IBM takes on homeland security

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"Priming the pump"

Like other vendors, officials at IBM Corp. have set their sights on the homeland security market.

The company is teaming with partners to provide government agencies with tools aimed at bolstering homeland security and information technology infrastructures.

IBM recently unveiled five security technologies for commercial and government organizations through its Institute for Electronic Government. The new tools will boost interagency information sharing, forge tighter airport and border security, and provide better coordination of surveillance and emergency response efforts.

"After Sept. 11, IBM has been working to bring technology to a new level," said Rusine Mitchell-Sinclair, general manager of Safety and Security Services at IBM Global Services.

Although the company is targeting specific markets, such as law enforcement and border security, its solutions might also be applied across government. For instance, an information sharing system initially used by police departments "can now be crafted to work across all agencies," according to Mitchell-Sinclair.

The IBM First-Responder Interoperability solution is a mobile communications network that enables first responders such as police officers to access critical information, including medical records and law enforcement data from agencies outside their region.

Based on technology from Templar Corp., a provider of data sharing software and services headquartered in Alexandria, Va., the system allows users to query multiple databases using a Web browser on a desktop computer, laptop, wireless phone or personal digital assistant via any TCP/IP network.

Templar's Informant software, which runs on IBM's WebSphere Application Server, allows information to be shared regardless of the structure of the underlying data sources. With the Java-based system, data is pulled from disparate data sources, mapped to an industry standard and displayed via a Web browser.

Forty-five local, state and federal agencies in San Diego are using Informant to share real-time public safety information. With one search via a secure intranet, users of San Diego's Automated Regional Justice Information System are able to view all available data on a person, vehicle or event.

This level of information sharing most likely will be adopted by government agencies because it doesn't involve drastic changes to the existing infrastructure, according to Peter Lindstrom, a senior analyst with the Hurwitz Group.

Security technology falls into two groups: "things you can do to leverage existing infrastructure and things that require new infrastructure," Lindstrom said. Biometric technologies fall in the latter group, he said, and require more effort and expense to deploy.

But IBM officials view such technology as crucial for organizations seeking to tighten security and reduce fraud.

To that end, the company has developed the IBM Secure Identity solution, a biometric identification system that offers multiple forms of authentication. At the core of IBM Secure Identity is a smart chip that permits the storage of photos, birth dates, identification numbers, passwords and biometrics for fingerprint and retinal scans all on one card.

Additionally, IBM is teaming with the Schiphol Group to provide an iris-scanning system that identifies and verifies travelers by cross-referencing a real-time iris scan with a traveler's preregistered iris data stored on an encrypted smart card. The Identification Before Verification System is being tested in a pilot project at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

IBM partner Lenel Systems International Inc. of Pittsford, N.Y., has developed a software suite that runs on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 Server and combines physical and virtual security. The system includes facility access control, alarm monitoring, ID card production, digital video surveillance and IT security.

IBM also has teamed with Xybernaut Corp. of Fairfax, Va., to provide public safety personnel with a wearable PC that gives them instant access to critical data.

Yasin is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Va.

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