A web of interconnected Internet-facilitated surveillance and building security controls is spreading across the continent and in Australian diplomatic missions overseas.
Initially a response to international terrorism, it’s having knock-on effects in areas as varied as policing, traffic management, out-of-hours building access, use of concierges, remote installation security and emergency response times.
Underlying the relentless spread of the interlinked security data network are prescriptions from the 2015 Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee, National Guidelines for Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Terrorism (PDF).
Continuing IT-enabled advances in individual equipment items, such as new technology for 3D cameras, are being implemented hand in hand with more broadband links to operational database centres in places like police stations to enhance real-time surveillance, monitoring of buildings and streetscapes and deployment of police, fire, ambulance and other emergency responders.
One particular technology finding traction within Australian facilities is time-of-flight cameras to boost the security of entranceways.
Until now one way of beating automatic gatekeeping equipment, such as a waist-level railway station turnstile, has been for a second person to jam in close behind the person in front of them. Security professionals characterise this as tailgating or piggybacking.
But a maturing image technology using lasers or pulsed LEDs with visible or near infrared signals, can distinguish between one person or two, or between a person and a pile of masking carpeting being carried in front. This is the time-of-flight camera.
Conventional formats for optic image devices typically rely on sequential scanning, with a laser beam scanning at high speed in a grid pattern to build an image (the raster). But with time-of -flight the signal illumines the whole target area at once, with individual photo-sensitive elements (such as photo diodes) in the receiver measuring the time taken for the round trip there and back to the sensor for each single point on the target.
Variations in the surface texture of the target (a protruding nose, lips on a mouth, a hat, jawline, tie, buttons, eyebrows, textile fabric) will create tiny discrepancies in the transit times for each point sampled by the light pulses.
Even at the speed of light, these micro-fractional differences can now be accurately measured (hence the term time-of-flight). The outcome is a real three-dimensional image which can be recorded in a database with three co-ordinates for each pixel.
When the original concept for the time-of-flight approach was first mooted, by the Stanford Research Institute as far back as 1977, there was no way processing chips or databases could keep up with the amount of rapid-fire calculation needed, particularly with pulses generated at something like 100 times a second. But the inexorable creep of Moore’s Law over the years, doubling processing speeds every 18 months, brought it within reach in time for the 21st century.
Useable cameras started to appear from around 2000 as semiconductors got up to speed — with an implementation spurt taking place recently. Small, light with compact design and low power consumption, they have already been used on video game consoles and can be added to revolving doors, security doors and portals, pedestrian security lanes and self-boarding security lanes for transport, waist-high turnstiles, full height turnstiles and access gates.
Previous 3D equipment has relied on taking simultaneous pictures with two slightly separated cameras, in a fashion closely analogous to the way the human brain and eyes work. Although the neural networks of the human brain can coalesce the two separate images into a single, 3D view, when all’s said and done there are still two flat images, taken from slightly different angles at the starting point of the analysis.
But the true depth images of a time-of-flight camera, recorded as 3D co-ordinates, enable sophisticated processing, storage and interpretation.
In turn, steady progress in networking technologies underpins the way large enterprises and public authorities are knitting together all the thousands upon thousands of individual security installations into an increasingly all-encompassing network of surveillance.
Dutch-based multinational Boon Edam supplies entrance technology in 27 countries, including the five-metre-high revolving doors for the new, four-storey wraparound ground-level structure being completed around the base of Melbourne’s Rialto tower. Founded in 1873, the company operates from the same town in north Holland which packages Edam cheeses.
Boon Edam has installed advanced security solutions for entrances in more than 100 separate locations for Australia, including office buildings, airports, healthcare facilities, retail outlets, hotels, restaurants and national attractions visited by millions of people in a year.
“Some of our security solutions are network ready and can be networked locally to a site or with full access via the Internet,” said Michael Fisher, managing director of Boon Edam Australia.
“It is possible to remotely control all of our equipment items from the Internet if they were connected to it using the correct hardware.”
The deployment of the technology is just one example how public sector agencies, enterprises and property managers are increasingly joining the push for extensive security coverage, and turning to hi-tech solutions to deliver it.