Giving voice to security
Giving voice to security

Sep 1, 1999 12:00 PM
Carey Adams

Prior to 1993, the Baltimore Department of Public Works had little security inside or outside its administrative and equipment buildings. Computers and other equipment slipped away without a trace. Most of the thefts occurred at night when few employees roamed the buildings.

In an attempt to stop the thievery, city officials added an access card system to several crime-plagued buildings. Initially, the cards provided the security the public works department needed, but over time human error nullified the effectiveness of the access cards.

Many employees started forgetting their card, while others lost them. Doors were left unlocked or propped open. With more than 7,000 employees, another 15,000 people from other departments and the public all having access to department's buildings, it didn't take long for thefts to occur on a regular basis.

"We needed to know who was entering and leaving these buildings, especially at night and on the weekend," says Howard Glashoff, security coordinator of Baltimore Department of Public Works. "With thousands of employees, we needed something that was simple, yet provided accountability, safety and reliability and saved costs by reducing the number of guards required at each entrance."

VOICE READER PROVIDES SECURITY In 1993, the city negotiated with Voice Strategy Inc., Detroit, to provide a biometric voice reader to one of public works' most theft-plagued buildings. The biometric access control system installed by DEI Inc., Baltimore, allowed public works department security to identify who was entering and leaving the facilities.

The system, which is supported through a PC, works like a mini-phone system: an employee punches in a four-digit code on a keypad linked to a voice recorder and says his name, which is stored on the PC. If the name is recognized by the voice recorder, the door unlocks within two seconds.

According to Glashoff, biometric voice access control is the best system to prevent thefts and other crimes within Baltimore's public buildings.

"The first system was installed in a building in an area with one of the highest crime rates. We haven't had a theft since the system has been installed," Glashoff says.

The Voice Strategy system has been employed in three other public works buildings since 1993. The system also allows Baltimore Department of Public Works to predetermine times for doors to lock and unlock, and it can be set to allow an employee to enter one building and restrict him from another. Times can also be specified to allow certain people into a building.

"The beauty of the system is if only five people are in the building, it tells us the date and time when they entered and when they left the building. So if a theft occurs, it tells you who was in the building at that time," Glashoff says.

According to Glashoff, knowing who is in a building is critical since 99 percent of city property thefts is internal.

INNOVATIONS ADD PRECISION Baltimore is currently planning to install another system that will give the city even more security. A partnership between Code Access Inc., Tampa, Fla., and Keyware Technologies, Woburn, Mass., a is developing a biometric voice system to recognize voice patterns.

Mike Shipley, Baltimore regional sales manager for DEI, says the system makes it more difficult for someone to disguise his voice.

"This will be true recognition through voice verification," Shipley says.

The system will also be based in a module of the access control reader, rather than on a PC.

John Forrest, vice president of Code Access, says the system will give the city flexibility.

"Through the door controller, all the memory will be retained. The system will not be tied to a CPU, which can cause a problem if connection is lost at the CPU," Forrest says.

The system also will allow for an extra input to place a CCTV camera to capture images of people entering and leaving the buildings.

Baltimore city officials hope to install the new system in five buildings over the next few years. If the system proves to be effective, it could be placed in all 90 city buildings.

COST SAVINGS For Baltimore the system would provide cost savings in the use of fewer security guards. According to Glashoff, 90 percent of the city's guards finish their 40 hours of work by Friday. The city must then pay guards overtime to work on the weekend to man buildings that have only five employees.

"The cost for guards during weekends and holidays in just five major buildings downtown alone is more than $300,000 per year," says Glashoff. "Once you pay the initial cost, you save that amount every year beyond the first year. It would definitely pay for itself."

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