Lockheed Rules Roost on Electronic Surveillance
Small-time stock traders love to try to make money off news events, so when the London transit bombers were caught on video cameras recently, electronic surveillance stocks got hot.
Suddenly there were spikes in shares of companies such as CompuDyne Corp. of Annapolis, which provides blast-proof windows and electronic perimeter-security gear, and Ipix Corp. of Reston, a financially troubled maker of eye-in-the-ceiling spy cameras.
Internet message boards buzzed about a handful of small companies involved in video surveillance, bomb detectors and other technologies to detect terrorist threats.
But for all their potential, little outfits are not going to be the big moneymakers in electronic surveillance.
The real winners, Washington investors learned last week, will be companies like Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, which won a $212 million contract to help protect New York City's transit system.
The New York contract will be handled by Lockheed Martin's Transportation and Security Solutions unit, which has 2,200 employees at its Rockville headquarters. Leading a team of half a dozen suppliers, the Lockheed unit will install security systems not only for the New York subways, but also commuter railroads, bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan.
The system will go way beyond the video cameras, recorders and emergency communications system used in London, a system that Lockheed Martin also helped install.
Previewing the New York system last week, Judy F. Marks, who will become president of the division on Oct. 1, showed off one of the newest innovations: an "intelligent video" system that can spot a suspicious package left behind on a crowded subway platform and automatically call the police.
The system's television cameras regularly scan the throngs shuffling on and off the trains. People and their possessions are there in one video snapshot, gone and replaced by others in the next. But if something remains unmoved, scene after scene, the computers recognize that's unusual and flash an alert.
Such sophisticated technology may seem worthy of a Hollywood thriller to most Americans, but Marks is modest and cautious about the system.
"None of this is bleeding edge," she said. "None of the elements or subsystems are unique or our invention. The value that Lockheed Martin is bringing is integrating all these elements on a fixed schedule, fixed-price basis and providing those protections in a very challenging installation environment."
The environment she's talking about involves dank, dirty, hundred-year-old subway tunnels, populated not only by commuters but by rats, graffiti artists and homeless people. The latter will be evicted as a side benefit of protecting the system from more dangerous intruders.