Games plan – the 2012 security challenge

With the London 2012 Olympics only three years away, the security technology industry is ready to capitalise on the demand for new and existing systems to counter crime and terrorism. Berenice Baker reports

The London 2012 Olympics are set to break records even before the athletes of Team GB attempt to better their outstanding performance in Beijing, with the gold the UK’s athletes hope to sport round their necks paling alongside the eye-watering £9.3bn cost of the project.

And with a serious chunk of this mammoth budget already set aside for security, planning is now under way for the suite of technologies that the organisers pray will ensure that London’s Olympics make the headlines for all the right reasons. The overall budget for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games includes £600m for policing and wider security on top of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) budget for security of £354m and the provision that LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) has set aside for in-venue security, with an additional £238m of contingency if required. These sums begin to seem reasonable when you consider that between them the Olympics and Paralympics will feature 14,700 athletes competing in more than 30 different sports held at around 40 venues. Indeed, for the two major weeks of the games, more than nine million tickets will be sold and up to 180,000 spectators a day will enter the Olympic Park.

Keeping the events, venues, athletes, public and staff safe and secure with numbers such as these is a monumental undertaking that can only be attempted by a well-coordinated combination of personnel, information and expertise. All, of course, supported by an array of new and established technologies.

And it goes without saying, defence and security technology companies are champing at the bit to have their names and products associated with one of the biggest events hosted by the UK in living memory.

One such group is EADS’ Newport-based Defence and Communication Systems (DCS) division, which although not yet selected as an Olympic supplier, has set up its vision of how its latest technology could be used to help secure a large event such as the Olympics, from airport arrivals through to police and civil command-and-control centres.

From advanced weapons detectors, through to personalised RFID-enabled tickets and CCTV systems able to track and identify individuals, EADS’ mock-up demonstrates how technology could enhance every aspect of Olympic security. It also provides a glimpse behind the scenes at civil command-and-control centres, where live feed information from AI-enhanced cameras on the ground and UAVs is merged with information about the environment from GIS and mapping data to detect and locate suspects. This can be viewed through NetCOS, EADS’ synthetic environment.

Dr Mark Bentall of EADS explained some of the company’s technologies he could envisage being used in an event like the Olympics. ‘We have a lot of intelligence data fusion capabilities, such as multi-sensor data fusion, where you combine open-source information and fuse that with intelligence to provide a richer situational awareness to enable the authorities to know how to react,’ he said.

‘CCTV is extensively deployed, but one of the challenges at an event such as the Olympics is the sheer quantity. It is too much for a team of people to process and identify what should be looked at. Our Divyne [dynamic visual networks] research programme looks into making it easier to use the information coming in. An object that is alien to the picture but stationary — such as a bag left in a corridor — is highlighted if it’s immobile for a few minutes and raises an alarm. You can even look for certain makes, models and colours of cars, even down to a year, on top of numberplate recognition.’

Another hot topic is indoor navigation; GPS-based systems are limited to outdoor coverage. ‘You can overlay augmented reality information such as the location of colleagues, exit locations and amount of oxygen left,’ added Bentall.

There is a raft of available biometric identification technologies and EADS sees its role as integrating them to provide the identity management needed, such as tracking individuals by face recognition across multiple cameras to identify both their location and direction.

EADS has trialled explosives-sniffing technology at airports and is now investigating new ways of doing it in a more accurate way, to minimise disruption to people as they pass through while maximising the level of detection.

The company also has experience with perimeter security through its military divisions. Bentall said that a solution for an Olympic-style event would integrate new capabilities into existing systems, such as adding CCTV, which could in future be used in military applications. ‘We’re now seeing the security market evolving technologies we can use in the defence market,’ he said. ‘The defence market is more open to developing programmes, whereas security is more into buying security products and pre-developed solutions.’

However, Tony Gale from General Electric (GE), a worldwide partner for the IOC, cautions that the very latest technology is unlikely to make the grade in time for 2012. ‘The ODA and LOCOG have said that if technology is not commercially available by 2010, it won’t be used in any critical areas, such as security,’ said Gale, who is head of GE’s project team for London 2012.

