IBM, Unisys debut homeland centers
- By Jennifer Jones
- Nov 10, 2002
Add IBM Corp. and Unisys Corp. to the list of vendors launching homeland security centers to showcase the latest technologies that federal agencies can deploy for domestic defense.
IBM unveiled plans Oct. 29 to open a new Government Solutions Center in Vienna, Va., at the end of this month. The center, open to a limited number of customers now, will offer a hands-on environment where customers can review IBM's efforts to combine the strengths of its major brands — Lotus, Tivoli, WebSphere and DB2 — into homeland security infrastructure software.
Meanwhile, on the same day, Unisys showed off its Homeland Security Center of Excellence. The office resides in the vendor's McLean, Va., facility and was developed during the past year to showcase Unisys' systems integration and technology development efforts for homeland defense, officials said.
These new vendor showpieces serve mostly as slick demo opportunities, but ultimately they will assist federal buyers seeking to integrate security technology with applications, said John Pescatore, a vice president at Gartner Inc.
"Something as simple as Microsoft Word or as complex as electronic forms applications will have to incorporate biometrics and other security measures," he said.
Microsoft Corp. is another vendor that recently allotted central floor space in the Washington, D.C., metro area for its homeland security gear, Pescatore said. Other systems integrators will debut centers as well, he said.
"There's been this kind of homeland security feeding frenzy going on," Pescatore said. "Anytime vendors see budgets going up 64 percent, while others are going down, this is going to happen."
The more exciting technologies for homeland security are what Pescatore described as "let-the-good-guys-in" gear.
Front and center at the new Unisys office is a Fast Trac Rapid Access Portal, a towering, security-laden, doorway-like structure that soon could be placed in airports.
Produced by New Britain, Conn.-based Rapor Inc., Fast Trac makes use of facial recognition technology and a glass door, which slams shut on unauthorized users.
"The idea is to take all of the pictures in existing databases and design a facial recognition system that will allow passengers to be screened quickly as they pass through the door," explained Ed Schaffner, director of positive identification and access control solutions for Unisys Global Public Sector.
Unisys has not yet added Fast Trac to any federal contracts, nor has the equipment made its way to airports. However, another demo at the Unisys center, the Registered Traveler kiosk, will likely be familiar to most airline customers.
A few airlines use Registered Traveler now, but the kiosks may soon be used throughout the nation. Registered Traveler generates boarding passes and baggage tags after users perform self-service check-in exercises safeguarded by personal identification numbers and smart cards.
The Transportation Security Administration, airlines and the Air Transport Association are now participating in a pilot program to test the system on airline employees before massive public rollouts, explained H. Clayton Foushee, vice president and deputy program executive of transportation at Unisys.
Several types of biometric technology were also on display at the center, where Unisys will demonstrate at least part of the work it was awarded recently by a $1.23 million Defense Department contract to develop equipment that can generate 3-D models of standard images and photographs.
"The 3-D model will start as a wire-framed head" on a workstation screen, Schaffner said. "We will then be applying near-lifelike qualities such as skin texture and color and animated expression."
Security officials then will be able to cast different lights on images of suspects and rotate their 3-D heads for different perspectives, Schaffner said.
Lacking such equipment, IBM instead focused on daunting data and looming Office of Management and Budget requirements to show the power of its homeland security offerings.
"OMB has called for the collaboration of business processes and the ability to put collaboration methods on top of these business processes. That is the role of middleware," said Arvind Krishna, vice president of security products at IBM's Tivoli Software.
IBM's new Government Solutions Center will show how the company's business integration strategy, built around Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java 2 Enterprise Edition, Web services and open standards, can help agencies.
Some vendors are opening centers to showcase their products for homeland security. For example:
* IBM Corp.'s Government Solutions Center in Vienna, Va., will offer a hands-on environment where customers can see how IBM's major brands — Lotus, Tivoli, WebSphere and DB2 — can be deployed as homeland security infrastructure software.
* Unisys Corp.'s Homeland Security Center of Excellence in McLean, Va., showcases the company's systems integration and technology development, especially in biometrics.