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ALERT Program

ALERT Hosts Technology Showcase & ADSA20 Workshop May 29, 2019

May 29, 2019

Earlier this month, the ALERT Center of Excellence hosted the ALERT Technology Showcase (May 14th) in conjunction with the ADSA20 Workshop (May 15th & 16th) at Northeastern University. The ALERT Technology Showcase featured presentations, posters, and technology demonstrations of the Center’s research and tools and highlighted the Center’s collaborative work with industry and government stakeholders, such as Astrophysics, Inc., DetectaChem, ENrG Inc., Pendar Technologies, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Quadridox, Rapiscan Systems, Signature Sciences, and Smiths Detection, to name a few. The objective of the event was to demonstrate the transition of ALERT’s work to Department of Homeland Security components, such as the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as its impact on the homeland security enterprise as a whole.

The twentieth workshop for Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA20) addressed the theme of “design, development, testing, deployment, and operation of effective systems.” Specific topics that were discussed during the workshop included: defining effective, effectiveness for stakeholders (airlines, passengers) and venues (subway, rail, cargo), humans in the loop, applications of metadata, rapid response to an adapting adversary, the role of artificial intelligence, and the transition of technology from academia to industry.

More than 160 attendees from academia, industry, and government participated in the ALERT Technology Showcase and ADSA20 Workshop, resulting in two of the most engaging events ALERT has hosted yet.

Regarding the value of the ALERT Technology Showcase, Francois Zayek, CEO of Astrophysics, Inc. stated

“I’m pleased to be here. I’m happy to see all the presentations, because again, we are so much involved in our industry. We are so much involved in the business, that we keep ourselves a little bit further away from the technologies, so every now and then it would be very helpful—and healthy—to come in and then see what is happening in the technology arena.”

Professor David Castañón (Boston University) and the lead for ALERT’s research on Video Analytics and Signature Analysis (Thrust R4), shared his thoughts on the most valuable aspect of the event stating

“It’s getting the feedback from a potential user. That is somebody who says ‘I have a problem this would be useful for.’ I’ve had two or three of those interactions while I have been here with the posters and it has been very nice.”

The next event ALERT will be hosting is the second workshop on Advanced Developments Encompassing Processes and Technologies for Customs and Border Protection (CBP-ADEPT-02), which will be held July 17th and 18th at Northeastern University. For more information on upcoming events and workshops, visit the ALERT website: www.northeastern.edu/alert

Photo: K9 Figaro waits patiently to participate in a demo of TEAS (Trace Explosives Aids for Scent), which ALERT developed in collaboration with DetectaChem, and showcased at the recent ALERT Technology Showcase as an example of safer training aids for explosives detection canines and first responders. 

ALERT Researchers Awarded Patent May 29, 2019

May 29, 2019

ALERT researchers, Professor Carey Rappaport and Professor Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University were awarded a patent for an “On-the-Move Millimeter Wave Interrogation System with a Hallway of Multiple Transmitters and Receivers” on May 21, 2019.

In conventional screening systems that use radar imaging for surveillance and detection purposes, an object of interest may be illuminated (using millimeter wave) and the scattered field measured and processed to reconstruct a feature of the object. These systems may generate an image that profiles a detectable shape, outline and/or movement of an object or subject; however, conventional radar systems, such as a portal-based system, constrains a subject from movement. Professor Rappaport and Professor Martinez-Lorenzo’s patented solution allows for screening an unconstrained subject, meaning an individual could be scanned for foreign objects attached to their bodies (such as explosives and weapons hidden under clothing) as they moved through a hallway of transmitters and receivers. Such a system could lead to faster and more accurate screening of individuals as they make their way through security checkpoints.

Read more about the “On-the-Move Millimeter Wave Interrogation System with a Hallway of Multiple Transmitters and Receivers” patent here.

To learn more about the work Professor Rappaport and Professor Martinez-Lorenzo are doing to make screening for explosives and weapons more effective and efficient, visit their respective project pages: Projects R3-A.2 and R3-A.3, and Project R3-B.1.

