By Amit Chowdhry | Forbes.com
The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that there were 6.9 million people supervised by adult correctional systems in the U.S. as of the end of 2013. And there are millions of people around the world that work in high risk locations such as military bases, correctional facilities, power plants and airports that depend on sensor technology to prevent intrusions and prison breaks. To keep these facilities secured, advancements in sensor technology has been a core focus for several companies.
To learn more about sensor technology and perimeter system development, I sat down with executives at Integrated Security Corporation in Novi, Michigan — including President John Hyland, Engineering Manager Bernie Malkowski and Application Specialist Christian Toma. The advantage of Integrated Security’s products is that each one offers high performance quality at a low cost. During the interview, they gave me a demonstration of Integrated Security’s Hydra asset protection system.
The Hydra asset protection system has a near zero false alarm rate because it uses a network of wireless mesh sensors that detects intruders using two independent sensing technologies in each sensor. Information is passed on to the Hydra Gateway and then to alarm relay modules, which can be connected to integrated intrusion detection systems, alarm panels or independent interfaces.
If someone is standing near a fence at one of the high risk locations, then the Hydra will be able to detect body heat using a short-range passive infrared (PIR) sensor. Disturbances to the fence can be detected using accelerometers also. The alarm will go off if both sensors are activated. Using the sensors, the Hydra can distinguish between humans trying to climb the fence and objects striking the fence. Integrated Security’s Hydra system is the first perimeter and asset protection system that can be integrated into a high risk location’s existing standard alarm system.
Many of the high risk locations like airports and refineries have perimeters that are miles long. To provide security for large perimeters, the Hydra wireless mesh network passes information to each other until it reaches one of the sensors that communicates with the gateway. “For a typical installation, Integrated Security Corporation’s just requires a head end in a mechanical room — some of the other perimeter systems companies require electronics every so many feet and requires a PC to run the software, taking the installation time from weeks to days” said Hyland during the interview.
When Malkowski started designing the Hydra system, the supply of accelerometers and wireless sensors was very low. But the demand for accelerometers increased as smartphones became ubiquitous so Integrated Security was able to benefit from the economies of scale. “When the sensor is actively running, it draws only 65 microamps. We ended up using the PIR because it works well enough with the accelerometers. Basically it is a smart sensor with a microcontroller, a mesh based radio, and small sensor suite for true alarm discrimination,” added Malkowski.
During the presentation, the Integrated Security team showed me the set up plan for one of the Department of Corrections facilities in the U.S. “I recently did a demo for executives at a Corrections Department. The Department of Corrections executives ended up calling back a few hours after the presentation to say they were having problems with monitoring the fire exit doors at all the prisons. So we installed the Hydra on the doors and PIRs were placed on the roofs and fences,” said Toma.
Some of Integrated Security’s customers includes the Air National Guard, the Army National Guard, Fort Bragg, Ford Hood, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Atomic Energy of Canada, Constellation Energy, Southern Company, Xcel Energy, the Detroit Metro Airport, Federated Logistics, Colorado Springs Utilities, Marathon Petroleum, Qwest and University of Massachusetts.
Integrated Security recently completed a project with a contractor for DTE Energy. The contractor worked out of a yard in a rough part of Detroit where thieves would steal batteries off of his trucks. Toma noticed that the fences where the trucks were parked appeared to have multiple unsecured entry points. Rather than setting up sensors on the fences, the Hydra sensors were placed on the trucks instead.
The Integrated Security website has a sensor network status tracker to monitor each wireless sensor. Since each radio sensor has a MAC address, users can distinguish between each sensor. The sensors are able to report its state, battery level and latency. Zones can be assigned using Integrated Security’s web application, too.
Protecting assets and preventing intrusion can be a major challenge for high risk locations, but installing sensors around perimeters is a wise place to start. Fortunately, Hydra’s components are modular and can be scaled depending on coverage requirements. To learn more about how the Hydra works, below is a demo video: