News & Events
ALERT Program

ALERT Research Highlight: The Largest and Most Systematic Re-id Benchmark to Date May 30, 2018

ALERT researchers Professor Octavia Camps (Northeastern University, Project R4-A.1) and Professor Rich Radke (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Project R4-A.3) and their students, Srikrishna Karanam, Mengran Gou, Ziyan Wu, and Angels Rates-Borras, were recently published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) monthly journal, Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence (download here). The paper, “A Systematic Evaluation and Benchmark for Person Re-Identification: Features, Metrics, and Datasets,” provides an extensive review and performance evaluation of existing person re-identification algorithms.

Person identification, or re-id, matches observations of individuals across multiple camera views in a network of surveillance cameras, and represents a critical task in most surveillance and security applications.  For example, a police officer may want to automatically follow a person of interest tagged at a check-in counter through the branching concourses of an airport.  The research team’s recent review and evaluation of re-id algorithms helps characterize what re-id algorithms are currently capable of accomplishing, as well as what is missing and what is possible in the future. In this paper, the researchers discuss insights gained from their study, as well as put forth research directions and recommendations for re-id researchers that would help develop better algorithms in the future. Both Professor Camps and Professor Radke are involved with ALERT’s Research Thrust 4, which focuses on video surveillance and the analysis of video data with novel algorithms. This publication was the result of years of research and collaboration between their respective labs.

The fundamental re-id problem is to compare a person of interest as seen in a “probe” camera view to a “gallery” of candidates captured from a camera that does not overlap with the probe camera. If a true match to the probe exists in the gallery, it should have a high matching score, or rank, compared to incorrect candidates. Since the body of research in re-id is increasing, researchers can begin to draw conclusions about the best combinations of algorithmic subcomponents. In this paper, the researchers present a careful, fair, and systematic evaluation of feature extraction, metric learning, and multi-shot ranking algorithms proposed for re-id on a wide variety of benchmark datasets. Their general evaluation framework considers hundreds of combinations of (1) feature extraction and metric learning algorithms for single-shot datasets and (2) feature extraction, metric learning, and multi-shot ranking algorithms for multi-shot datasets.

The research team evaluated 276 algorithm combinations on 10 single-shot re-id datasets and 646 algorithm combinations on 7 multi-shot re-id datasets, making the proposed study the largest and most systematic re-id benchmark to date. Approaches were evaluated using 17 datasets that mimic real world settings, including the ALERT Airport Re-Identification Dataset. As part of the evaluation, the researchers built a public code library with an easy-to-use input/output code structure and uniform algorithm parameters that includes 11 contemporary feature extraction and 22 metric learning and ranking algorithms. Both the code library and the complete benchmark results are publicly available for community use.

ASPIRE 2018: Bringing Students, Industry, and Government Together May 30, 2018

May 30, 2018

The Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE) was held on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). Each year, ASPIRE, hosted by ALERT (Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) and Gordon-CenSSIS (The Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems), brings together members of the academic, industrial, and government communities to engage in dialogue, and provides networking opportunities for ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS students looking for internships, co-op opportunities, and employment.

Participants at ASPIRE 2018 included industry representatives from American Science and Engineering/Rapiscan Systems, Pendar Technologies, Smiths Detection, Raytheon, HXI, and Innovation Business Partners; government representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and ALERT-affiliated graduate students from Boston University, Northeastern University, Purdue University, Texas Tech University, University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Notre Dame, and Marquette University. New to this year’s ASPIRE was the participation of non-ALERT students, including graduate students from the Northeastern University Master’s Program in Homeland Security.

The event began in the early afternoon with welcoming remarks from Emel Bulat (ALERT Industrial and Government Liaison Officer), Dr. Michael Silevitch (ALERT Director) and Dr. Laura Parker (DHS ALERT Program Manager). Afterward, industry and government members gave 5-minute presentations on their organizations, research needs, and job openings. Another new aspect of this year’s ASPIRE was a series of 15-minute group networking roundtables where students gained experience giving their 2-minute “elevator pitch” and receiving feedback from their peers and industry/government table hosts. This was followed by 10-minute one-on-one sessions between students and industry/government representatives, as well as one-on-one sessions between industry and government representatives.

Muhammad Usman Ghani, a graduate student from Boston University reflected on the value of participating in ASPIRE:

“As engineers, we don’t always get the chance to polish our networking skills. For example, I can explain a problem to another engineer in one sentence, but a general audience may not get it. This event gives you a chance to speak in a simpler and more general sense. It allows you to think outside of the box, rather than just focusing on solving problems.”

ADSA18 Workshop Addresses Metadata May 30, 2018

May 30, 2018

The Eighteenth Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA18) Workshop was held on May 15-16, 2018 at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. About 150 participants from academia, industry, and government gathered to engage in dialogue related to the theme of the ADSA18 Workshop: “Collection and Use of Metadata for Improving Aviation Security Systems.”

