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High tech business reaps rewards from terrorism

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Whistler conference explore partnerships between high tech and spies

Clare Ogilvie

Terrorism is good for business,

In the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. on Sept.11 security officials all over the world began to take a closer look at their agencies and the equipment they were using.

What they found were inefficiencies, gaps in security, and even some outdated equipment.

Filling in those gaps also filled the pockets of many counter-terrorism businesses, especially those in high-tech intelligence gathering.

"I think business is good now because everyone is trying to cover up their inefficiencies," said Jan Edmond of Breakpoint Inc.

Breakpoint has developed technology to monitor computers and other secure environments to protect against tampering.

It is on display along with other high-tech security devices at the first conference to bring together high-level politicians, policy-makers, and intelligence gathering agencies with inventors and leaders in technology to find new ways to combat terrorism and crime.

The Whistler conference was titled Strategies for Public Safety Transformation.

Edmond is now selling his technology to agencies in the States, including the FBI, where it can be used to alert the agency to any hacker who might break into their computer system.

It has a host of other applications. Alaska airlines purchased it and installed it in self-ticketing machines. If customers become abusive toward the machine the device alerts a security guard.

On the other side of the room Brenda Schorn shows off Imagis. It scans facial features and uses them as a means of identification.

The technology is being used to keep some areas of airports secure such as runways. Anyone wishing to enter the area would have their picture taken and compared against a data bank of employees with security clearance. The whole process takes only seconds.

"We are actually looking at about 200 points around the top half of your face," said Schorn, regional director of Imagis.

"Things like eye-width, shape, brow, nose, things like that. We are not paying attention to things like skin tone or hair colour.

" 9-11 had a huge impact on this technology because now it is not just being used from a law enforcement or investigative point of view. Now we are looking at other opportunities for border security, immigration security, passports, drivers licenses, it’s really opened up the whole national security aspect of using biometrics in this area."

At the Audio Visual Telecommunications booth applications engineer Keith Davel shows of a tiny camera and "video crunch box" which can send images in real time to a receiver.

AVT is in discussions with the high tech company, which provides black boxes on planes.

"If we had this video crunch box on the plane (hijacked on Sept 11) we could have had a cell phone signal transmit our video stream and we would have been able to see exactly what was going on, on that plane," said Davel.

"If you can see what is taking place you can make the decision about whether we need to destroy the aircraft before something happens or can we do something about taking these people out."

Davel said companies, which produce devices useful in counter-intelligence, have seen a marked increased in interest.

But, he added: "As you find with all fads a lot of people jump in expecting a lot of money to be made in a short time.

" But a short time elapses into a long time and a lot of people fall away. So only serious contenders will see the big business down the road."

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