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Cisco Invests In Converged IT And Video Surveillance Security

Posted by iTech - 2006-03-09

In a move to promote a convergence between IT security and surveillance cameras that act as the eyes of security professionals who defend physical perimeters and corridors, Cisco Systems Tuesday said it was planning a $51 million acquisition of SyPixx Networks Inc., a privately held maker of video surveillance software and hardware that lets existing analog video systems operate as part of an open IP network.

Cisco is looking to add intelligence to video security systems so that they do more than simply record and play back an analog history of events. "SyPixx can be used to integrate surveillance into an IP-based network," says Marthin De Beer, VP of Cisco’s emerging market technologies group, which will oversee the company's security convergence work. While it's difficult for companies to access and analyze much of the analog video surveillance footage available to them today, "When you make it digital, it becomes a snap to pull up relevant content," he notes.

Use of IP networking to control video surveillance also means footage can be shared anywhere the network reaches; security professionals don't need to run to a central surveillance booth to screen images. SyPixx offers encoder technology that allows existing coaxial-connected video cameras to digitize their feed to an IP network.

Cisco expects to close the acquisition in its third fiscal quarter ending April 28th. SyPixx was founded in 2004 and has 27 employees in Arizona, California, and Connecticut. Upon close of the transaction, SyPixx’s video surveillance products will be part of a new business unit in Cisco’s emerging markets technology group, reporting to De Beer. "As the world has changed over the past five years, people have become aware of the need to move the surveillance technology that's in place to a more scalable system," says De Beer of the reasoning behind Cisco's first foray into the market for converged physical and IT security.

Such convergence sets the table for a variety of security technologies that people know more from television shows such as 24 than from reality. One is the ability to capture a video image of a person moving through a yard or facility and use facial-recognition software to match that image against a database of known criminals or suspects. This technology is still a work in progress. The reality is that poor lighting and difficulty capturing a clean image of a suspect's face makes it difficult to get a positive match with an image stored in a database. Companies such as A4Vision Inc., a maker of 3D facial recognition cameras and software that are largely being tested outside the United States, continue to work through such problems. In February, Motorola said it would include A4Vision's technology as part of Motorola's biometric identity management and security portfolio of products, used for enrollment and issuance of secure national ID cards and passport documents.

"Once you put video on an open standards network like an IP net, application vendors can write software that can much more intelligently monitor what's happening," De Beer says. "This is only the beginning, but we expect rapid integration over the next two to three years."

When video data more widely becomes part of the IT infrastructure, the possibilities open up for emerging security software that alerts organizations via pager, E-mail, or cell phone to situations when people are, for example, moving in the wrong direction at airport exit lanes, when a person without clearance is trying to follow someone else into a secure area, when a vehicle is parked illegally, or when there's movement near a perimeter fence. The market for improved video surveillance continues to be fueled by security concerns nationwide. Chicago Alderman Rey Suarez recently proposed an ordinance requiring businesses operating more than 12 hours a day to install surveillance cameras.

Digital video recording equipment, which plays an important role in allowing video footage to quickly be captured, stored, and reviewed, generally hasn't been part of the IT network. This will change soon due to a demand for improved security systems and an influx of vendors into the market. Courion Corp., a provider of provisioning software used in identity management systems, announced Monday that it will resell Spike Server voice-based biometric technology from Diaphonics Inc., providing users with another access option for Courion's PasswordCourier self-service password reset and synchronization software. Diaphonics will in turn resell Courion's Enterprise Provisioning Suite through its direct sales force and channels.

Exacq Technologies plans in April to introduce its ExacqVision System, which includes digital-video recorder technology plus open APIs for integrating video-analysis software, access control systems, and other IT security applications with either digital or analog video systems featuring up to 1,000 cameras.

"This makes video cameras a source of data for the IT systems," says Tom Buckley, Exacq's director of sales and marketing. Security professionals will be able to view multiple video cameras on a single PC monitor, define whether cameras capture images at certain intervals (such as every 30 seconds) or come to life only when they sense motion, and establish criteria for who is authorized to view video footage.

You'd better believe Jack Bauer and the rest of 24's Counter Terrorism Unit would approve.

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