Corpus Christi port buys security technology

The Port of Corpus Christi

The Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, is implementing various high-tech security devices and systems, including advanced technology that automates threat detection through real-time video analysis.

"Their current systems, as I understand it, consist of some cameras and some video monitoring that is essentially manually looking from camera to camera," said Bob Sommerfeld, president of Adesta LLC, which is implementing $1.8 million in security upgrades for the port, the sixth largest in the country in terms of tonnage. "So this will be a significant upgrade in their system in general and, specifically, in their video monitoring and automated capabilities."

The company is providing cameras, intrusion detection technology, fencing, sensors and an access control system, all on a fiber-based communications network that transmits data to a central location, Sommerfeld said.

Part of that upgrade is a policy-based, advanced detection platform called the Security Data Management System, developed by VistaScape Security Systems, which port officials can use to establish criteria and guidelines governing security within a perimeter. For example, if trucks are prohibited in a particular area of the port, an automatic alert can be sent to security personnel when a truck enters that zone. Alerts can be based on time or an object's speed and direction, and they can be sent via pager, phone and text-to-speech.

The software detects objects moving on the camera, and can distinguish among a bird, person or dog, as well as different vehicles whether, it's a truck or car, said David Gerulski, the company's vice president of marketing.

VistaScape's product can track up to 50 objects moving within camera's view, Gerulski said, adding that views in an area are stitched together to essentially form one picture. "You'll actually see objects that are tracked from camera to camera and the information and knowledge of all the cameras into a single view," he said.

That's important, he said, because ports are looking to install 100 to 200 cameras, but studies show that security guards can only look at up to six views at one time.

On a screen, security personnel can see an aerial photograph of a locale, with icons representing moving objects. Gerulski, who likened it to a Namco Pac-Man screen, said users can click on an icon and view a live video feed of that object in a pop-up window. The system can be integrated with a port's new and existing cameras, whether they are analog and digital, including those that have infrared imaging capability. The system runs on a Microsoft Corp. Windows-based PC and uses Microsoft .NET and other open standards.

A particular challenge in port security is moving water. Waves pose difficulty for most other systems that rely on motion detection, Gerulski said, adding, "Our technology actually learns what it's looking at and can ignore waves." A perimeter line can be drawn 300 feet from the shore, for example, so anything moving within that perimeter can be detected, he said.

Boston's Logan International Airport and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection are both testing the system in pilot projects, he added.

Sommerfeld, whose company has a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has secured various governmental facilities, said all major ports are planning security upgrades and enhancement projects or have them under way. Work on the Port of Corpus Christi, midway along the Texas coast on the Gulf of Mexico about 150 miles north of the Mexican border, will be completed before June 2004, he said.

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