Londons Olympic Security Plans
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Analysis Articles | June 27, 2012, 7:00am AEST
BRITAIN’S Home Office is saying that safety and security of the 2012 Games will be one of the largest, most complex security challenges the UK has ever faced. If this assertion is restricted to peacetime operations, the HO is probably correct. Very little effort is being spared to secure athletes and ensure spectators are kept safe at these games.
There’s also considerable integration of defence, police and private security capabilities – not just in terms of personnel but in terms of hardware. And all this is happening to the transfixed horror of the nation’s liberals (in the UK that’s the political and social left*), which keeps breathlessly talking about 1984 in the apparent absence of any sense of metaphorical or historical context.
It certainly appears to me that the defence and law enforcement agencies responsible for the London Olympics, with the explosions of the London bombings of 2005 still ringing in their ears, are really going to town with security and security propaganda for the world’s biggest show.
Not only are they talking about wicking up London’s famously pervasive surveillance system with integration, they’re amplifying it with drones as well as parking a laser-guided missile destroyer in the Thames adjacent to the Olympic site in the event of the unlikely.
The ‘unlikely’, given the noises coming from the Met and the Home Office is a terror attack on Olympic sites or London’s infrastructure over the period of the games. Given recent history and the ongoing discovery of terror plots in Britain, it’s hard to accuse anyone responsible for the security and safety of London 2012 of going too far. There’s a history and a presence of clear danger in the UK that only those with a profound case of pathological altruism would deny.
The heightened security levels make it virtually impossible to get specific information about security system brands, specifications or configurations, beyond general strategy and broad plans. I expect we’ll be able to run a story about the security of the event after the games have taken place but there’s no chance of naming names at this point.
All this said, there are things we can say about security preparations for London 2012. Perimeter security is the key to securing the primary site and in order to deliver this a 17.5km fence has been built. The fence is crowned with 5000-volt electrified wire, and fitted at 50 metre intervals with the latest daylight and night vision surveillance cameras. There are 900 CCTV cameras on the fence-line alone.
The Code of Practice for CCTV at the London Olympics states rather peevishly that the threat of hostile individuals attempting to gain access through the perimeter justifies this extensive use of CCTV (my italics). Perhaps this slightly defensive phrasing best reflects the ongoing criticism security command is experiencing over its pointy protective mechanisms for London 2012.
Whether there’s IR lighting being used or thermal cameras it’s hard to say but I think it will be standard commercial-grade equipment, given the transience of the installation, and will probably come from only one or 2 suppliers. I think we can guess that there’s a temporary fibre loop associated with the temporary fence line and the cameras will be IP – probably 720p, given the numbers that must be supported.
If thermal cameras are being used they will be affordable – that means they are likely to come from one manufacturer. It’s also likely, given thermal camera costs, that the cameras being used will be capable day night units supported with local lighting and integrated into a perimeter solution broken into tight zones and associated with the electric fence. The management system could be open platform or proprietary, depending on the nature of the system. Given the probability of extensive forward planning and the history of single brand solutions at the Olympics, it could well be proprietary.
In terms of system management, no control room operator is going to manually patrol 900 cameras in real time – not when there are pedestrian and vehicular entry points to look at. This means the event recording process will be automated and alarm events will call up images from the nearest cameras to any event to the CCTV Control Centre’s main screens. I goes without saying that London 2012’s CCTV solution will have considerable storage capacity.
Integral to video surveillance and through it, management of security and emergency response teams, will be the CCTV Control Centre at Tower Hamlets in London. Tower Hamlets already monitors about 250 borough cameras and it’s been suggested that all of London’s CCTV cameras will now be integrated into one solution in time for the Olympic Games. Presumably this means they’ll be ported into the Tower Hamlets control room on multiple feeds to provide additional video footage in the event of the unlikely.
How uniform in image quality, day/night performance and field of view all these cameras are likely to be is highly debatable. London’s legacy surveillance system remains very analogue. To shrieks of left-wing horror, CCTV Control Centre recently announced it was considering deploying Threat Assessment and Behavioral Analysis Software to monitor all London’s cameras during the games and suggested the new software would have the capability to follow people throughout the city.
It seems that without any empirical evidence the liberal press believes this vapourware actually works and fears that tens of thousands of cameras of dubious quality, WDR and depth of field might truly be fed through thousand of obscenely expensive encoder/video analysis server combinations to assess Joe Public’s identity and movements.
Fortunately SE&N readers know better. I suspect this technically impossible pronouncement is more clever chest thumping from the great-grandchildren of the chaps who gave us that catchy 1915 marketing slogan: “Women of Britain say – GO!”
Other security measures to be implemented for London 2012 will include facial and iris recognition, finger-print and hand recognition, guards with attack dogs and search dogs. A scheme to search people and vehicles will include machines capable of looking through clothing – presumably that’s going to be mobile or handheld millimetre wave cameras.
Not surprisingly, other deployments are far more serious. The RAF will deploy its Reaper pilot-less drone aircraft, which will carry laser-guided bombs and missiles, including the Hellfire air-to-ground weapon and, on the Thames, the Royal Navy will deploy a new £1 billion Type 45 destroyer – HMS Daring.
The Type 45’s main armament is the Principal AntiAir Missile System, regarded as the most sophisticated of its kind. According to the senior service, it is designed “to defend against supersonic, stealthy, highly manoeuvrable missiles that could use sea-skimming or steep-diving flight profiles approaching in salvos, simultaneously from several directions”. The Type 45’s super-agile Aster missiles are said to be able to track and destroy moving targets the size of a cricket ball at 19 miles. When the plan was announced, Lord Carlisle, the government’s antiterrorism expert, welcomed the involvement of the Royal Navy.
“[It] is very well equipped to deal with specific threats, such as that posed by terrorists using light aircraft,” he said. “Having a frigate (sic) in the Thames is an extremely good idea.”
In another interesting move an additional Type 45, this time HMS Dauntless, will be deployed to the Medway at Sheerness. The only possible threat she could be covering over there is that of incoming light aircraft either leaving from or travelling across North-Western France.
Meanwhile, the Met is making noises about deploying remotely controlled drones – mini aeroplanes with surveillance cameras to watch over the Olympics. The drones are supplied by AirRobot UK Ltd and have already been used in the past to protect the London Olympics Handover Ceremony late 2008. At that time drones were deployed at The Mall and Buckingham Palace to provide real-time images to emergency services at the event.
How much of this overt response capability is gunboat diplomacy and how much is surgical, urban-capable response is very debatable. I think it’s mostly the former. Given Britain’s historical and current military strengths it’s almost certain that the real firepower at the London Games will be pervasive intelligence gathering, world class special forces response teams delivered by air and highly skilled uniformed and plain clothes personnel on the ground. Vital too, in the event of the unlikely, will be highly organised disaster management and response.
*The author votes left.