ALERT’s Newest Industrial Members: 908 Devices and Rigaku Analytical Devices May 29, 2019

May 29, 2019

This spring, the ALERT Center of Excellence welcomed 908 Devices and Rigaku Analytical Devices as the Center’s newest industrial members thanks to their generous donations of equipment to further ALERT research efforts at the University of Rhode Island (URI).

908 Devices is a fast-growing business in Boston, Massachusetts that develops products ranging from rugged, handheld chemical detection tools to compact, tiny footprint analyzers and fast separation devices. These purpose-built and user-centric devices serve a range of industries including field forensics, oil and gas, life sciences, and other applied markets.

908 Devices donated twenty M908TM portable mass spectrometers to the Chemistry Department at URI to support the high school education programming run by Dr. Jimmie Oxley (ALERT Research Thrust 1 Lead) and Dr. James Smith (ALERT Education Program Co-Lead).The M908TM is the company’s first product based on their patented and proven high-pressure mass spectrometryTM. M908TM is currently being used by CBRNE and HAZMAT organizations around the world for chemical detection, with at least one M908TM device deployed in every state across the United States.

Rigaku Analytical Devices is a leading pioneer and innovator of handheld and portable spectroscopic analyzers for use in the protection of public health and safety, aid in the advancement of scientific and academic study, enable the recycle and reuse of metal alloys, and ensure quality of key metal alloy components in mission-critical industries. Their advanced and rugged products deliver unparalleled accuracy and extensive application support, empowering their customers to achieve rapid lab-like results any time, any place.

Rigaku Analytical Devices donated a KT-100STM alloy analyzer (handheld laser induced breakdown spectroscopy technology) to Dr. Oxley’s lab at URI.

ALERT industrial membership has several advantages. Through various events, ALERT provides members the opportunity to network with other industrial members, faculty from ALERT’s partner institutions, and representatives from local, state, and federal governments. Other advantages of ALERT industrial membership include admission to two exclusive members-only events: The Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE), which provides industrial members with access to qualified job-seeking students; and the ALERT Industrial Advisory Board meeting, which features engaging 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. As an added bonus, registration fees are waived for industrial members attending ALERT’s public workshops, such as the ADSA Workshop and CBP-ADEPT Workshop series.

For more information on the advantages of ALERT industrial membership, please see the Benefits of Collaboration, or contact our Industrial and Government Liaison Officer, Ms. Emel Bulat at e.bulat@northeastern.edu, or our Industry Liaison Associate, Ms. Kristy Provinzano at k.provinzano@northeastern.edu.

Rigaku Analytical Devices: ALERT’s Newest Industrial Member May 7, 2019

May 9, 2019

ALERT is pleased to welcome Rigaku Analytical Devices as its newest industrial member thanks to their donation of a KT-100S alloy analyzer (handheld LIBS technology) to Dr. Jimmie Oxley (ALERT Research Thrust 1 Lead) at the University of Rhode Island.

Rigaku Analytical Devices is a leading pioneer and innovator of handheld and portable spectroscopic analyzers for use in the protection of public health and safety, aid in the advancement of scientific and academic study, enable the recycle and reuse of metal alloys, and ensure quality of key metal alloy components in mission-critical industries. Their advanced and rugged products deliver unparalleled accuracy and extensive application support, empowering their customers to achieve rapid lab-like results any time, any place.

ALERT industrial membership has several advantages. Through various events, ALERT provides members the opportunity to network with other industrial members, faculty from ALERT’s partner institutions, and representative from local, state, and federal governments. Other advantages of ALERT industrial membership include admission to two exclusive members-only events: The Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE), which provides industrial members with access to qualified job-seeking students; and the ALERT Industrial Advisory Board meeting, which features engaging 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. As an added bonus, registration fees are waived for industrial members attending ALERT’s public workshops, such as the ADSA Workshop and CBP-ADEPT Workshop series.

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 e.bulat@neu.edu, or Ms. Kristy Provinzano at k.provinzano@northeastern.edu.