The ADSA18 Workshop featured more than thirty presentations, including two panel discussions, from subject matter experts and leaders from industry and government over the course of two days. Specific topics discussed included the collection, use, and dissemination of metadata, passenger compliance to supplying and using metadata, and legal and privacy issues related to the topic.

The DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) has convened the ADSA Workshop series since 2009. Originally named the “Algorithm Development for Security Applications” workshop series, the name changed in 2014 following the ADSA10 Workshop to reflect how the scope of the workshop series has expanded beyond algorithms. The purpose of the ADSA Workshop series is to address research opportunities that may enable the development of next-generation systems and to facilitate collaboration and innovation between researchers from academia, national labs, and industry.

Final reports for all previous ADSA Workshops are also available online:

Time is running out! May 17, 2018

COE Summit Registration Deadline is THIS FRIDAY, May 18th

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence Summit 2018: University Research & Development to Protect the Homeland

Summit Dates: May 30-31, 2018
Location: George Mason University, 3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA

The deadline to register for the 2018 Centers of Excellence (COE) Summit is this Friday, May 18th. Don’t miss this interactive event which brings together researchers, DHS components, industry and first responders to discuss next-generation technology and tools developed to solve homeland security challenges.

This year’s summit features keynotes and discussions with top leaders in homeland security, including:

  • Christopher Krebs, Senior Official Performing the Duties of Under Secretary,NPPD
  • Corey Gruber, Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Response and Recovery, FEMA
  • Darby LaJoye, Assistant Administrator, Office of Security Operations, TSA
  • Kevin McAleenan, Commissioner, CBP
  • Matthew Allen, Assistant Director, Investigative Programs Homeland Security Investigations, ICE
  • William (Bill) Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology, DHS S&T
  • Anneli Bergholm Soder, Head of the Operations, Department of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency 
  • Daniel Kaniewski, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, Federal Emergency Management Agency

The COE Summit’s Full Agenda also includes panel sessions on homeland security topics, an innovation showcase and student posters session.

Register HERE by May 18, 2018.  


The COE Summit is sponsored by the United States Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence (COEs). The COE network is a consortium of hundreds of universities that conduct research and education to address homeland security challenges. ALERT is one of nine current Centers of Excellence sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs.

Watch the Newest ALERT Video: “Why ADSA?” May 9, 2018

For users without YouTube access: Why ADSA?

As the ALERT Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA) Workshops have evolved over the years, the number and diversity of our attendees has continued to expand. This growth has helped further facilitate collaboration and innovation between various communities, and is one of the definitive qualities that separates ADSA from other professional conferences.

In this video, we ask Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate Program Managers what they feel is “the most valuable aspect of ADSA” and “why they attend ADSA.”

For more information on the ALERT Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA) Workshops, click here.


View the Latest DHS COE Summit 2018 Agenda Online May 4, 2018

Are you looking for an event that brings together subject matter experts, homeland security leadership, end-users, and industry to discuss research and development to protect the homeland? The Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence have done just that with this year’s DHS COE Summit.

Take a look at the latest agenda and register today for this year’s event

United States Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence Summit 2018: University Research & Development to Protect the Homeland

This Centers of Excellence (COE) organized event is a unique opportunity for COE researchers, DHS components, federal, state, and local stakeholders, as well as industry partners to connect, network, and address key issues of mutual interest.

WHEN: May 30-31, 2018
WHERE: George Mason University, 3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA

This year’s Keynote Speakers include:

  • Kevin McAleenan, Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Homeland Security
  • Matthew C. Allen, Assistant Director, Investigative Programs Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • William N. Bryan, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology Department of Homeland Security

Visit the Innovation Showcase

  • Products to assist operational decision-makers
  • Technologies to save lives and protect property
  • Tools to safeguard the borders

Attend Panel Sessions

  • Natural and manmade disasters
  • Transportation and critical infrastructure
  • Cross-border movement of people, goods, data and capital

Explore the Latest Student Research

  • Undergraduate, graduate-level and professional development students
  • Discuss research, case studies and technology developments

This event is sponsored by the national network of university-led U.S. Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence (COEs), an extended consortium of hundreds of universities conducting research and education to address homeland security challenges.

