Virtual worlds on the horizon for security

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

DELRAY BEACH, Fla.—Virtual worlds and augmented reality are not just the stuff of the gaming world anymore. “A lot of this technology isn’t as futuristic as we think, it’s upon us now,” said Frank Yeh, senior security and privacy architect at IBM, who delivered the keynote address at TechSec Solutions Feb. 1.

Further, there’s tremendous potential for this technology to harness data in new ways and really change and improve the way physical security systems work, he said.

Want to do facial recognition using your iPhone?, Yeh asked. You can download an app, called TAT, which does just that. It not only recognizes faces, information about the person appears in dialog boxes floating around that person’s image. How about attending a “virtual meeting” with colleagues who are located in cities around the world? Yeh showed a demonstration of Cisco’s Telepresence, which he called “a phenomenal technology” that will save businesses money be allowing them to “tranport bits not bodies, in the future.” One of the coolest things about telepresence technology, he said is that “it offers you things that you can’t do in a face-to-face meeting.” Yeh showed the how virtual conference attendees could all view the same virtual diagram of a facility during a meeting, for example.

So how will this technology impact the security industry? Yeh had some examples. These technologies will use the growing pool of data (geographical, weather, historical, to name a few) to make computer-generated models that will be extremely helpful in security applications, he said.

“It’s all about the overlay of the virtual on the physical,” he said. He showed for example a simple video analytic application of traffic patterns. Using available data on mapping, weather, and other technologies, this simple application can give much more information and options to the operator.

It’s called “augmented reality” and it “changes what you are are aware of.” A security alert that flags a speeding driver could show the operator what the landscape looks like beyond the camera's view, who the other drivers are, where the nearest police officer is, and make dispatch a matter of touching the officer's virtual image.

Those working on these technologies are just starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible, Yeh said, and he left attendees at the keynote with his email address and a challenge “to come up with ideas to make all of the data available more accessible to security people ... so they can concentrate on being security people.”