Autonomy to power Olympic surveillance

Software from Autonomy will be helping Greek security forces to look for terrorists at this summer's games

Technology that was originally developed to help companies to organise and access information on their IT systems will play a role in attempting to prevent terrorist attacks on the Olympic Games this summer.

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a US company that has been awarded the contract to provide IT security at the Olympics, signed a deal with UK software developer Autonomy this week.

The software will be deployed by the Greek police to monitor communications traffic for words and phrases that could suggest terrorist activity.

"Autonomy's software will be used to help automate the processes of analysing, routing and delivering content, irrespective of format or storage location, and monitor potentially suspicious activity to help increase the efficacy of intelligence operations," said Autonomy in a statement this week, adding that "enormous amounts of data in both English and Greek" would be analysed automatically during the event.

No one from Autonomy was available to discuss the deal in more detail.

Information published by SAIC about the system it's developing for the Games, which is called C41,  suggests that the Greek authorities will be monitoring communications traffic carried by Internet service providers and telecommunications companies.

"Our C4I system is composed of 30 subsystems that will allow Greek authorities to collect, analyse, and disseminate information. These include a command and decision support system, a communication and information system, a digital trunked radio system, a port security system, and fixed and mobile command centres for the Greek police and firefighters, the coast guard, the Athens Olympic Committee Security Division, and the Ministry of Defence," said SAIC, in information posted to its Web site.

SAIC also plans to set up an electronic fence around the Olympics, using infrared and high-resolution cameras, and vehicle tracking systems. An airborne surveillance centre will float above the site of the Games.

Autonomy was one of the UK darlings of the dot-com boom, with its software that finds links between seemingly unconnected pieces of information held within unstructured data. Autonomy's claim that its products would help enterprises to search their masses of electronic data helped to make founder Mike Lynch a billionaire on paper.

Autonomy already has a major contract with the US Department of Homeland Security, under which its software is installed on 200,000 desktop computers in the US. It is used by 21 agencies to look for natural language links between various text, audio and video sources in the hunt for terrorists.