Web, Cable Alarms, Mobile Alerts to Make You Safer

Web alarms, mobile alerts aim to make you safer By Michele Gershberg

From emergency message networks that can reach 100,000 people within minutes, to alarm systems that allow you to monitor your home over the Web, new technologies are aiming to make U.S. consumers feel safer.

While institutions such as immigration services, banks and credit card companies continue to improve their systems to prevent fraud or theft, in many cases homeowners and their communities haven't kept pace.

That's starting to change -- but, unfortunately, it often takes a major disaster or tragedy to get people thinking about how to better protect themselves and their families.

Many new security technologies have sprouted as a result of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

The deadly rampage by a lone gunman that claimed 32 lives at Virginia Tech university last month brought renewed attention to a wave of companies offering the latest technology to keep people informed, and hopefully safe.

"It's probably one of the most backward industries in the United States today," said Vincent Tedesco, chief executive of Total Computer Group (TCG), referring to security technologies for identifying criminals. His company builds software applications for law enforcement agencies.

TCG is trying to remedy the situation with software that helps give police departments rapid access to crime records via a handheld-device linked to a Microsoft-supported database.

TCG's system could clue-in police, in the course of a routine identity check, whether they are dealing with someone who has a criminal record.

"Mohammed Atta was pulled over (while driving) in Florida and he had no license," Tedesco said, referring to one of the September 11 suicide plane hijackers. "If that officer had this product he would have known this guy was on the FBI terrorist list."

In the last few months alone, TCG has reached deals with 58 police departments in Pennsylvania and 20 new departments in New York state. The company is also in talks with authorities in the United Kingdom and with the Sultan of Brunei.


The Virginia Tech tragedy has spawned interest in ways to alert large groups of people of an unfolding crisis, whether by phone, text message or email.

"Everyone is becoming much more aware that there's technology out there in a situation where you want to get an urgent message out," said Mike Taylor, vice president of marketing for Honeywell Building Solutions.

"Until you have a crisis, the sense of urgency around doing something with it just isn't there," he said.

Honeywell recently upgraded a system used by schools to meet the needs of universities in alerting students to potential danger. The Instant Alert Plus technology can make 100,000 30-second phone calls and send

125,000 text messages within 15 minutes.

While that may be more than enough to cover a campus from students to faculty, employees and parents, the system could eventually cover much larger communities or entire cities.

"The good thing is this a very scalable system," said Taylor. "I'm sure we could add capacity if we had the need to do one million (alerts) in 15 minutes."

Such mass communication methods can be used for anything from notifying chemical plant employees of a leak to mundane matters like informing parents about a school meeting.

"In a Michigan school district, it was used to make parents aware that a man was posing as a policeman with a badge and walking up to students and asking to rifle through their schoolbags," Taylor said.

InGrid, a company that has developed a Web-accessible home security system, is mindful of the dual nature of systems meant to warn and communicate at the same time.

The company's technology is based on wireless sensors placed at many points inside a home that are linked to both a handheld device and a password-protected Web site.

The sensors provide real-time information not only on whether the house is safe from burglars, but whether children, parents or babysitters have entered the premises using their passcodes.

A newer application being developed by the company could help customers keep tabs on elderly parents from work or another location, hooking up to a medicine cabinet to make sure they are properly cared for.

"Once we have a system in the house, it provides a very efficient platform for collecting data of all sorts," said InGrid founder and Chief Executive Louis Stilp. "If your parents are living independently at home and no one has opened the refrigerator door today until 2 p.m., there might be a problem."

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at

formatting link
. Hundreds of new articles daily. And, discuss this and other topics in our forum at
formatting link
formatting link
For more news and headlines, please go to:
formatting link
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: In a smaller town like ours, these systems seem to work the best. Consider last night (Friday) for example, when the (very vicious, very extreme) tornado swooped down in Greensburg, KS about a hundred miles west of here. We have not had one _that bad_ since three years ago when the twister did much damage to the town of Parsons, KS which is northwest of here about twenty miles.

About 10:00 pm, the sirens began going off, and police took over our cable system to announce, 'just testing, stand by for any emergency instructions'. More or less immediatly they put a weather forecaster on the screen with a map showing the approaching storm and discussing it, but cautioning us, 'no need to seek shelter as of yet.' When the tornado actually touched down in Greensburg, we were much relieved, needless to say. Sad for those people, obviously, but pleased that we here had missed another one. Independence has been around for about

150 years, and I am told we have never yet been hit by a tornado, possibly because our town is in a valley (although _my house_ is on the side of a hill within that valley.) So, we are relatively safe from flooding (Verdigris River runs through town) and, it would seem safe from tornados since nothing is sticking up in the air. But these 'reverse-911' style systems seem to work very well around here.

They did not have a 'reverse 911' type system in effect when Parsons got hit three years ago in the storm which blew down the city hall/ police/fire building and many other structures. On that night, only those of us who like to listen to police scanners got any advance notice (over here) that something was going on, when we heard the Independence and Parsons dispatchers talking about it and our force going over there to help them out. PAT]

Reply to
Michele Gershberg, Reuters
Loading thread data ...

Cabling-Design.com Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.