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Security Needs (Part II)

Eyeing the Markets

Security is, understandably, on the top of the priority list for airports and airlines right now, and those positioned to supply that market have seen a spike in activity since September.

One example is Axis Communications, which worked with Honeywell to install a thorough camera surveillance system at the international terminal of the airport in Sydney, Australia, including check-in desks, parking lots and concourses. The cameras record in analog, but Axis transfers feeds from the most important cameras to video servers.

The company hasn’t yet announced installations at any U.S. airports. But interest is there, said Axis’ Nilsson, especially since Axis’ video servers are compatible with face-recognition technology and are capable of taking snapshots of every passenger and matching that to the ticket number, said Nilsson.

Also, the company is ramping up to provide network cameras on board airplanes, with video signals being transferred in real time to the ground.

For other players, the biggest target is chain restaurants and other chain service stores, from convenience marts to oil-changing stations to fast food joints. A chain manager, after all, can’t be everywhere at once. Besides, many chains are operated on a scale that makes the operation a tantalizing opportunity.

Most players are avoiding the home market, at least for now. Several factors make it a hard sell: storing digital video eats up so much hard disk space that a homeowner might have to buy a separate hard drive to hold it all. The margins are lower and the prospect of so many customers raises costs. "To have ten Mr. Smiths calling up and saying ‘We have a problem’ is not a good investment of our time," said Lucido of J2 Digital.

Not that some aren’t trying to crack the home surveillance market. Xanboo is aiming to help homeowners safeguard the property and watch the kids or pets with an Internet-based camera system that costs $50 at CompUSA. To a lesser degree, so is X10, the webcam company infamous for its ubiquitous pop-up ads.

"They say the person who figures out how to have a mass-market product for consumers, that’s where the real money is," said Jim Diamond, Xanboo’s president. "The problem is no one’s figured out how to do it."

Another growing market is schools. In the wake of Columbine tragedy two years ago, school districts across the country approved funds to buy camera systems to keep watch over students in case such a catastrophe should happen again. The expenditures have been cleared, and today, the orders are rolling in for cameras to watch kids in the common areas of campus. "If it happens at the high school, (administrators) want to be able to be at the junior high school looking on," said Joe McPartland, a product manager at Ademco Group, which has identified schools as one of its biggest markets.

There’s no telling whether the dark clouds of ash from the World Trade Center will continue to have a silver lining for security companies. But there’s no doubt business owners everywhere feel that streaming surveillance might satisfy their need for vigilance. One more sign that the webcam isn’t just for fun anymore.

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