Questions and Answers From the Top
A conversation with Ralph C. Jensen
- By Security Products Staff , Ralph C. Jensen
- Dec 01, 2007
Celebrating 10 years of publishing in the security industry, Security Products magazine editor
Ralph C. Jensen fields a few questions about the industry, technology and the wave of the future.
Q.What do you think will be the single
most important security issue
in the next 10 years? Why?
A.We’ve just about talked to death the
term “convergence,” but the integration
of legacy security systems with the IP
network is on the verge of exploding. That
doesn’t mean analog cameras are a dying
breed, but they’ve had their heyday. The
focus on enterprise installation will be
aimed at network-enabled cameras. I tend
to think there is more than a single most
important issue, especially over the next 10
years. One of the hottest topics today, and
likely forward from here, is video analytics.
I believe that video analytics has to be
accomplished in increments and with the
customer in mind. There is some opinion
that the analytics industry is totally vendor
driven and, for the most part, I believe that
is true. Just because it’s available doesn’t
mean the customer actually has a use for it.
It’s one thing to put a lot of fancy stuff
in the camera, but some industry experts
say analytics is not well tested. The
motion application works well in an
indoor environment, but outdoors, it is
quite another matter.
Please, don’t get me wrong, I believe
in video analytics. It certainly has a future
in this industry. There are many companies
working in this market, but few are
profitable. Another consideration is that
there will be many more cameras than
there are people able to watch them, so
video analytics will be necessary. And, it
will have to be done intelligently.
Certainly, analytics has a future, but
some venders today are promoting applications
that don’t reach as far into the
future as they say. Let’s watch carefully in
the next two years and see who survives
Q.The emergence of IT security has
already had far-reaching effects
on the industry as a whole. What do you
think the role of IT security will be in
the years to come?
A.The role of IT security is extremely
important and will only continue to
become more so in the future. IT security
has become a virtual legal requirement as
a result of legislation such as Sarbanes-
Oxley and HIPAA. Compliance with these
mandates, and others, has raised the stakes
for all organizations when it comes to protecting
their IT assets.
The challenge is globalization. In addition,
the general efficiencies that can be
gained through IT networking, a high
degree of interoperability and openness
between organizational networks, also are
desirable. The goal of IT security is the
same as that with physical security, and
that’s to keep the bad guys out while minimizing
problems for authorized persons.
In the IT security world, the tools are
firewalls, antivirus software and new IT
security processes and protocols. They act
the same way as cameras and card readers
in legacy systems.
Up to now, IT security has worked well
at creating “fences and walls.” The focus
now is “cop-on-the-beat” type security—
tacitly accepting that there will be times
that threats get in, but making sure the
mechanisms are in place to isolate and
neutralize those threats before they do
This is where much of the innovative IT
security is occurring—not only in network
equipment, but in areas like PC operating
systems and other core components.
Security must be a major component of
any IT plan going forward, no matter how
small. Networks cannot be planned,
extended, upgraded or overhauled without
making security components—hardware,
software and written procedures—an inherent
part of the plan from the beginning.
Q.They say necessity is the mother
of invention. Do you think this is
the case with national security—technology
innovations will continue to
appear as strict security regulations
continue to be upheld?
A.I believe we’ve only begun to see
the genius that technology has to
offer. I’m sure the government won’t disappoint
in setting forth new security regulations.
After all, it’s what they do best. There
already has been a call to arms, if you will,
a challenge to produce equipment designed
to protect the country and its citizens.
Take, for example, shoe-scanning technology.
There are those both big and small
that desire to bring about the technology
to scan shoes for explosive residue. That
will happen, whether it’s today or in the
near future. Some of the brightest minds
are working on such a technology.
I believe that facial recognition technology
will be perfected at some point in
time, and whether it’s called profiling or
something else, the technology will recognize the characteristics of a person of
interest. Biometrics continues to make
strides in fingerprint, iris scan and vein
Perhaps the phrase “necessity is the
mother of invention” should be changed to
include the word technology. Our socioeconomic
structure demands that technology
flourish, and as a society, we embrace
these advances. The security industry is no
different. It’s a technology-filled dynamic.
Q.By December 2009, the Real ID
Act will require each U.S. citizen
to have a federally-issued, machinereadable
ID card with a digital photograph
in order to travel on an airplane,
open a bank account or take part in
almost any government service. What
are your thoughts on this requirement?
A.This certainly is a politically
charged question. It matters what
side of the aisle you line up on. According
to the Department of Homeland Security,
the REAL ID Act requires that a REAL ID
driver’s license be used for “official purposes.”
Those things include accessing a
federal facility, boarding federally-regulated
commercial aircraft and entering
nuclear power plants.
Most people don’t enter federal facilities
and probably don’t even want to go
inside. Those people who work there are
mandated to have a common access card
and already are known by the government.
And, the fact is, you’re not getting into a
nuclear power plant unless you belong
there, badge or no badge.
The government says this is not a
national ID card, though the proposed regulations
establish common standards for
states to issue licenses. Proponents of the
act say it is not the government that is issuing
licenses and that they are not collecting
information about license holders. I question
why there is a need for such a card.
Introduced by Rep. James F.
Sensenbrenner (R-WI), H.R. 418 is meant
to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum
laws of the United States, to unify terrorism-
related grounds for inadmissibility
and removal, and to ensure expeditious
construction of the San Diego border fence.
Many Americans distrust the government’s
motives, and the reason comes
from the fear of people storing personal
information in a national database accessible
to state and local governments. The
fact is, 12 states have opted out of the
national ID program, and I expect more to
do the same.
I would be reluctant to give the government
carte blanche, and I believe they
could find better use for the money spent on
such a program. It’s not so much the cost to
taxpayers, but the cost of a free society.
This is something that threatens what
remaining privacy Americans have.
Lawmakers have chipped away at personal
freedoms for decades, and a recent poll
shows that people are outraged over
There are better ways to combat terrorists
than to burden Americans. I believe
more can be accomplished at our borders.
Government officials already have a fair
idea who the terrorists might be, but they
shy away from profiling for the sake of
If we truly are concerned about terrorists
in this country, political correctness
demands that security and protection be
based on intent to harm, rather than discrimination
against a U.S. citizen.