Printer Friendly

Out of the showroom and into the manufacturing plant.

History is about to repeat itself. A quarter of a century ago, retailers had two primary methods of protecting their goods - physical restraints and personnel. While locks and guards continue to have their place in store security, they have been supplemented by technology. Today, electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags are a standard antitheft device.

Sales of EAS equipment grew 25 percent per year in the 1980s - more rapidly than all other types of security equipment except access control, according to the Hallcrest Report II: Private Security Trends (1970 to 2000).

Now, industrial and commercial security managers are discovering EAS. Renamed electronic asset protection (EAP), tags now protect computer tapes against industrial espionage, babies against kidnapping, PCs and other equipment against theft, and nuclear power plant badges against carelessness.

The tags are being tested in applications as diverse as guarding historic shipwrecks against souvenir-hunting scuba divers and safeguarding furnaces against burning the wrong coal. On the cutting edge of the technology are intelligent tags, which transmit a signature, and they are blurring the lines between access control, inventory control, and asset protection.

All EAP systems have two basic components - a tag and a system. Whenever a tag passes through the system, an alarm is activated. The tag can trigger either a traditional point-of-event light or noise alarm or a remote signal at a security station.

The sensors can be installed in free-standing vertical panels, overhead clouds, or floor units. They can also be built into walls, since they work through typical construction materials.

The tags, which are smaller than typical retail tags, can be placed in plain view as a deterrent or concealed to catch the unsuspecting thief.

Increasingly, EAP is being used in conjunction with CCTV to take a time- and date-stamped picture of the event as it happens. This allows security managers to choose whether to stop the thief immediately or take more deliberate, if less timely, action.

"We've found it's very effective to put EAP at the exits of a facility and tie it into CCTV," says Terry Price, industrial group vice president for Sensormatic Electronics Corporation, which produces EAP systems worldwide. "If the system's alarm is triggered, a CCTV system will monitor and videotape the event."

One believer in the new system is Jack Altrogge, facilities manager for IMS America, a health information systems corporation. Following a rash of thefts of PCs and computer peripherals two years ago, Altrogge installed an EAP system with side and overhead sensors at the headquarter's exits.

"We looked at CCTV, we looked at increasing our guard services, we looked at limiting access," Altrogge explains. "[EAP] seemed to us to be the most practical system without impinging on the employees' use of the building. It offered us the greatest range of protection for the least amount of expense."

Altrogge implemented a double-blind system, giving the tags to the telecommunications personnel to install on computers and other assets. Neither Altrogge nor the security officers know what items are tagged. When an event occurs, an alarm sounds at a remote security office. Some sensors also sound an alarm at the exit itself, if the exit is not in general use. In all cases, a CCTV system creates a time-stamped video picture when the alarm sounds.

"We haven't lost any [items] since," Altrogge says. "We're very satisfied with it. It's a viable part of our integrated security and safety system."

The systems generally cost from $2,000 to $8,000 per sensing zone. Since one set of sensors is usually needed at every exit zone of a building, sites with multiple access points need several detectors. Nevertheless, the payback period is reasonable.

For example, a stolen portable computer costs about $2,500. Programming averages about $500. When hidden costs-such as lost production time, the transaction costs of replacing the computer, and the value of the lost information - are added up, the real value of a stolen computer jumps dramatically - to about $10,000 per machine. The payback period for most EAP systems is less than 12 months.

Sometimes standard return on investment is a secondary consideration. Nowhere have EAP systems been taken to heart as they have in the health care industry, and with good reason. Hospitals are using them to protect against infant abductions. Danbury Hospital in Connecticut installed an EAP system in its nursery. Two infants had been kidnapped from Connecticut hospitals shortly before Danbury Hospital decided to install the system.

"We wanted to take a proactive approach to this problem," says Ed Breitling, the hospital's manager of security and safety. "We just wanted that to not happen here."

