As the United States struggled to adjust to its dark new reality following the terror attacks of September 2001, one of the first phenomena to rise from the rubble was a booming security-technology market that today remains in runaway expansion mode. But all that activity hasn't yet translated into an effective vision for enhancing public safety, some industry experts say.
Development activity in a raft of security technologies, from biometric sensors and scanning software to electromagnetic systems for detecting virtually any kind of concealed weapon, took off so quickly in the wake of the attacks that even the most determined industry watchers underestimated the sector's growth. In 2001, the International Biometrics Industry Association (Washington) predicted that sales of biometric hardware and software would hit $2 billion annually within 10 years. More recently, industry tracker Acuity Market Intelligence (Boulder, Colo.) bested that forecast when it predicted the biometrics core-technology market would hit $4.6 billion by 2012, up from $644 million this year.
Moreover, Acuity estimated that end-customer identification system solutions would reach a staggering $27 billion in the same time frame.
"We've seen a lot of activity in the security market, ranging from government contracts to commercial building access to fingerprint scanning for PCs," said Wayne Meyer, Blackfin product-marketing manager for Analog Devices Inc. (Norwood, Mass.). "We're seeing forecasts for 60 percent growth over the next five years. That's why there are so many companies getting into the market."
What's missing is a plan, said C. Maxine Most, principal at Acuity Market Intelligence. Biometrics companies are "figuring out how to get into multimillion-dollar government contracts, but there's no vision for the future," Most said. "There's still a huge gap out there, just waiting to be filled."