Interview with Nikolai Shemigon, General Director ELERON Special Research-and-Production Association of Federal Agency on Atomic Energy.
MR. Shemigon, the special research-and-production association that you head is a leader in the sphere of developing and introducing technical means of guard and security systems. Besides your native RosAtom, your permanent customers include missile and space forces of the Defense Ministry, special services, state as well as private (since recently) guard structures, Gosznak, Central Bank, RAO UES, GazProm. Your association also provides assistance to such world-level cultural centers as the Tretyakovskaya Gallery, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and hundreds of commercial-type enterprises. The range and dimensions of facilities that your association has equipped are very much impressive. But, in addition to all this, Eleron in itself is also a science, an ideology of developing guarding technologies. It is guard and security systems themselves. Will you, please, tell us about results of the enterprise's activity in these directions?
Nikolai Shemigon: Eleron is a patriarch in the Russian market of guarding technologies but the association's leading positions are rooted not in the past merits. At their heart are the strong advanced scientific and technological potential, the staff of 1,500 highly qualified physicists, programmers, circuit technicians and other specialists as well as the good experimental and production base, the wide network of scientific, technical and production ties.
As far as the science is concerned, Eleron grew up from a laboratory that was set up to accomplish scientific tasks. The applied ones but nevertheless. The rapid development of the nuclear power industry in the early 1960s that started with building new plants, integrated mills and closed cities required a considerable increase in a number of troops to ensure their security. As calculations showed, if guarding of especially important sites – not only nuclear and energy but also defense-and-industrial as well as administrative ones – was provided just by humans, then, by 1975 a third of the country's male population should have been put under arms. This problem could be solved only through replacing people with appropriate machinery but to this end such a machinery should have been developed first. And this was the task of the laboratory, Eleron's forerunner, which was established in 1963 by the order of E. Slavsky, the head of MinSredMash (the Ministry of Medium-Sized Machinery). As it was developing, Eleron, the product of new approaches to providing facilities with security, started to influence (by its science, products and equipped sites) the ideology of guarding in line with requirements of the times. The sum total of its efforts: in 40 years of activity we have equipped over 8,000 facilities. I can assure you that not a single enterprise, neither Russian nor foreign, has ever achieved a level like this.
The gained experience, the originality of many types of our machinery as well as impressive results of our activity to introduce it, explain, to a large extent, the fact that in 1993 by the government's special decision Eleron was selected as the country's head organization for developing, making and providing machinery to ensure security of important state facilities regardless of their industrial affiliation.
Does it mean that Eleron's machinery is just unusable for other facilities?
Nikolai Shemigon: No, of course, not. The case in point is different. In our country there is a traditional division of facilities into the particularly important ones being guarded by troops and special services and the so-called national economic sites. The security of the latter is taken care of either by non-departmental guard services or (in tune with the recent fashion) by private guard structures. The same is true with respect to technical means of guarding. In order to protect apartments, stores, warehouses and so on, devices, which are quite efficient and, at the same time, simple enough by design, are used. The machinery for nuclear power plants, authorities' administrative buildings, banks is immeasurably more sophisticated. Systems of control and admittance, systems of optic-electronic surveillance and special communication at such sites sometimes include dozens of computers, thousands of sensors, hundreds of TV cameras, a lot of other equipment. Operating machinery demands in this case are extremely high. It should guarantee that there is no chance whatsoever 'to evade' the protection system at the guarded site not only by outsiders but also by staff members, who know hardware as well as software principles of its functioning; the same goes for developers of the machinery as well. Our equipment does not let use it for providing information, if this is not approved; the 'detection reliability' is strictly regulated: the probability of false alarm, hardware failure, penetration by violator beyond the guarded line without alarm signal is close to zero. By using complex algorithms of discerning interference, our developers make automated guarding systems capable of distinguishing steps of a human being from those of an animal, wind gusts from microseismic tremors caused by passing cars. Such a machinery is costly and this is the only factor that results in limiting the scope of its use.
Does Eleron take measures to cut down the cost of its products and services? If the answer is 'yes', then, what are these measures?
Nikolai Shemigon: When equipping any site, we are seeking to minimize costs and at the same time, to preserve its needed and sufficient protection. And we are doing this not "by eye": there is an advanced automated control system operating at the enterprise, which makes it possible to exactly calculate expenses at all stages of equipping the given site. Significant savings are provided through organizing works on a complex, system basis, optimizing organizational and engineering solutions under the 'efficiency-cost' principle, applying progressive design methods and experimentally calculated ratio of site's vulnerability to potential of guarding machinery planned to be installed there. The efficient factors of reducing costs of Eleron's operations are an automation of compiling engineering and design documentation, application of new materials and progressive technologies.
It would be interesting to hear more about trends in development of your machinery, new directions.
Nikolai Shemigon: In the years of the enterprise's activity there have been several generations of instruments. Tasks constantly keep getting more complex, technologies are being improved and, along with them, our machinery, which operates on different physical principles (capacitance, inductive, microwave, vibrating, magnetometric, etc.), is being perfected. Today the chief vector of Eleron's technical policy is a transition to developing a uniform set of means that allow to ensure security at critically important facilities in complex, with a double guarantee. There is no need to explain the importance of the problem: the growing aggressiveness of the international terrorism vividly proves it by bloody tragedies and, unfortunately, our country happens to be in the sphere of its interests as well. Fundamentally new directions of developments are being explored within the already mentioned task. For example, we consider among them the use of ultra-violet radiation, for which, in contrast to the infrared one, there are no such obstacles as snow, rain or fog. Systems with an increased tenacity are being developed and these systems are fully operational, even if there is a temporary breakdown of communication between provinces and the center. Also, works are being done on developing a generation of "intellectual" sensors being capable of adapting to concrete conditions of their use. Eleron's specialists have developed and keep improving a wide range of perimeter detectors that function in harsh operating conditions at nuclear power plants, heat-and-power engineering stations, hydroelectric power stations, oil-and-gas processing enterprises, pipelines, terminals, in areas of oil production, etc. With invariably large parameters of detection the probability of our systems' malfunctioning has been considerably reduced. Our technologies have gained a lot from the qualitative breakthrough in systems of television surveillance that has been linked to the digital signal processing.
