A British technology company has devised an automated teller machine security system that relies on digital tape, producing recorded images that are far clearer than normal.

Neurodynamics Inc. has installed its product in 20 ATMs in England and is promoting it in the United States as a crime-fighting tool.

Neurodynamics bills its system as a low-cost alternative to standard analog tapes, offering sharper images, faster retrieval of video frames, and increased storage capacity.

"You can go back and say, at this date and this time, bring me up the photo," said Peter Riordan, president and chief executive officer of Neurodynamics' North American operation in Roseland, N.J. "You can interface with existing alarm systems."

The system, called Witness ATM, "is bringing security and surveillance into the digital age," Mr. Riordan said.

Though digital tapes have been around for some years, banks and other businesses primarily use photography and VHS tapes in their surveillance.

The main stumbling blocks for digital technology at ATMs have been the need for computer disk space to store the digital images and the inability of computers to retrieve desired images quickly, said Rob Evans, director for self-service systems industry marketing for NCR Corp.'s United States Group. NCR, the ATM manufacturer, is helping to distribute the Neurodynamics product. Mr. Evans said the features in Witness ATM have "been missing from a lot of digital camera solutions."

The Neurodynamics system uses a regular camera to record images at an ATM site; images are then compressed and recorded onto digital tape.

The company, headquartered in Cambridge, England, has installed Witness ATM at 20 sites for Abbey National PLC of London. Neurodynamics said it hopes to install the security system at other Abbey National locations. Mr. Riordan said the base price of the system was about $2,500 per ATM.

The Neurodynamics product comes to the United States at a time when ATM security has become a political football.

Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has said he will introduce legislation calling for minimum security standards at ATMs, such as video cameras, adequate lighting, and safety mirrors.

Sen. D'Amato said he was motivated in part by a high-profile murder case in New York, in which the suspect forcibly withdrew money from the victim's ATM account. A videotape of the transaction was too fuzzy to be of much help to investigators.

Neurodynamics said the digital images will provide clearer pictures to solve crimes.

Scott D. Strug, vice president of marketing at NYCE Corp., Woodcliff Lake, N.J., said the poor quality of analog tape is often the result of "videotapes that have been used too many times."

"That's what causes the degradation of the images," he said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Strug said the digital technology is a good thing. "As an improvement on the actual physical recording, this seems to be a step in the right direction," he said. What may be even more useful is the storage capability and easy access to data that digital tapes provide.

"You would have almost instantaneous access to the data on the tape as opposed to searching through six hours of tape to find something," said Michael A. Strada, president of Electronic Commerce Strategies, an Atlanta consulting firm.

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