Training for First Responders – A High ALERT Priority March 30, 2018

March 29, 2018

On January 30th and February 1st, ALERT researcher, Dr. Jimmie Oxley (University of Rhode Island) and her students traveled to Natick, MA to lead a course and field training titled “Explosives Chemistry for Emergency Responders” for twenty-three students from the Massachusetts 1st Civil Support Team (WMD) of the National Guard and the Department of Fire Services HazMat. The purpose of this training was to familiarize the teams with improvised explosives, to drill them in recognition of a variety of threats, and to test their use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and detection instrumentation. The field training consisted of three improvised lab scenarios: 1) the drug lab of a “tweaker” who also dabbles in explosives; 2) the workshop of a disgruntled employee who has access to radioactive sources, as well as guns and ammo; 3) a terrorist cell making propaganda videos, explosives, ricin, and mustard. Participants had to decide how best to approach each scenario using their expertise, the information obtained in the class, and their issued instrumentation and PPE. According to Dr. Oxley, “This was a learning experience for both students and teachers. We, the teachers, learned real-life concerns and constraints. They, the students, learned of new potential threats and the appropriate tools in their kits for detecting them. Field training, like this, is essential for readiness at crisis time.”


Innovation Business Partners: ALERT’s Newest Industrial Member March 2, 2018

March 29, 2018

ALERT is pleased to welcome Innovation Business Partners, Inc. (IBP) as its newest industrial member. IBP is a small business based in New Jersey that assists organizations and individuals in creating and spreading new knowledge to maximize their value and competitive advantage. They do this through the offering of many services, including innovation training courses, analysis and modeling of innovation networks, and models that create and promote an organizational culture of innovation. By analyzing the innovation networks of organizations and their competition, IBP creates valuable connections so that its clients can share knowledge and become more competitive in their field.

IBP’s clientele spans government and private sectors over a wide variety of topics. IBP is currently working on a pilot study of ALERT’s innovation network baseline and innovation potential. ALERT is looking forward to seeing the output and working further to enhance the ALERT network.

ALERT industrial membership has several advantages. Through various events, ALERT provides members the opportunity to network with other members, faculty from ALERT’s partner institutions, and local, state, and federal representatives. Other advantages of ALERT industrial membership include admission to two members-only events.  First is the Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE), providing industrial members with access to qualified job-seeking students. Second is participation in the ALERT Industrial Advisory Board meeting which involves guest speakers, highlights of successful government-industry-academia collaboration, and networking opportunities. Members also have the opportunity to request targeted research in an area of interest to their organizations; and lastly, ALERT public workshop registration fees are waived. For more advantages of ALERT industrial membership, please see the Benefits of Collaboration, or contact our Industrial and Government Liaison Officer, Ms. Emel Bulat at or Ms. Kristy Provinzano at

Photo: Gary Markovitz, CEO of Innovation Business Partners, Inc., presenting at the last Industrial Advisory Board meeting in October 2017. 

Professor Rappaport Delivers “Electromagnetic Screening for Airport Security” Lecture February 22, 2018

February 22, 2018

ALERT Deputy Director and Northeastern University Electrical and Computer Engineering Distinguished Professor, Carey Rappaport, gave an invited lecture on February 10th in Princeton, New Jersey. The lecture was part of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s Science on Saturday Lecture Series. Titled “Electromagnetic Screening for Airport Security,” it focused on designing an airport scanner using millimeter-wave radar technology that is more accurate and less expensive than the currently employed passenger scanners, and which will provide images that are so clear it will be unnecessary to have humans look at the images to determine threats. Science on Saturday features scientists, engineers, and other professionals that are conducting cutting-edge research, and draws hundreds of community members each week.

To learn more about the work Professor Rappaport leads at ALERT, visit our Bulk Sensors & Sensor Systems research page.

Student Spotlight: Muhammad Usman Ghani (Ph.D. Candidate, Boston University) January 29, 2018

January 29, 2018

Muhammad Usman Ghani, a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Boston University, is now in his second year working on ALERT research with Professor Clem Karl. His project, “Advanced Multispectral Computed Tomography (CT) Algorithms” (Project R4-C.1), involves developing learning based algorithms to improve the quality of imaging reconstructions for CT, and applies many areas of his interest, including, machine learning, computer vision, and statistical signal processing. When asked how he initially became interested in ALERT research, he describes an early interest in image processing and machine learning, and states, “The focus of ALERT research is on the cross-roads of inverse problems in imaging and image analysis. Additionally, it is an applied kind of research, which has always driven me. When Professor Karl introduced me to the ALERT research, I instantly became interested.”

A driving force behind his work is his desire to see real world technology applications address the large scale and ever present security challenges faced today. Usman’s goal is to solve various image acquisition and analysis problems, specifically in security scenarios, and is currently working with Professor Karl to draw on big data to develop new machine learning based methods to improve image reconstruction. Outside of research, Usman loves to travel and immerse himself in new cultures, learning about the world’s religions and eating amazing food. When asked where he sees himself in 5-10 years, he is sure research will be part of his career, but has yet to decide if he will stay in academia or work in industry. Either way, his passion for learning and exploring is sure to lead to a rich and exciting future!