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National security remedies among topics at surveillance confab

HOUSTON, Aug. 28, 2008 Presenting new research about national, home and business security systems and measures, a conference established by a University of Houston professor and his colleagues has become the premier forum for the research community when it comes to surveillance.

Two professors and two students from UH will be at the fifth annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Advanced Video and Signal-Based Surveillance (AVSS). It will be held Sept. 1-3 in Santa Fe, N.M., at the La Fonda hotel. Participants in the conference include prominent figures in surveillance from academia, government and the high-tech industry.

"This has not only become a major international conference, but also shows the leading role UH plays in a critical research area," said Ioannis Pavlidis, Eckhard Pfeiffer Professor of Computer Science at UH. "Surveillance technology and research are intimately related to national security, and we will have sessions where the agendas and programs of government and industrial institutions in the area of surveillance will be laid out."

Fellow UH faculty member Ioannis Kakadiaris, Eckhard Pfeiffer Professor of Computer Science, will lead the industrial corporate research session. Here, managers from the corporate labs of IBM, Siemens, Lockheed Martin and Johnson Controls will unveil state-of-the-art surveillance technology, such as that used for threat assessment, massive camera networks, iris recognition and airborne surveillance.

These topics have many applications. IBM will talk about securing companies, homes and retail stores from threats by indentifying suspicious patterns of motion from people or vehicles. Johnson Controls will address issues facing networked security systems that use IP cameras, motion sensors and card readers connected by corporate IT infrastructures. GE will present how its research team has found ways to identify people as they zip through control check points without having to stop to present identification by using a unique biometric that is difficult to fake the iris. Lockheed Martin will concentrate on airborne surveillance primarily used in military operations to identify targets from manned and unmanned aerial platforms.

In addition to moderating the government panel, Pavlidis will lead the discussion about the "open review" experiment, a concept being introduced for the first time this year at the AVSS conference. This is a radical innovation in the scholarly review process aimed at addressing some of the issues facing the traditional "closed review" system in the jurying process for accepting papers in scholarly journals.

In the "open review" system both the authors and the reviewers know the names of each other, and they communicate openly. Thus, the result is not a one-time verdict from an anonymous higher authority who cannot be debated, as with the "closed review" system. Instead, this proposed open concept is a dialectic process under the moderation of an editor.

"This 'open review' experiment would have far-reaching repercussions in the academic publishing mechanism of the future," Pavlidis said. "Under the new system, reviews have the potential to become more thorough and civil, as referees would need to stand behind their names. Additionally, researchers may become more productive, as they would receive better feedback."

Another innovation to be discussed during this session is the concept of publishing an eponymous commentary paper along with an accepted article. This critique paper would document the positive and negative points of the article as seen by the reviewer. Pavlidis and his colleagues believe the transparency and rigor of these processes ultimately would benefit research.

In addition to leading figures, many young researchers are making their mark after clearing a competitive review process. The two UH students invited to the conference successfully did so and will present their papers, which also will be published in the proceedings.

Among them is Yan Zhou, a first-year Ph.D. student from the computer science department, who produced her first scholarly article only a few months after embarking on her studies. Her work makes fundamental improvements in tracking faces in thermal infrared imaging that is expected to find wide applicability in novel biometrics the measurement of physical characteristics and statistical study of biological phenomena for use in verifying an individual's identity. Her work specifically deals with the ability to identify and psychologically screen people at a distance based on physiological characteristics of the face. It is especially innovative in that her methods account for natural head motion, a challenge in this type of work.

Zhen Zhu, a senior Ph.D. student at UH, also made it through the review process to present his work on deception detection, funded by DACA, the Defense Academy on Credibility Assessment. DACA serves as the government's premiere educational center for polygraph and other credibility assessment technologies and techniques. It assists federal agencies in protecting U.S. citizens, interests, infrastructure and security by providing education and tools for credibility assessment.


Contact: Lisa Merkl
University of Houston

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