LONGMONT — When the planners of the Olympic Games start designing a security plan, Joe Ryan’s phone rings off the hook.
Ryan, the president of Longmont-based Ionic Fusion, was the executive in charge of electronic security for the Atlanta Games in 1996.
Working for Sensormatic, the company that supplied all of the electronic security equipment for the Atlanta Games, it was his team’s ideas and concepts that led the way for the super high-tech system that was put in place in Athens, Greece, this year.
As part of the security task force for Atlanta, “we installed about 800 cameras throughout 26 venues ... and interconnected those on a network so we could view virtually any seat anywhere,” Ryan said. The images were pumped back into the command and control centers, where they were viewed by security personnel.
Ryan said he and his team also used “a very innovative technology called radio frequency identification,” in which an athlete’s personal information, including a handprint, is placed on an electronic chip inserted in the athlete’s credentials. To enter any Olympic venue, including the Olympic Village, people must place their hand in a biometric sensor, which will compare that data to the information stored on their ID card, he said.
“At the time, it was very innovative,” Ryan said. “It was the largest private security installation in the history of the world.”
Athens’ electronic security is on a much grander scale than Atlanta, he added.
Technology has rapidly advanced in the past eight years, particularly with computer process speeds and the bandwidth capability of networks, Ryan said.
“The installation in Athens will build on the work we did at Atlanta, but will be far, far more sophisticated — more cameras, greater integration,” he said.
Ryan said he was impressed that a company would be providing software that reads lips in English, Greek, Farsi and many other languages.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, an “unprecedented amount of money has been put into development of security technology,” Ryan said. “The result is very unique and novel ways to discover or discern people who are up to no good, and if you can get an early warning, you can be preemptive.”
Security teams — working closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies — “try to address a threat before it becomes actionable. Electronic security plays a key role in that as an early warning system,” he said.
A little-known fact of the Atlanta Games is that many of the cameras that were installed at the time are still in place, Ryan said.
“One of the things about the Olympic movement is all the gear and all the buildings are usually left behind as a legacy for the Games ... so a lot of our equipment is still patrolling the streets of Atlanta,” he said.
Ionic Fusion specializes in nanotechnology. Using its ionic plasma deposition vacuum technique, the company “impregnates” materials — such as precious metals — into the surface of metal, plastic and paper. Because the process doesn’t just place a thin coating of material on different surfaces, the deposited materials won’t peel or flake off over time, Ryan said.
The company works closely with San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp., the company now in charge of electronic security in Athens, on various applications. Ionic Fusion is not providing any security technology for the Olympics.
Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 211, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.