Sensors Mag

Security Schmecurity

February 1, 2006 By: Melanie Martella, Sensors

One of the serious growth areas for sensors is in security-type applications, both military and domestic. Although most of the big money’s in the Homeland Security/defense areas I’m sure home security systems are also a growing market as more people feel unsafe in their homes.

From a technological standpoint, sensors seem perfect for these types of applications. They don’t sleep; if installed correctly they will do exactly what they were designed to do repeatably and reliably; they can sense phenomena that we, limited by our mere five senses, cannot; they don’t get bored; and they aren’t susceptible to phishing. On the negative side, they can be fooled, broken, poorly installed, or used in some way that does not actually increase the level of security.

A Problem With Product Selection?

Here's an example of the latter situation, where vibration sensors and cameras placed along the U.S. border are experiencing so many false alarms that any perceived benefit is eclipsed. The border patrol application sounds like a nightmare. There’s a huge amount of terrain to cover, most of it inhospitable and remote, and while there are lots of very highly motivated people who want to cross that border there aren’t enough law-enforcement people to prevent them.

Oddly, this kind of perimeter monitoring and surveillance is one of the suggested applications for wireless mesh sensor networks where lots of small, battery-powered sensors with radios are scattered over the landscape and form their own robust wireless network. Maybe it’s time for the border to get an upgrade?

For Further Reading

If you’re interested in security topics, a worthwhile read is the Crypto-Gram newsletter by Bruce Schneier. He’s a cryptographer and security technologist and he’s got a great deal to say about security, both real and perceived (not the same thing).

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