19 Feb 2018

Editor Introduction

Among its many uses and benefits, technology is a handy tool in the fantasy world of movie and television thrillers. We all know the scene: a vital plot point depends on having just the right super-duper gadget to locate a suspect or to get past a locked door. In movies and TV, face recognition is more a super power than a technical function. Video footage can be magically enhanced to provide a perfect image of a license plate number. We have all shaken our heads in disbelief, and yet, our industry’s technical capabilities are improving every day. Are we approaching a day when the “enhanced” view of technology in movies and TV is closer to the truth? We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How much has the gap closed between the reality of security system capabilities and what you see on TV (or at the movies)?

Joe Oliveri Johnson Controls, Inc.

Technologies, such as fingerprint and eye scanners, are innovations that have been showcased in future-thinking television shows and movies for years. Today, these technologies are no longer on the horizon, but rather they’re currently being used by leading organisations. In fact, biometric access control is the proper security term used to identify these scanners. An advanced access control system, biometric access control leverages unique characteristics, like hand geometry or facial recognition, to determine entry access or denial to employees and visitors by conducting a quick, physical scan. The system can be implemented with traditional access control and security systems to allow buildings to more accurately secure certain areas. By deploying this unobtrusive, user-friendly technology, passwords and keypads could become a thing of the past, and your building could work similarly to the ones featured on the big screen.

I think many people would be surprised at how close the reality of modern security is to its fictional counterparts. Not only can we restrict access through biometric solutions such as fingerprint and iris scanners, but we can pick faces out of a crowd with facial recognition software, and with thermal imaging, we can identify the presence of people unnoticed by the naked eye. With high definition cameras allowing extreme zoom capabilities, we can even tell someone’s eye colour over large distances. Add to this the ability to recognise someone from the way they walk, and there’s not much we can’t detect that they would be able to claim to on TV or in films. We might not be at the Minority Report stage where we can apprehend criminals based on “foreknowledge,” but we can certainly detect suspicious behaviour and act to interrupt any potentially criminal activity before it happens.

In some ways, we have moved on from reality trailing the movies and TV to a stage where the security industry is ahead of fiction. For example, iris recognition systems can’t be fooled by someone using a dead body to gain access, despite what Hollywood would have you believe! Security technology is progressing very quickly. For instance, 16 years ago, the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report theorised that law enforcement would be able to predict crimes before they happened. We don’t yet have the power of clairvoyance, but big cities with crime issues are now using technology to identify areas and patterns of crime to allocate resources to tackle problems. Integrated security and CCTV systems are using technology to track suspects and combat crime quicker than any human deterrent can. The gap between the big screen and reality is much less than the average member of the public might think!

Andrew Palmer Seagate Technology

If you watch programs like CSI: Miami, you see that law enforcers can take low-quality blurred images and enhance them to a point where previously indistinguishable faces are crystal clear. For now, this technology remains confined to our TV screens and imaginations, but the gap is starting to close. In Beijing, for example, police officers are equipped with body cameras, allowing them to scan the city’s streets whilst on the move. A few years ago, this kind of technology would’ve been firmly restricted to television and movies. In addition, the rise of 4K and, in time, 8K resolution cameras will also help bridge the divide between fact and fiction. This advanced technology can capture incredibly high-quality footage, even from long distances. However, as smart cities, smart transportation, and other surveillance programs become more prevalent, the widespread use of high-definition monitoring will increase the amount of data.

Editor Summary

How security systems operate in the fantasy world of TV and the movies actually has a practical impact on the physical security market. These fictional depictions of system capabilities can impact the expectations of customers. Television shows that depict technology marvels can help raise expectations of what technology can do. The need to meet customer expectations (and to manage unrealistic ones) is a challenge for security system providers. Fortunately, as our Expert Panelists point out, new technologies are pushing our capabilities forward.