Specifically Speaking with Forrest Gist

Global Technology Lead at Jacobs Physical Security Solutions based in Dallas
Wednesday, May 20, 2020

How did you get started in security and designing/specifying?
I’ve always loved music and video technology. As a young boy, I loved listening to records on my parents’ stereo and would eventually find myself making cassette tape mix compilations to listen to in the car. Fast forward a bit and I found myself attending university, studying engineering with a side gig serving as a DJ for the local college radio station. Eventually, I graduated with an electrical engineering degree and got a job at the firm, which would become Jacobs Engineering.

I also kept my side job as a DJ for a local nightclub, spinning records until 2 a.m. or so. My interest in sound and lighting led to my interest in video technology and security. I began designing security projects for a major semiconductor manufacturer, in the days of coaxial and matrix switches, then eventually moved into lead engineering and project management. Now, I lead a team and help to encourage other engineers to learn about security technology and risk mitigation.

I am a registered Professional Electrical Engineer in multiple states and have my CPP certification from the American Society of Industrial Security.

What’s your role at the company?
I serve as the global technology lead for physical security within Jacobs’ People and Places Solutions Line of Business. In this role, I help to cultivate and nurture a community of practice for security. I help manage our security design standards, ensure quality control of our deliverables, and help to identify upcoming new technology. My focus is on Physical Security for the buildings and infrastructure markets, and I work with clients in the water, built environment, transportation and environment sectors.

Jacobs also has a robust cybersecurity offering, where we provide testing and training, intelligence and engineering and analytics for defense, intelligence and law enforcement communities around the globe to ensure people, their information and our most critical networks stay protected.

What kinds of systems do you design/specify and what services does the company provide? What vertical markets does the company specialize in?
At Jacobs, we are solving the world’s most critical problems for thriving cities, resilient environments, mission-critical outcomes, operational advancement, scientific discovery and cutting-edge manufacturing. With $13 billion in revenue and a talent force of approximately 52,000, Jacobs provides a full spectrum of professional services including consulting, technical, scientific and project delivery for the government and private sector

Specifically relating to the area I lead, physical security, our team performs risk and resiliency assessments, emergency response plan development, business continuity planning, comprehensive security designs that include full specifications and detailed drawings, cost estimates and we help to perform commissioning and startup testing on installed systems. 

Jacobs provides a full spectrum of professional services including consulting, technical, scientific and project delivery for the government and private sector. Our clients are found in the environmental, water, transportation, built environment, advance facilities and cyber security markets.

Can you talk about what new or emerging technologies you are seeing or specifying today?
It is an exciting time in the physical security space. There are lots of new emerging technologies that we are incorporating into our designs, once they have been proven worthy.

We like the ongoing improvements in bandwidth management and the continuous improvements in low light capabilities for video. A lot of our projects require outdoor cameras located in remote areas, where lighting levels are low and bandwidth is of concern.

On our projects, we regularly specify video analytics, particularly embedded within the camera at the edge. We’re seeing that this technology is becoming increasingly more robust and reliable. 

We are also excited about:
•    The use of video systems automatically adding smart tags and metadata into video, for use in smart searches, so we can automate searches, say ‘search for any red vans from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. instead of manually needing to playback search video. 
•    Recent developments in mobile technology, such as card access systems that use mobile cell phone technology for access control credentials. 
•    Ground-based radar for perimeter intrusion detection, both long-range units for large open areas and short-range units for driveways and entry areas, coupled with auto-track cameras. 
•    The integration of geographic information systems (GIS) data and asset tagging into our designs for security devices, so that asset management systems have a link to the geographic location and database information of a system. As an example, such information can provide valuable information about the required maintenance schedule and location of a camera unit.

What is your view on the industry moving forward?
Moving forward, I see the security industry being one part of an interconnected network of technology and data solutions that enhance, manage, and operate clients’ assets more efficiently while improving their bottom lines. I think the security industry will increasingly leverage big data to help mitigate risks to facilities and assets. For instance, using big data to predict security events and their location or to help mitigate emergency situations when they occur.

An example of this would be to deploy security resources or emergency response teams in advance of emergencies based on predictive information on dangerous storms. Another example might be the use of such information as thermal imaging or vehicle vibrations and social media messages to provide threat detection and mitigation in real time.

The increasingly effective use of big data will become commonplace in the future, particularly with security.

Specifically Speaking, a Security Systems News monthly column, features Q-and-A with a security consultant provided to SSN by SecuritySpecifiers.