Terror breeds growth

The urgent need for first-response technologies, including wireless communications, bioterrorism prevention systems and cutting-edge data-sharing solutions, is making public safety the fastest growing sector in the state and local market.

On Jan. 29, New York Gov. George Pataki unveiled a plan for a new communications network, enabling law enforcement officials to share counter-terrorism information with every one of the 543 police departments in the state.

Designed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the first phase of the New York State Counter Terrorism Network was deployed just a month later by systems integrator IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y.

The network enables the state's newly created Office of Public Security to send terrorist alerts to police throughout the state. The alerts are received at local police stations on a flat-screen computer that flashes brightly and emits a loud noise that coincides with the five-level, color-coded system issued by the Office of Homeland Security.

The second phase of the $2 million project, still to be completed, will establish two-way communications between local law enforcement and the new public security office.

"It puts a pipeline [for information sharing] in place that was lacking," said Eric Byers, a solution manager for IBM Global Services division.

New York's counterterrorism network typifies the new breed of computer systems that state and local governments will deploy in coming years to meet the converging demands of public safety and homeland security, according to government and industry officials.

Since Sept. 11, governments have been looking for systems that use off-the-shelf products, open architecture and industry standards for public safety products and solutions. This means integrators are identifying companies that have promising communications, data sharing and security technologies that they can pull together to provide sophisticated solutions mirroring New York's counterterrorism network.

The added push from homeland security has helped make public safety the fastest-growing sector in the state and local market, according to the market research firm Gartner Dataquest of Stamford, Conn. State and local government spending on public safety initiatives is expected to grow at a rate of 11 percent from $6.54 billion in fiscal 2002 to $8.94 billion in 2005, according to the firm.

A significant portion of the funding will come from the federal government, which is providing assistance to the states for disaster preparedness, bioterrorism prevention and response, wireless interoperability and equipment for police, fire and emergency medical personnel, the so-called first responders.

Federal funding for homeland security initiatives has been slow in coming, creating some skepticism among industry executives that public safety IT would get much of a boost. But the Bush administration's proposed fiscal 2003 budget contains $1.1 billion for state and local IT related to homeland security, up from just $100 million in 2002, according to the market research firm Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va.

Most of this will flow directly to local governments, said Jim Kane, FSI's president.

The federal funding will bolster certain vertical markets closely tied to homeland security, said Rishi Sood, a principal analyst with Gartner Dataquest. While it will have the greatest impact on public safety, it also will fuel increased spending in the transportation and health sectors, which are growing annually at a rate of 6 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, he said.


NEW MARKET STRATEGIES

Public safety's prominent role in homeland security has spurred IT companies to realign their strategy and businesses to meet the demand for new solutions. One of those companies is Motorola Corp. of Schaumburg, Ill.

Already the largest provider of radio systems to the government, Motorola was focused primarily on products geared toward notification and response before Sept. 11, said Mike Worthington, corporate vice president and general manager of safety and security solutions. Now the company is expanding its public safety offerings to include products and solutions related to prevention and detection as they relate to bioterrorism and conventional terrorist acts, he said.

In addition to its traditional offerings for two-way wireless radio and statewide radio, Motorola is showcasing new products and solutions, such as improved 311 systems to handle non-emergency calls, and automated fingerprint identification systems to help protect transportation and critical infrastructure, Worthington said.

Motorola also is involved in numerous projects to improve the interoperability of wireless communications among public safety agencies, he said. The company has completed or is working on interoperability projects for Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Carolina and South Dakota, as well as a number of local governments.

Another large integrator benefiting from homeland security's impact on public safety is IBM, which has developed an interoperability solution for first responders. The company is seeing "an active interest" from local governments and expects to win some pilot projects for it this year, said Rusine Mitchell-Sinclair, general manager of safety and security protection services for IBM Global Services.

IBM's interoperability solution provides first responders with critical "instant messaging," multidatabase access and interagency incident management capabilities, according to company literature. The functions are provided using industry-standard technologies that minimize impact to legacy mobile data systems.

IBM also is offering state and local government technology solutions in biometrics, smart cards, wireless data-sharing, wearable personal computers and digital video surveillance.

Traditional public safety and criminal justice projects, especially those with potential homeland security applications, remain attractive for integrators. KPMG Consulting of McLean, Va., is focused on information exchange and data fusion, said George Hogshead, a senior manager in the company's state and local practice.

The company, for example, is adapting technology and third-party products to enable state and local agencies to share information across disparate systems, Hogshead said. In data fusion, the company wants to help customers analyze information for intelligence purposes.

One of KPMG's largest public safety and criminal justice projects is the Pennsylvania Justice Network, known as JNET. The network links the Federal Bureau of Investigation, state agencies with criminal justice responsibilities and various cities and counties throughout the state.

To achieve information sharing, data fusion and interoperability will not require large solutions, Hogshead said. "We are going to find small solutions and weave them together," he said.

One of the most promising opportunities for Unisys Corp. of Blue Bell, Pa., in public safety and criminal justice is the law enforcement message switch, known as LEMS. The message system enables law enforcement in one state to get a response to an inquiry from another state through the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, said Joe Riggione, director of Unisys' North American justice and public safety practice.

Unisys provides the message switching capability to eight states, and company officials believe there are additional opportunities for this type of work in other states and countries, Riggione said.

"We can upgrade the switch and the activity around it," added Holli Ploog, a vice president with Unisys' public-sector unit.

TRW Inc. of Cleveland, another big player in the public safety arena, is looking at traditional opportunities, such as a statewide wireless network in New York, as well as new homeland security projects, such as a vulnerability assessment for the Port of Los Angeles, said Dave Zolet, vice president and general manger of the company's civil systems division.

New York's statewide wireless network is a $400 million opportunity that would allow agencies to retain independent operations while sharing infrastructure, support electronic data transmission and voice communication and provide land-mobile radio system functionality. The state released the RFP for the project June 3, with bids due Oct. 2 and an award expected before the end of the year, state officials said.

Motorola also plans to bid on the network contract, said company spokeswoman Adrienne Dimopoulos.

In the Los Angeles project, more than 150 companies have requested copies of the request for proposal for the Security Assessment Survey and Feasibility study issued in April by the Port of Los Angeles, said spokeswoman Theresa Adams Lopez.

The port is seeking a contractor to assess its identification system and recommend how it can be improved, she said. The cost and schedule of study will be based on the winning contractor's proposal, she said.

Systems integrators recognize that the Port of Los Angeles project, as well as other state and local homeland projects, play right into the strengths of companies that specialize in public safety. Consequently, industry officials and analysts said, the expected funding increases for homeland security are spurring change and helping to energize the public safety market.

"You have to look at public safety now in the light of homeland security," Ploog said.

Staff Writer William Welsh can be reached at wwelsh@postnewsweektech.com.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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