EAP is now widely used in hospital settings, protecting not only infants but also assets, such as wheelchairs, diagnostic equipment, and scrub suits. Some hospitals have even used EAP systems to signal security personnel when Alzheimer patients wander away.

At more than two dozen nuclear plants around the country, EAP is being used to guarantee that access control badges don't wander away.

"If a badge is removed from the site, it could be used by somebody who isn't authorized in a certain area. It's an access control issue," explains Bob Zinn, security operations supervisor for Florida Power and Light's Turkey Point nuclear facility.

Depending on the type of access control system in place, a missing badge could be reportable to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, creating a mountain of paperwork.

EAP can also save a company money, according to Zinn. "Right now, we have an officer who monitors the exit hallways to make sure that people turn in their badges. This technology... will free up that officer."

BASF Corporation Information Systems has sold 200,000 of its 3480 computer tapes with tags installed, according to Ken Brown, BASF's product manager for computer tape. Typically used in electronic data processing centers, 3480 tapes often contain proprietary information.

"By protecting or controlling tape you're actually protecting information so that unauthorized people don't walk away with it and so that it doesn't move in an unauthorized manner. It's one way to enforce proper sign-out procedures," Brown notes.

Not surprisingly, various Department of Defense (DoD) data processing centers and DoD contractors are some of BASF's best customers, along with security-conscious corporations guarding against industrial espionage.

Perhaps the most unusual application for EAP to date occurred off the coast of Key Biscayne, FL. There, the National Parks Service has been testing EAP as a means of stopping the theft of artifacts from historic shipwrecks.

"Even if 98 percent of sport divers are ethical, you've got the other couple of percent to be concerned about," explains Daniel Lenihan, chief of the submerged cultural resources unit for the parks service. "Historic resources are nonrenewable. Once they're gone, they're gone."

The jury is still out on Lenihan's test; the tags worked despite the salt water, but in some cases their buoyancy caused them to break free and float to the surface. If that problem is resolved, other undersea applications for EAP will surely follow. The government is already considering placing decoy shellfish with concealed tags in off-limit oyster beds to protect against poachers.

Another test application is at a major factory that uses different types of coal and coke in various furnaces. Placing the wrong fuel in a furnace could result in an explosion and several million dollars in damages. That facility is experimenting with dropping tags into the more volatile fuel. If that fuel accidentally gets loaded onto the wrong conveyor belt, the tags sound an alarm, the belt is shut down, and the coal removed.

All those applications use standard, or binary, tags that transmit only two signals - on and off. But the development of intelligent tags is continuing. Now they are being manufactured by Texas Instruments, Hughes-IDI, Eureka, Cotag, and Indala. These tags send a signature, or identification, to a sensor.

One Texas facility, for example, is installing an EAP system in its parking lots using Texas Instruments' intelligent tags and Sensormatic sensors. The system is linked to a computer network, which immediately gives access to cars with authorized signatures and tracks the whereabouts of all vehicles. If the tag is not authorized, automatic entry is denied.

If the litany of EAP applications seems extensive, it is. But some uses are more appropriate than others. EAP is best used where the assets being protected are portable, the environment is open, and where the sensors can be installed in logical places. Those guidelines leave plenty of room for imaginative security solutions, however.

"This is a problem-solving technology," Sensormatic's Price says. "The business is new and evolving, and the market is testing the technology to see where it can be best applied. It's in its infancy, but the application potential is virtually unlimited."

Lawrence Cottman is a New York-based free-lance writer who often reports on technology and security issues.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:electronic asset protection systems
Author:Cottman, Lawrence
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:Sensing your way to security.
Next Article:Answering the question - what is security?

Related Articles
Industrialist of the year: knock on wood.
U.S. Pacific Group. (2002 Expo in Print).
Cellulose Converting Equipments.
New mobile showroom.
Asset management reduces repair costs and improves warranty tracking in tire manufacturing.
Nilpeter has new showroom, 'leaner' factory.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters