Tech wonders on homeland security horizon
( Reuters ) - Americans are facing a brave new world of post-September 11 technology marvels that could soon find their way into billions of dollars of projected homeland security spending.
Gee-whiz know-how -- from swarms of tiny airborne sensors to ever-sharper satellite imagery -- is being developed by companies chasing potentially lucrative federal, state and local deals to address 21st-century security threats.
Already in use are such things as infrared cameras with built-in brains that capture license plate images and match them in milliseconds to police records of vehicles of interest to the authorities.
Such license plate recognition systems, fixed and mobile, already are stopping criminals in cars in New York City, Washington D.C. and 23 states, according to Mark Windover, president of Remington ELSAG Law Enforcement Systems, which is marketing its product to 250 U.S. police agencies.
"Seventy percent of all criminal activity can be tied to a vehicle," he said. "Had to get there, had to go home."
Remington ELSAG says its algorithms -- which turn images into data in the blink of an eye -- could guard airports, military bases and other federal facilities as well as crack down on the drug trade, robberies and other crime hinging on stolen cars.
In other surveillance developments, the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, is defending a plan to make broader use of eyes in the sky that, until now, have mostly fed military and scientific needs.
"The use of geospatial information from military intelligence satellites may turn out to be a valuable tool in protecting the homeland," Democrats on the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff this month.