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Providing End-To-End Security on Public Transportation Systems

Jan. 16, 2012
Foto: gemenacom /
Foto: gemenacom / more

Video On Demand
As Michael Fickes, an American journalist, rightly points out after researching mass transit video solutions, taking this amount of data continually from all the vehicles or trains on a typical transit system would quickly swamp both the network and central storage capacity. Therefore a mixture of both optional driver-initiated action and automatic algorithms such as facial recognition or boundary detection software can deliver a high level of crime prevention while sifting out the otherwise ‘useless‘ video sequences that only need to be archived and not viewed in real time. Where only near real-time coverage is necessary or where network coverage is not reliable, an on-board concentrator usually buffers accumulated images and/or data in a store-and-forward mode, waiting until a strong radio link is established before downloading. This data is commonly stored on a device with a conventional but fragile hard disk. High-capacity solid state memory is starting to be used now in mobile devices and provides robust archiving of important video material. Philip McDouall, director of transportation product marketing with March Networks in Ottawa, Quebec is keeping a close eye on the price of this and concludes "Like all technology, prices are falling for solid state memory, and we believe it will be affordable within a few years."

Innovative solutions have already been developed that can transfer live video images from within transport system vehicles directly to nearby police cars. As Michael Dillon, vice president of business development with California-based Firetide explains, "When the police car comes within range, wireless technology on the bus forms a network with wireless technology in the police car. The officers in the car can access cameras inside the bus and see what is happening." Police working together with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority then have a much better idea of any potentially dangerous situation that they are facing. Of course, marine security is a lot easier because a ship has 24/7 unimpeded access to satellites. Many service providers now offer low-bandwidth security solutions based on satellite technology, and the same operating principle can be applied equally well to both land-based and marine transport systems.

On The Quiet
Silent alarms and panic buttons are often implemented in household or commercial burglar alarms, and these have the wonderful advantage of helping to catch thieves in the act, ultimately removing them from circulation.

Likewise with transport systems; it can be advantageous not to alert the troublemaker to their impending arrest, enabling security staff to get closer to the incident before the troublemaker becomes aware of them.
The frightening rise of piracy, kidnap for ransom and extortion off the coast of east Africa has given rise to a number of high-tech solutions that, while not necessarily cheap in themselves, save the owners of vessels significant costs in compensation, insurance premiums and - in the worst possible scenario - possibly having to order a new ship. For example, the equivalent of the old train driver‘s ‘dead-man‘s handle‘ will ensure that all is shipshape and in good order. Failure to report on time, combined with unscheduled or out-of-bounds GPS tracking, can rapidly provide good reason to assume that one of the over 800 large ferry vessels operating in and around Europe has been taken over by unauthorized persons, and appropriate action can be initiated well before the hijackers expect it.

System Security
Finally a word about the security of the system itself. As soon as two or more devices are connected, the ports used become vulnerable for misuse. We must not make the mistake of concentrating so hard on providing the ultimate security for our passengers and forgetting our own. In these days of IP transmission, unused ports on every device must be disabled; firewalls must protect core equipment; passwords must be eight alphanumeric characters long or more, and not be the default one that can be looked up in the manufacturer‘s handbook on the Internet; encryption should be applied to all radio links and possibly also to wired links. It‘s not just the schoolboy hackers that must be prevented from gaining access to surveillance systems; terrorist groups will have no qualms about taking full advantage of any weak points in the system‘s security and being able to disable it at will. One end of the security system is, after all, in the security chief‘s own office.

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Keywords : Crime Prevention passenger security Rail Passenger Security Screening static security system video on demand video surveillance

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