August 2, 2008

Airport Security Upgraded First in Nation to Get Facial Recognition System

By CAROL WERSICH Courier & Press staff writer 464-7452 or [email protected]

Security is the paramount issue among air travelers these days, but Evansville Regional Airport - like other commercial airports throughout the world - rely on videocassette recorder security systems whose nonspecific tapes can take hours, days and sometimes weeks to decipher when suspicious concerns arise.

That, however, is about to change at the local airport.

The Evansville airport is the first in the nation to get a new technological security system, known as a 3VR (Third-Generation Video Recorder), said Bob Working, the airport manager.

The searchable surveillance system uses a Google-like analytical search engine for spewing out valuable information instantly.

For example, it displays in an instant on a computer monitor clear images of thousands of faces for identification purposes.

It finely narrows the search to faces with characteristics such as similar distances between the eyes for simplifying matches. It further enhances the images by making them extra large.

Officials of Evansville-based Gaither Technologies/STC (Service Telecom) - a licensed 3VR integrator and installer - are demonstrating the system during the annual conference of the Great Lakes Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives.

The conference kicked off Thursday night and runs through Sunday at the Executive Inn.

About 250 delegates, representing about 105 airports in 12 states and three Canadian provinces, are attending.

Steve Rudolph, Gaither's president, said his company is nearly finished with installing the 3VR at the local airport.

Airport 'excited' about system

The airport expects to break in the system by the end of the month after the security staff there is trained in its use.

"We're excited. It will be much more efficient and will save us lots of time," said Working. The airport has budgeted for the system, which Working said he expects will cost around $75,000.

With the airport's VCR system dating to 1992, Working contacted Gaither last October about replacing it with a new enhanced system.

Gaither researched several manufacturers but was most impressed with the San Francisco-based 3VR, a pioneer in delivering new surveillance solutions.

Eric Moss, Gaither vice president/director of data services, described the system as "TiVoesque-like" for its instant recall capabilities.

The system also includes a motion sensor, which allows a business to track the movement of something such as a package that is delivered and its delivery person.

The points of movement of the package are outlined in red on the computer monitor.

Moss visited the 3VR headquarters on the West Coast before Gaither decided to apply for a license with the manufacturer to become an integrator and installer of the product.

Gaither is among 20 companies in the nation with the license. The system originally was developed through funding from In-Q-Tel (IQT), a private equity arm of the CIA, after 9/11, said Rudolph.

He said he expects his local company to grow considerably through 3VR.

"We are starting to market the 3VR in Evansville and will grow outward," he said.

Expansion to banks, schools eyed

So far, Gaither has contacted a number of area schools, banks and other industries about acquiring the system.

Some government organizations, banks and corporations in other parts of the country already use the 3VR to address problems including fraud, theft and homeland security.

Rudolph said the 3VR also is intended for other purposes, such as marketing.

"A car dealer may want to track what vehicles on his lot get the most attention from prospective shoppers when the business is closed on Sunday, for instance," he said.

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