908 Devices: ALERT’s Newest Industrial Member April 8, 2019

March 28, 2019

ALERT is pleased to welcome 908 Devices as its newest industrial member thanks to their generous donation of 20 M908TM portable mass spectrometers to the University of Rhode Island Chemistry Department to support the high school education programming run by Dr. Jimmie Oxley (ALERT Research Thrust 1 Lead) and Dr. James Smith (ALERT Education Program Co-Lead).

908 Devices is a fast-growing business in Boston, Massachusetts that develops products ranging from rugged, handheld chemical detection tools to compact, tiny footprint analyzers and fast separation devices. These purpose-built and user-centric devices serve a range of industries including field forensics, oil and gas, life sciences, and other applied markets. The M908 is the company’s first product based on their patented and proven high-pressure mass spectrometryTM. . M908 is currently being used by CBRNE and HAZMAT organizations around the world for chemical detection, with at least one M908 device deployed in every state across the United States.

ALERT industrial membership has several advantages. Through various events, ALERT provides members the opportunity to network with other industrial members, faculty from ALERT’s partner institutions, and representative from local, state, and federal governments. Other advantages of ALERT industrial membership include admission to two exclusive members-only events: The Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE), which provides industrial members with access to qualified job-seeking students; and the ALERT Industrial Advisory Board meeting, which features engaging 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. As an added bonus, registration fees are waived for industrial members attending ALERT’s public workshops, such as the ADSA Workshop and CBP-ADEPT Workshop series.

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 e.bulat@neu.edu, or Ms. Kristy Provinzano at k.provinzano@northeastern.edu.

Making Connections at ASPIRE 2019 March 27, 2019

March 28, 2019

This week, STEM students from ALERT’s academic partner institutions, and representatives from ALERT’s Industrial Members and government collaborators gathered together at Northeastern University for the Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE 2019). The aim of the ASPIRE series is to connect members of the industrial and government communities with qualified STEM students looking for internships, co-ops, and full-time jobs related to homeland security.

ASPIRE 2019 kicked off with welcoming remarks from Michael Silevitch (Director, ALERT), Emel Bulat (Senior Consultant for Corporate & Government Partnerships, ALERT), and Kristy Provinzano (Industry Liaison Associate, ALERT). Following this, ALERT Industry Members (American Science & Engineering, Rapiscan Systems, Raytheon, Smiths Detection) and representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs & Border Protection introduced student career opportunities at their respective organizations.

According to Adam Hutter, Laboratory Director at U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s New York Laboratory, “We’re constantly hiring, so we want to make sure we’re bringing in the best talent we can. The Department of Homeland Security has already invested heavily in these students through the Centers of Excellence pipeline, so it’s a resource we should utilize. These students have a leg up, because they’re already working on homeland security problems.”

ASPIRE 2019 featured both group and one-on-one meetings between students and representatives from industry and government. Many of the participants, like Jose Ruiz-Caballero who works on ALERT Project R3-C at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, were ASPIRE returnees interested in jobs: “It’s a high impact event from my professional point of view, because you have direct contact with industry and government and they can provide you with a profile of what they’re looking for in a candidate.”

Molly Baldwin, a Purdue University undergraduate who works on ALERT Project R2-A.3 and is about to graduate is looking toward the future: “I started working on the research project last semester and fell in love with this industry. I’m here to see what jobs are out there for chemical engineers. I could see myself continuing to do research to improve the detection of explosives.”

For other students, the event is a great networking opportunity and a chance to gain experience speaking with job recruiters. First year student and first time ASPIRE attendee, Ian Hay, who does breast cancer detection research at Northeastern University, isn’t looking for a job quite yet, but found the event to be beneficial. According to Hay, “Communicating with different companies, both public and private, is valuable to me, especially in a low-pressure setting. Being able to meet with representatives and explain my work and how it applies to their industry is great practice.”

