Israeli security technology keeps mass transit safe

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg enters a subway terminal during the terror scare earlier this month. Verint’s Nextiva system has been installed in AirTrain JFK. (Photo: Reuters)The more than 4.5 million commuters who use the New York City subway …

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg enters a subway terminal during the terror scare earlier this month. Verint’s Nextiva system has been installed in AirTrain JFK. (Photo: Reuters)The more than 4.5 million commuters who use the New York City subway system subway each day were the targets earlier this month in an alleged terrorist threat against the United States’ largest mass transit system. The bomb scare prompted Mayor Michael Bloomberg to raise the Red Alert and order extra vigilant measures in the city’s transportation system.

One of the ways in which the people of New York, London, and the residents of other major cities are being protected is via an Israeli-developed technology which provides ‘see-all’ video, audio and data surveillance from multiple locations across a mass transportation system.

Launched last month on AirTrain JFK – the 8.1-mile light rail labrynthe that connects JFK Airport to the New York City area’s mass transit setup – the Nextiva Transit System developed by Verint Systems Inc. captures unattended bags, theft, loitering and other suspicious activities on tracks, passenger platforms, cars, buses, switching facilities and equipment depots.

AirTrain JFK is managed by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which maintains the bridges, tunnels, bus terminals, airports, PATH and seaports that are critical to the region’s trade and transportation capabilities. AirTrain enables thousands of air travelers and airport employees to travel to and from one of the world’s busiest airports every day and serves as an on-airport transportation service, taking travelers between the airline terminals, rental car facilities, hotel shuttles, and airport parking lots.

Nextiva will enable Port Authority police to enhance security of the rail system by centrally monitoring elevators, passenger platforms and certain parts of the track from a central operations center.

“We are pleased to expand our relationship with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and to help them enhance security for AirTrain JFK,” said Dan Bodner, President and CEO of Verint. “We have significant experience working with transportation authorities and are committed to delivering innovative networked video solutions to enhance security for the mass transit industry.”

“With the heightened level of security, transportation authorities are looking for effective solutions to better protect their infrastructure and ensure a safe environment for passengers,” said Bodner.

Verint, a leading provider of analytic software-based solutions for communications interception, networked video security and business intelligence, is based in Woodbury, NY. But the company was founded by Israelis, and Verint maintains its main research and development center in Israel where about 550 of its 1300 employees work – mostly software engineers. About 25 percent of the company’s stock is publicly traded after an initial public offering in May. The other 75 percent is owned by Israeli communication giant Comverse.

Nextiva’s biggest edge is in its intelligent filtering of information to provide ‘actionable intelligence’ (a trademark coined by the company), enabling operators and transit authorities to better detect threats, enhance emergency management, and conduct investigations effectively, Mariann McDonaugh, the company’s VP of Global Marketing, told ISRAEL21c. In the event of an emergency, Nextiva automatically sends out alarms, alerts, and video data to operations, security and law enforcement personnel for immediate action.

Nextiva enables organizations of all sizes, from small and mid-sized enterprises to major government and commercial organizations, to enhance the security of their facilities and infrastructure and the performance of their business operations by networking video across multiple locations and applying advanced content analytics to extract actionable intelligence from live and stored video. By alerting security personnel to potential security threats, Nextiva helps organizations prevent security breaches, improve response time and enhance operational efficiency

According to Bodner, the bane of any security personnel is false alarms. During the NYC subway scare, an expanded team of uniformed and undercover officers as well as sniffing dogs were called in. The subway system and Penn Station was closed down when Federal and local sources picked up information and sent out a memo warning that a team of terrorists may be traveling to New York City to put remote-control bombs in briefcases and baby carriages in the subway. The attack, which was supposed to be called for Sunday, October 9, was a false alarm.

“False alarms hamper the work of IT (Information Technology) personnel and cause unnecessary expense,” said Bodner, in a prescient interview with Globes before the NYC scare. “The more false alarms there are, the greater the motivation to close down the system. In order to prevent this, the security system must be connected to sensors able to distinguish between false alarms and the real thing… a higher number of sensors enables the system to cross-reference information in order to raise the level of accuracy.”

Citing Verint as “an increasingly critical partner of the US Homeland Defense,” Forbes described the difficulty of preventing attacks on soft targets such as subways and malls: “It is a business of finding the needle in the haystack, and shrinking the haystack so that it is easier to find the needle…”

“I can tell you that Verint believes in a three-pronged approach to transit security: proactive threat prevention, to identify threats before they escalate; an emergency event response; and post event investigation to filter large quantities of video and distribute it to investigative agencies,” McDonaugh told ISRAEL21c.

Bodner said that the company uses different concepts for security systems in public transportation, law enforcement agencies, public buildings, power plants, and airports, adding that most Westerners have a mixed attitude towards security measures: on one hand, they like to see more security, on the other, they object to intrusion on their privacy.

New Yorkers aren’t the only people enjoying the enhanced security environment provided by Verint. Earlier this year, Metronet Rail selected Verint’s networked video solution to enhance security of the London Underground.

After extensive testing of Verint’s networked video system, including pilot installation on selected rail lines, Metronet Rail selected it to be installed on the entire Underground. The system will enable security personnel to monitor passenger platforms and certain remote portions of the track.

Metronet Rail, under a 30 year contract with the UK government, is responsible for maintaining parts of the London Underground’s infrastructure. This includes ensuring security in trains, stations, tunnels and bridges. The London Underground handles more than three million passengers each day, making it one of the busiest transportation systems worldwide.

While the New York City subway scare turned out to be a unfounded, in the future, powerful terror deterrents such as Verint’s Nextiva System are ensuring that babies and baby carriages, as well as businessmen and women with briefcases can safely ride the Mass Transit systems.