New Tech in the Old Pueblo


The Southern Arizona Committee held a meeting in Tucson recently, which covered the topic of high tech perimeter security solutions. The gathering, hosted by Committee Chair John McGrath at Raytheon Missile Systems, attracted numerous guests from the Tucson area as well as several chapter members from Phoenix.


The session began with a visit to the Raytheon “Petting Zoo”, a lobby exhibit that houses an impressive array of mock-up missiles dangling from the ceiling, resting on pedestals, and shining in glass cases. The old TOW wired guided anti-armor system, the imposing tomahawk cruise missile and a more recent star wars defense “kill vehicle” to name a few served as testimonials to technological advancement and offered a fitting prelude for the presentations to come.


Larry Bowe, of PureTech Systems, provided a practical overview of the technical and tactical considerations about deploying systems such as video detection and analytics, RADAR, LIDAR, infrared, microwave, and seismic or pressure sensors.  Moreover, he demonstrated how network integration, powerful algorithms and geospatial computer software could transform these systems into force multipliers. His photo and video examples of the respective technologies at use in the wild brought to life the practical applications, advantages and disadvantages of these systems. I could not help but lament how this forty-minute presentation would have spared weeks of rote memorization back when I was preparing for this topic on the CPP exam!


Next up was Mike Pixley, a senior systems engineer with Raytheon. An inherent dilemma faced by defense contractors in these types of presentations is trying to parse that fine line between open source and classified information while still providing relevant insights. Mike came up with an inventive and entertaining workaround by demonstrating how protecting livestock and poultry on his ranch can be analogous to protecting a facility from adversaries. For example, a slide of his chicken coop illustrated that wire mesh may keep red tail hawks at bay but pose only a mere inconvenience for a hungry coyote or bobcat. For that, his two sizeable hunting dogs do double duty while also protecting the lambs and sheep. Underscoring the barnyard theme were nuanced applications of principles such as security in depth, deterrence through deflection or shaping and the military axiom of find, fix and finish, which in today’s high tech warfare parlance has evolve to Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, Analyze and Disseminate (F3EAD).


Both presenters prompted thoughtful questions and discussion from a crowd largely dominated by CPPs and it boiled down to this. We live in a rapidly changing and connected age where everything is or can be a sensor. Sensors that see, smell, hear, pixilate, analyze, systemize, measure, relay and respond. Where algorithms analyze, aggregate, catalogue and synthesize the continuous flow of networked bits and bytes. Where machine learning almost instantaneously recognizes patterns and dictates actions and responses in real time from a virtual space. So where does the enmeshed security professional fit in with the cognification of everything? These technologies, while exceptionally powerful and artificially intelligent are still in their early phases of development. For example, those driverless cars we see every day being road tested on the streets surrender control to a human during those instances of dynamic blur when algorithms cannot quite make sense of a novel situation. We are that person.  Monitoring the technology, knowing its strengths and weaknesses, remaining situationally aware, having contingencies and always being prepared to take the handoff and recognize and respond to the unexpected.

Now here is the beauty of holding this meeting, on this topic, with this group at this location. History has it that Tucson earned the moniker of “The Old Pueblo” in 1880 on the day the railway arrived and the mayor dispatched a flurry of telegrams to dignitaries announcing, “The ancient and honorable pueblo of Tucson is now connected by rail to the outside world.” In the book “The Seventh Sense” Joshua Ramo exhorts the importance of recognizing how connectedness changes the nature of an object be it in the physical or the virtual world. The emergence of the railroads accelerated the industrial revolution through connectedness and time-space compression. Likewise, the connectedness of networked cyber and virtual systems to an ever-growing spectrum of sensors also speeds time and compresses distance while harkening the emergence of quantum computing and hyperspectral imaging. Ramo defines the seventh sense as the ability to recognize the profundity of the old and new, the real and the virtual at once and then seek to influence the trajectory of progress. That is exactly where these sessions positioned us. Kudos to John McGrath for selecting this topic and to the presenters who did a masterful job of helping us channel the seventh sense.

Phoenix Chapter, ASIS International, 3104 E Camelback Road #560 Phoenix, Arizona 85016