London is on high alert ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games this summer -- and the Counter Terror Expo, held in the city this week, showcased the explosive detectors, location trackers, and other high tech tools that might keep Londoners safe.
Among the more interesting items: The panic room in a box. Like the safety facility featured in the 2002 Jodie Foster film, a panic room is a fortified area in a home or office designed to provide secure shelter.
But how many rooms come in boxes?
This setup can be ordered online for about $18,000 (excluding tax and delivery) and will arrive on your doorstep delivered in a flat-pack box -- just like an Ikea cabinet. It can be tailored to withstand mechanical attacks, shotgun fire and more powerful weapons, claims manufacturer The Panic Room Company.
Also new this year are sandless sandbags. Known as BlastSax and filled with water rather than sand or dirt, they are intended to stop bullets and mitigate explosions.
Over at the Expo’s vehicle zone, meanwhile, armored and support vehicles, as well as retro-fit armor solutions for your current ride, were on display. From very lightweight and maneuverable vehicles to those designed for on-scene emergency medical, command post, communication and surveillance, a number of companies showed off their wares.
Land Rover Jaguar was the clear stand-out here, for the expertise reflected in their highly maneuverable vehicles.
In addition to robot vehicles designed to eliminate IEDs (improvised explosive devices) - Northrop Grumman continues to lead the pack, though the field hasn’t really advanced this year - the showcase featured jamming technologies to prevent remote control devices being detonated as well as body armor designed to protect the operator from shrapnel and flying debris.
Access control, including technologies that can help limit or monitor access to a facility or home, was the third featured theme this year, with five companies standing out.
To control who is where, when and for what purpose, there are a range of methods available from simple badges familiar to many office workers to far more complex solutions using iris readers or other biometric devices to limit access to the most restricted areas.
An Access Control Suite at the event showcased a series of doors, windows and other points of entry so that buyers could gain a first-hand experience testing things far different from what they may have at home or work.
Ordinary locks have come a surprisingly long way, for example; lock-maker Abloy featured a pick-proof lock that could easily outsmart your average attempt bobby pin. Crooks usually pick locks by moving one variable. Abloy’s lock reacts to such clumsy efforts by relocking itself.
Want to unlock a conference room from Cambodia? No problem.
The company picked up the Counter Terrorism and Specialist Security award for its Abloy Cliq Remote, which combines a mechanical key with high security electronics to create a web-based electromechanical system. Access from anywhere in the world is possible utilizing secure encryption, thanks to a hosted server that provides a secure platform for a web management platform.
Shield’s security doors -- some of which are available to the public -- were a very cool item as well. The company demonstrated house and safe doors that opened with “ekey” finger scanning. An integrated scanner analyzes each fingerprint swipe to provide a unique thermal signature and special code to open the door.
Up to 99 different fingerprints can be stored, the company said. The scanner only recognizes fingerprints at a normal body temperature and no fingerprints remain on its surface.
Finally, the stand out for unexpected perimeter protection was CPM Group’s Redi-Rock Hostile Vehicle Mitigation System -- think of it as LEGOs for adults.
Available in three finishes, cobblestone, ledgestone and limestone, these LEGO-like blocks are removable and relocatable and use their own weight rather than a ground anchor. The blocks link together like a necklace to aborb the impact of a truck. A 7.5-ton truck travelling at 30mph that rams these man size building blocks will only move them 1.6 meters, CPM said.
Despite the London Olympics looming in the near future -- the Games are set to begin on July 27 --, the Counter Terror show was surprisingly sedate.
But interesting technologies like these promise to keep the games safe and fun.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has travelled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.