Until about a week or so ago, I thought Canada was perhaps one of the safest places in the world. The revelation about the homegrown security threat crushed that little illusion of mine into smithereens. And, although I still refuse to join in on the fear mongering, the hype created in the media gave me the idea to look at the recent events from an investment perspective.
Of course, it all started with the September 11 terrorist attacks. When the dust literally settled, the first item on everyone’s purchase list was a video surveillance camera. There already were millions of these so-called “silent sentinels” all over North America, at ATMs, stores, elevators, parking lots, street intersections, casinos, airports, even parks and sidewalks.
Only, spooked buyers now wanted state-of-the-art gadgetry that was digitally enhanced and capable of identifying the evil miles ahead. Hot in demand after 9/11, the security and surveillance industry quickly turned into the $40 billion-a-year enterprise. And, whatever cautionary voices were there warning about dangers to privacy rights, the heightened fear of terrorism more or less silenced them down.
So, what’s hot out there? Video surveillance systems account for about a third of the market. They are used to reduce crime rates in addition to preventing any potential security threats. Unfortunately, for privacy rights, there are also countless PC and web cameras, the benefits of which are at best debatable.
Of course, video surveillance is neither perfect nor sufficient. After the two 9/11 suspects casually walked through airport security checkpoints on the morning of the attacks, it became clear that something more sophisticated was direly needed. This is how biometric facial recognition technology came into play.
Apparently, biometric technology can identify persons on the “bad guys” lists by using facial characteristics the same way fingerprints or eye imprints are used. So, even in disguises or after plastic surgeries, facial “prints” remain the same and are unique to every individual.
Now, some civil rights activists in Canada compare taking facial prints of bad guys to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, fearing (and rightfully so) privacy violations. However, with Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics fast approaching, security experts are hardly the only ones sounding the alarm.
While latest events in Canada show that no one is immune to terrorism, increased awareness has opened new windows (and doors) of opportunity to providers of security and surveillance technologies. And, as orders for new equipment keep on coming, investors in such companies can at least protect their portfolios even if their world is changing.