The necessity of increasing admitting capacities of sites' outside and inner check-points stimulates work on improving old automated systems of admittance control and on developing the new ones. The Sector-M system, which belongs already to the third generation, meets the most demanding requirements being put forward to technical means of security. Possessing all properties of the intellectual control this system guarantees not to let any outsider inside and it will identify those, who belong in there, both by assigned passwords like, for example, a pin code, and by biometric features like a papillary pattern, iris, geometry of hand, etc. The system is capable of controlling access of staff members to premises, a time-board registration of personnel, delivery of confidential materials and documents. It also makes impossible the repeated use of passes. By the way, this year the Sector-M system was awarded the Bison National prize given to the best professionals in the security field by the initiative of Russia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.
The special category of tasks is to guard small perimeters at unprepared sites used for temporarily storing of equipment, construction works, parking of transport with valuable load, etc. Eleron's developers managed to get good results in this direction as well. Providing a nearly 100% probability of discovering a violator our mobile systems are undemanding; being fed by an autonomous accumulator they uninterruptedly operate ten or more days in a row; they are quickly deployed and are quickly dismantled.
Not so long ago we succeeded in accomplishing the task of providing security for motor and railroad transportation of nuclear materials, explosives, other dangerous or valuable freight. The multi-level system developed for this purpose lets monitor freight carriers in real time. In order to prevent any attempt to use radio interference or to put machinery out of operation, the doubling of long-distance communication channels, including the satellite one, is provided. Special motor vehicles are equipped with means of global positioning and television control over approaches as well as of remote forced stoppage of cars, if they suddenly deviate from the route.
The outburst of terrorism results in the ever widening range of facilities that are in need of a reliable protection. Today this is not only nuclear power plants, missile bases but also public and administrative centers, places of people's gatherings, residential apartment buildings. What could Eleron offer to municipalities, local governments for accomplishing this task?
Nikolai Shemigon: We are not just making offers, we are really working in this direction as well. In its time Eleron equipped a complex of buildings of Moscow's administration. At present, we are participating in implementing two programs of the Moscow government. We won the tender for the first of them, "My yard – my entrance" offering hidden TV-cameras for entrances at a reasonable price. In 2003 there were over 5,000 of them installed in the capital. Under the second program, "Security of Muscovites", we provided the system protection of blocks of buildings adjacent to the Leningradsky Prospect, from the Byelorussky railroad station to the Airport subway station. The district center of population security, where all the data from television cameras equipped with anti-vandal protection is coming to, controls entrances, basements, annexes, attics, etc. Our complexes for monitoring difficult-for-access and extended sites are capable of transmitting full video signal by a standard telephone cable and their TV-cameras' sensitivity is sufficient, even if there is a moonless night.
Responding to present-day challenges, we are improving systems of guarding and admittance control, devices and methods of detecting arms, radioactive and explosive substances at airports and railroad stations. Eleron's machinery makes it possible to determine magnetic strength typical of firearms or radio proximity fuse. Eleron is successfully solving problems of detecting nitrogen-containing explosive, including its traces on hands and cloth.
Does Eleron have any developments today that nobody else before you was engaged in?
Nikolai Shemigon: Among the latest Eleron know-how are the so-called cupola systems designed for guarding air half-sphere around especially important facilities. The matter is that the army's air defense is limited in its ability to detect low-flying motorless targets, such as para-planes, hang gliders and similar small-sized aircraft. Our systems are filling up this gap protecting facilities from attempts to penetrate them from air. Even with a limited visibility they detect quite effectively small-sized aircraft, identify them automatically and direct guards to give an appropriate response.
One of the complicated scientific and technological problems, which a large team of scientists and developers are working on, is a protection of water parameter of floating nuclear power plants, hydroelectric power stations, extractive platforms and other facilities having to do with the aqueous medium. Systems of providing security at these facilities should in advance and at a safe distance detect above-water floating crafts, small-sized underwater vehicles and scuba divers. In order to provide the underwater protection, underwater acoustic instruments are used and Eleron is doing the engineering follow-up in the close cooperation with two dozens of scientific structures ranging from institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences to industries' design organizations.
In order to consolidate the country's intellectual resources, to combine potentials of developers and manufacturers of security means and systems, the Security Council of the Russian Federation has made a decision recently to set up an integrated structure, the Federal Center of Science and High Technologies of Security. As far as we know, the federal state unitary enterprise Eleron SRPA will get this high status...
Nikolai Shemigon: We are, of course, interested in setting up the Federal Center of Science and High Technologies of Security. But the final decision is a prerogative of the Russian Government. As the general director of the head organization for developing technical means of guarding and installing them at especially important state facilities, I know for sure: such a decision, if it is approved, will give a strong, very much needed impulse to developing scientific and technological works, organizational efforts and rule-making activity on providing security of the State and its citizens.