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Laser video surveillance: ultra-secure or just a fad?

Published by Jennifer on May 18, 2007 2:50 PM

We've discussed how awesome video surveillance is for protecting almost any environment - from schools to businesses to research environments, it's one of the most surefire ways to protect nearly every type of building. But paradoxically, some areas are so secure and so sensitive that video surveillance isn't just inadequate, it could actually wreak havoc.

Businesses that rely on proprietary information for development are generally very secretive. After all, proprietary information isn't patented - it's open for anyone to use, as long as they can determine the formula or process in which a product is created. These methods are kept under lock and key and are sworn to secrecy. A common example of this is the formula for Coca-Cola Classic. The formula is only known by a very select handful of top-level executives at the company, most of whom are related to the inventor in some way. Coca-Cola relies heavily, and almost exclusively on the secrecy of the formula in order to keep the business afloat.

In these kinds of situations, where information essential to company production and profit is at risk, video surveillance can compromise the security and well-being of the building - after all, if surveillance footage filming the building gets out into the wrong hands, the company's owners have more to worry about than a couple of thieves or vandals. Traditionally, companies that heavily rely on trade secrets and proprietary information have used video surveillance in the non-confidential areas of their buildings and headquarters, but kept the secrets in safes or under heavy human watch.

This type of security has been somewhat effective, but all methods have their faults. A junior assistant at Coca-Cola was recently caught trying to charm their way into the ultra-secure research and proprietary area at Coke headquarters where the formula is stored, in order to sell it to main competitor Pepsi-co. They were caught and charged, but these kinds of security breaches can happen in even the most watched environment (you have seen The Thomas Crown Affair, right?).

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has recently patented a brand new form of surveillance technology that could change this. It still utilizes optics, but instead of using lenses and cameras like every other surveillance system out there, it uses lasers. That's right, lasers. In this system, a laser is used to scan an area and check for any abnormalities - like intruders or missing pieces of a room. This surveillance system, like video analytics cameras, is set to recognize the room that it scans and has mind-blowing resolution. A video surveillance camera of comparable power would have a 10,000 mexapixel screen. Unlike cameras that record, however, these laser systems don't leave any trace of the sensitive material they protect.

The patent for these new laser cameras is hot off the presses - and this new type of surveillance system is still years away from being a feasible solution, but the technology could be an amazing revolution for video surveillance technology.

Read the press release from ORNL
Read the patent from

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