As well as supplying green power and water solutions to the Olympic site though its Ecomagination initiative, GE has a strong grounding in security technology. ‘We do access-control systems from a basic card reader through iris scans,’ he said. ‘At this stage we’re looking at a simple access-control system for the venues under construction.’ Crucially, these card readers will also consider life after the Olympics. ‘In the past we’ve seen a preferred supplier for a venue security system put in their solution but without checking it’s compatible with the organising system,’ warned Gale, ‘but in London I’m confident that the ODA is checking there are no issues with interfaces between the systems.’

The Metropolitan Police is also taking a cautious approach to introducing new technology. Although the Olympics is effectively a private event with its own security, the police will be there in a support role, in the same way there is a police presence at any large football match.

The director of ICT for the Met, Steve Whatson, said: ‘The Olympic Security Directorate [OSD] wants to see the existing technology enhanced. This has advantages on the operational side as it’s already happy that it works, it’s tried and tested and staff are already trained.’

One example where innovation is being delayed rather than pushed forward is the Met’s computer-aided despatch system used for command and control, which was originally due to be replaced in 2010. ‘It was recognised that with the Olympics happening it would represent an enormous risk,’ said Whatson. ‘So rather than do that, the replacement is being put off until after 2012, but the existing system is being enhanced with new hardware and software and more resilience. It’s a major enhancement, deliberately designed to take it past 2012, so the replacement system will come in 2013 or 2014, after the Games have finished.’

Another well-established technology that will be enhanced is the emergency services’ Airwave radio system, where higher numbers and more coverage in the new venues will be supported.

All the new venues will require a forward command post, from which all the emergency services will operate and which will be the first point of contact with the venue security. ‘In addition, there’s a main control room at Stratford, and then we will look to enhance the special operations room at Lambeth and its fallback at Hendon, which are used for all planned major events, to cope with the increased scale of the event and number of officers,’ added Whatson. ‘A national Olympic coordination centre then needs to be set up to allow coordination between the emergency services and LOCOG when they run the Games. It’s important nothing stops the Games — that needs clear lines of communication at the very top level.’

For data security, the Met has set up the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) under Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, which during the Olympics will mainly focus on fraudulent tickets. PCeU is in talks with Atos Origin and other IT suppliers to the London 2012 Games to secure the Games’ IT backbone, which will support 1,000 servers and 10,000 PCs, as well as wireless access at Olympic Park and results terminals at venues.

The Met is also looking into GIS mapping. ‘We’re interested in displaying information on new sites and venues to brief officers before their deployment,’ said Whatson. ‘It will make sure they have a good idea in advance of what the buildings look like, either as a 3D image or a flat representation. With a limited amount of opportunity to do on-site planning and briefing of officers from outside London, mapping is one of the ways we’ll get people more familiar with the sites in a limited time frame.’

The Met is in the process of rolling out automatic person location, which uses Airwave technology and GPS to report back where the police officer is. ‘If a lone officer is attacked, as soon as they hit the red button, their entire location is known by the controller so they can get aid out quickly,’ said Whatson.

‘Generally, we’re keen to avoid giving operational users whizzy technology, but there are a few areas where the user requirements are still being defined. There I’m sure we’ll be looking to procure new systems,’ he added.

Between 5,500 and 10,000 officers will be involved in policing the games from London and the counties where events are taking place, but business as usual has to carry on in the background, with the Notting Hill Carnival, the Queen’s diamond jubilee and regular football matches still going on. As well as its well-established work supporting emergency services, Airwave is building a separate second network for the Olympics using the same Tetra underlying technology.

A spokesman from Airwave told The Engineer: ‘We will use a separate spectrum, which gives security and separacy, as well as building it in a slightly different way. Our Private Mobile Radio network will be for all the operational services behind the Olympics: security, catering, transportation and all the bodies that encompass the Olympics itself. The potential number of users is in the thousands. ‘The underlying technology is tried and tested, and at the moment, we are not developing any new technologies we intend to use,’ he added.

Airwave’s new service will go live in early 2011 to support the Olympic test events, which involve an end-to-end test of all the processes in the Olympic programme. Communication infrastructure and the policies and procedures that go behind it are among the thousands of components which will be tested at that point. ‘It’s a fantastic opportunity for us in terms of delivering something underlining the drive to provide a safe and secure games,’ said Baker.

