Video analyticsSandia Lab helps small security company thwart thieves

Published 20 May 2015

Sandia has a long history, dating back to the 1970s, of testing sensor and video technologies for physical security systems, so in response to the security needs of a New Mexico security company, Sandia and Los Alamos labs researchers worked together to configure and test a reliable, affordable outdoor security system that helped the company more than triple its staff and clientele over five years.

At a motorcycle shop on a busy city street, crooks devised an elaborate scheme to steal from the storage yard. They jumped the fence and unpacked some newly arrived bikes from crates. They used the crates to build a ramp and run the motorcycles over and out.

“The owner called and said, ‘What can I do? I have a big yard. How do I stop this?’” said Dave Meurer, CEO of the Albuquerque security company Armed Response Team.

The businessman wanted something elusive in the security industry: outdoor monitoring that catches burglars without a bunch of false alarms. Typical outdoor perimeter systems use motion and beam sensors that have trouble distinguishing, say, a tumbleweed, plastic bag or cat from a person. “Everything trips the alarm because the outdoor environment cannot be controlled,” Meurer said. “Indoor motion sensors manage what is going on. Outside, a windy day, rain or anything else unexpected trips sensors continuously. It just didn’t work.”

Armed Response, a small company founded in 2004 by former city police officers, had built a clientele of business and home owners. But Meurer saw a huge underserved and untapped market for reliable protection of outdoor spaces. “One of the major unmet needs for security involves places like storage yards, construction sites and areas where companies park trucks at night,” Meurer said. “Tools get stolen, fuel gets siphoned off, building materials disappear. When crews show up their stuff is gone and they can’t work. The security industry didn’t have good solutions for that problem.”

Meurer knew Armed Response could gain a competitive advantage by figuring it out. “We knew there was a way to do it. We just didn’t know what it was,” he said. “We were a young startup. Cash was tight. We didn’t have the resources to find the answer.”

The company turned in 2007 to the New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program, which pairs entrepreneurs who need technical help with scientists and engineers at Sandia National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory.