation testing at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory—to bring the concept to market in the form of a software analytic licensed by Vidiation.

Innovators clearly need patience and tenacity. Michael Petty weathered a similarly long journey before seeing his idea for better guard tracking come to fruition. Petty’s system pulls together GPS, geofencing, mobile phone technology, motion detection, and Internet capabilities to yield real-time reporting and monitoring of guard performance. It took four years and about $3 million before it finally debuted as a product through NovaTracker.

Petty got his idea while working as a guard supervisor. Most end users who see a need aren’t able to develop the solution themselves as Petty did, but manufacturers are beginning to understand the advantages of working closer with end users to identify needs.

Visual Defence’s founder and chairman Barry Tal gives an example of a retail customer that said it had a problem with sales staff ringing up fake returns and pocketing the money. Tal’s company built an analytic that analyzes video in real time and alerts security when a return is rung up with no customer visible.

End users increasingly expect this level of interaction. More end-user engagement has been “the big change” in the industry in the last three years, says Joe Olmstead, director of marketing communications at Pelco.

“It’s a challenge that is penetrating the industry,” says Dedicated Micros President Allen Calegari.

And it’s a challenge that the innovators take on with relish—to the benefit of us all.

(For more on the ASIS International 53rd Annual Seminar and Exhibits, look inside this issue as well as in ASIS Dynamics and on



The Magazine — Past Issues


Beyond Print

SM Online

See all the latest links and resources that supplement the current issue of Security Management magazine.