INDIA--India's IT sector has stepped up surveillance measures and introduced integrated security products as safety concerns rise across the country.
Earlier this month, Nasscom (India's trade body and chamber of commerce for the IT-business process outsourcing industry) sent out invites for the India Leadership Forum 2009, to be held in Mumbai in February. A note at the end of the invite said: "At Nasscom, we understand the security concerns that you might have following the unfortunate incident at Mumbai. In all our conferences, we ensure that the security measures are stringent and foolproof to the best of our ability."
The note went on to list out the security measures being undertaken at the summit.
V. Rajendran, vice president, HCL Securities, told ZDNet Asia, since the Mumbai attacks of Nov. 26, "securing lives and property has emerged as a key concern in India". As a result, companies, hotels, retail chains and banks are seriously considering security products and services that offer enhanced security.
"After the recent terror attacks, there is growing emphasis on deploying technologically-enabled security systems both in the public and private sector," Rajendran said in an e-mail interview.
Sivarama Krishnan, executive director, PricewaterhouseCoopers told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview: "Post-Nov. 26, companies and the government have begun to look beyond IT--at the physical infrastructure." Their focus is now on three key areas--security of the physical infrastructure, the resilience of the security system and the disaster recovery mechanism they have in place.
The IT industry is taking the security issue even more seriously. Raju Bhatnagar, vice president, Nasscom noted: "The added impetus for the IT sector is that it is a highly visible industry segment and very people intensive."
Stepping up security
The immediate impact of the Mumbai attacks is felt on the physical security at offices, malls and other public places. Krishnan said: "Earlier, anyone could walk into a commercial building. But today, there are several security checks. Guards are even asking visitors to show their identity cards."
In fact, Nasscom is in the process of collating some best practices that can be circulated to its members to help create awareness. According to Bhatnagar, companies have instituted three key security steps post-Nov. 26:
- Closer checks on vendors and suppliers visiting office premises. Such visitors are asked to provide adequate details so that the individuals can be identified when they are within the office.
- Background checking on new recruits is being given a greater importance. The National Skills Registry system to ensure individuals employed by organizations have their background and antecedents verified to prevent the menace of fake resumes, is being made mandatory by many companies.
- Entry and exit rules--such as recording one's arrival in the visitor's register--are being enforced more strictly. In many organizations, visitors are escorted from the reception to meeting place and then back to the reception.
Following the terror attacks, large IT companies had approached the Indian government for CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) protection to their facilities. CISF's role was to guard only public sector units. Recently, the Indian government (through an ordinance) allowed CISF to guard private installations.
On its part, the government too is busy exploring new systems for increased security. As per reports, scientists are evaluating a state-of-the-art embedded security system to safeguard busy railway stations across the country, some of which had been targets of terror attacks. The security system comprises 14 sensors that carry out surveillance and detection activities and would help do away with frisking of people. One sensor even detects explosive material using Raman Spectroscopy.
New products hit the market
Rising security concerns are boosting the demand for products that integrate the existing security systems to offer better surveillance.
Krishnan said: "In the past, there were technologies. But they were installed in a dispersed manner. Today, these are being integrated to offer more effective and real-time surveillance."
Integrated security solutions leverage technology to analyze incoming video information from cameras, pinpoint potential threats, and escalate information through the established IP infrastructure to appropriate personnel or systems,.
For instance, HCL Security recently introduced a unique concept--called "Safe State". It is an architecture leveraging technology to build a security framework that can safeguard life and infrastructure. It can help secure vulnerable areas such as hotels, hospitals, IT companies and outsourcers, educational institutions and railway stations.
Rajendran explained: "Safe State integrates technology with the physical surveillance and security solutions, making them work together."
While there is no official data available that could indicate the accurate size of the market today, Rajendran noted a study by Frost and Sullivan that estimated the security surveillance market at US$407 million to US$509 million.
Naren Nagpal, chief executive officer, ReadiMinds, told ZDNet Asia: "Post the Mumbai attacks the market size of the security products industry has probably seen a significant change." ReadiMinds specializes in transaction security, fraud prevention, real-time risk monitoring and mitigation, and emergency alert systems.
Prior to Nov. 26, ReadiMinds primarily served the BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) industry. "Post-Nov. 26, we have also introduced our real-time electronic surveillance systems in India for homeland security applications," Nagpal said in an e-mail interview.
"The ReadiMinds' system is a high-technology system similar to the one being used by the U.S. government for various purposes, including monitoring and prevention of illegal crossings at the Mexico border," Nagpal added.
Swati Prasad is a freelance IT writer based in India.