Giving a more strategic view, Anthony McGee of government think-tank RUSI thinks that the security threats to Olympic venues are likely to be mundane: ‘It’s a question of resilience,’ he said. ‘Have we got proper resilience built into our electrical supply and telecommunications, have we addressed the threat of serious organised crime in terms of secure ticketing? Those are things that would concern me much more than a terrorist threat.

‘It might sound cynical to say it, but if London has a terrorist attack and the Games come to a halt because something’s blown up, we’ll have the world’s sympathy. If the Games come to a halt because the lights have gone out and we don’t have the proper backup and redundancy, then we’ll be the world’s laughing stock. These are the things keeping serious planners awake at night.’

McGee cautioned that the government and Olympic bodies need to move quickly to get security in place. ‘It seems like everyone’s waiting on this master security plan which continues to be delayed,’ he said. ‘The problem is a lot of planning and design needs to go ahead whether the budgets are released or not.

‘If they don’t know what the budgets are going to be, they proceed with design and planning on the lowest-cost basis and that means the more sophisticated aspects that could make it a more pleasant experience for those visiting aren’t built in, and the cost of building them in later will be astronomical.

‘The private sector has a huge amount to offer in terms of technology and manpower, but history shows that they can only effectively contribute if they’re brought into planning a long time in advance.’

One man well-positioned to comment on system support for emergency situations is Dr Jack Zhang, an architecture design member of the Emergency Management Systems (EMS) platform for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Speaking at this month’s Counter-Terror Expo in London, Zhang said that there was a commitment by the Beijing Olympic committees that during the Olympic Games, anyone at any time and anywhere would be able to access abundant and multilingual information services safely, conveniently, promptly, efficiently and affordably. ‘Before we designed the platform, we investigated the platforms of previous Olympic cities, its functions and what can we leverage by talking to the Salt Lake City and Athens Olympic Committee.

‘We had key strategies to keep in mind. These included the development of alarm systems around the potential targets of a large-scale terrorist attack, and information gathering on vulnerable targets, terrorists, and the likelihood and degree of risk and how the system of the target of the attacks can function after a terrorist attack.

‘We also employed disinformation, such as the route of the torch relay changing many times. Another is countering CBRN-E (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive) devices. There were more than 100 soldiers involved in the Beijing anti-terrorism team, and missiles were fitted on the bird’s nest stadium in case of a big attack.’

Aside from physical attack, each recent Olympiad has seen an exponential increase in the amount of online information handled, which could prove another vulnerability. Denis Edgar-Neville, chair of cybercrime forensics at the British Computer Society, said: ‘By its very nature, the London Olympics is high-profile, high-status and therefore a potentially considerable risk.’

He added that during the Beijing Olympics, there were 12 million computer security alert situations a day. ‘The internet connectivity with a billion people means that potentially there are a lot of people wanting to target you. I think the basic infrastructure is very robust. Personally, I’d be amazed if there was a major catastrophic failure of key computer systems during the Olympics.’

As the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) project director for London 2012, David Evans has an insight into the key technologies civil security firms could provide for the Olympics. ‘The key role of technology is in the design of the new buildings, mainly the Olympic Park,’ he said. ‘For that, the Olympic Security Directorate has been advising the design teams on areas as diverse as blast modelling, and CCTV coverage. They’re very hopeful that the buildings themselves will be granted the award of Secure By Design.’

Evans said that although the security threats may get more technically advanced in the next three years, all the plans are scalable. ‘The main thing is to use technology that is tried and tested and works well — for instance magnetic arches and X-ray machines,’ he added.

There’s no denying the enormity of the 2012 security bill. But with many hoping that the London Olympiad will greet our emergence from the dark tunnel of recession it should be a price worth paying. And, according to Lord Drayson, the government’s science minister, if we get it right, it won’t just be the UK’s athletic prowess basking in the glow of international recognition. ‘The Olympics,’ he said, ‘represents a showcase of the best of British. To ensure they are successful and safe, we need to use the latest technology in an effective way, in the same way as our athletes shared leadership in the medals at last year’s events.’