Vendors repurpose products for homeland security

CRM software for terrorist tracking?

The idea seems odd, but Siebel Systems Inc. spent months customizing its customer relationship management tools to make tracking Osama bin Laden's minions seem as simple as handling a customer call.

Thomas M. Siebel, chairman and chief executive officer of the San Mateo, Calif., CRM vendor unveiled his company's homeland security product at the E-Gov conference in Washington this summer.

Company executives, portraying CIA agents, walked an E-Gov audience through a scenario of how law enforcement could use the application to track movements of suspected terrorists entering and exiting the country. The app lets a user gather information with a simple point and click.

Welcome to the government IT sector post 9-11, where vendors are taking note of the government's domestic defense needs and customizing their product lines accordingly.

Take Webversa Inc. of Reston, Va., for instance. The company, formed in 1999 with an eye toward the government market, sells a middleware app that lets users access transactional systems by telephone. It can also send alerts over a wide variety of devices such as cellular phones, BlackBerry e-mail devices and pagers.

The company originally targeted agencies that are heavy users of help desk support and field service reporting but has shifted its focus to offer emergency response apps since the terrorist attacks, said Tom Lewis, chief executive officer of Webversa.

'As a result of Sept. 11, there has been a heightened interest in technology in managing critical events,' Lewis said. Integrator DynCorp of Reston, Va., rolled Webversa's product into its Homeland Security Response Tracking System.

The DynCorp tool, being used in a pilot by the Hazardous Materials Unit of Fairfax County, Va., alerts emergency response personnel whenever a biological incident or hazardous material spill occurs.

'We've seen an uptick in our business in various areas' since Sept. 11, said Barry Leffew, vice president of the public sector group for VeriSign Inc.

The Mountain View, Calif., company has seen increased sales not only in its public-key infrastructure apps but also in its security assessment services.

Other companies say they expect sales to rise for security tools and services, even if there's been no boom yet.

For example, officials with Datastrip Products Inc. of Shelton, Conn., see its 2-D bar code strips and readers as a natural fit for use with biometric smart cards.

'Before Sept. 11, there wasn't a huge business case driving the need for a heightened way of securing travel-related documents. Now, when we talk with agencies, they are more receptive to our technology,' Datastrip CEO Chuck Lynch said. Lynch pointed to the recently passed Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act as a driver.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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