Since its establishment as a DHS Center of Excellence, ALERT has prioritized training the next generation of professionals to tackle explosives-related threats. Over the past 12 years, ALERT has trained over 160 graduate students, resulting in more than 100 of these professionals working in DHS-relevant fields. Events like ASPIRE 2019 are a significant part of ALERT’s mission to provide educational development to improve effective characterization, detection, mitigation and response to explosives-related threats facing the nation and the world.

Infographic: ALERT’s Year 5 (2017-2018) Accomplishments January 29, 2019

January 29, 2019

As we begin the New Year, we are also looking back on the previous year! Check out our newest infographic on ALERT’s Year 5 (2017-2018) Accomplishments.

ALERT's Year 5 Accomplishments Infographic

ALERT Researchers Selected as IEEE Fellows January 29, 2019

January 29, 2019

Please join us in congratulating the newly elevated IEEE Fellows for the Class of 2019! We are especially proud of ALERT researchers Mario Sznaier of Northeastern University, and David Castañón and Venkatesh Saligrama of Boston University for this significant achievement. IEEE Fellow is a distinction reserved for select IEEE members whose extraordinary accomplishments in any of the IEEE fields of interest are deemed fitting of this prestigious grade elevation. The total number selected in any one year does not exceed one-tenth of one percent of the total voting IEEE membership.

Mario Sznaier is a Northeastern University ECE Professor and co-leads ALERT Project R4-A.1. Sznaier has been elevated to an IEEE Fellow for his contributions to identification of switched systems and multiobjective control. His work on Project R4-A.1 aims to substantially enhance our ability to exploit surveillance camera networks to predict and isolate threats from explosive devices in heavily crowded public spaces, and to guide complementary detection modalities, subsequent to a threat alert.

David Castañón and Venkatesh Saligrama are Boston University ECE Professors and collaborators on ALERT Project R4-A.2. Castañón has been elevated to an IEEE Fellow for his contributions to discrete-time stochastic control and information fusion. Saligrama has been elevated to an IEEE Fellow for his contributions to distributed detection and estimation of structured signals. Their work on Project R4-A.2 aims to leverage machine learning and computer vision methods for surveillance over multi-camera networks and to develop methods that are capable of real-time and forensic detection of suspicious activity.

ALERT Awarded Two New Task Orders November 29, 2018

Maturation and Validation of Dielectric Characterization Algorithms Task Order

ALERT has received a task order contract from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) to mature and operationalize the Advanced Imaging Technology material characterization (complex dielectric constant) algorithms being developed in ALERT Projects R3-A.2 and R3-B.1, led by ALERT Researchers, Dr. Carey Rappaport and Dr. Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University, respectively.

The task order, known as the “Maturation and Validation of Dielectric Characterization Algorithms,” will allow ALERT to use DHS owned images captured originally for the DHS S&T/TSA “Passenger Screening Algorithm Challenge.” The data for this prize competition was originally captured on the Apex Screening at Speed (SaS) High Definition – Advanced Imaging Technology (HD-AIT) laboratory prototype designed by Pacific Northwest National Lab. These images are available in several different file formats, including raw reflectivity formats. The data also includes ground truth information including relative body zone and materials for objects of interest. In the future, this data set may be augmented with additional images from future data collections. The end state for this development is an operationally functioning algorithm that is able to:

  • Integrate with provided open file formats to add material characterization capabilities to existing Automatic Threat Recognition (ATR) algorithms;
  • Demonstrate performance improvements (namely false alarm rate reduction while maintaining probability of detection) over current ATR algorithms;
  • Run in near-real time, almost suitable for an operational environment; and
  • Provide TSO-friendly output that will classify a foreign object into one of three categories (unlikely to be explosive, possible explosive threat, and undetermined).

Correlation of Luggage and Specific Passengers (CLASP) Algorithm Maturation and Deployment Task Order

ALERT has also received a DHS S&T task order contract, titled “Correlation of Luggage and Specific Passengers (CLASP) Algorithm Maturation and Deployment,” to mature algorithms developed under the ALERT CLASP Program so that the passenger-baggage tracking capability is sufficiently robust to support operational pilots and to support risk-based screening in an airport environment. DHS S&T has a variety of projects supporting the development of next-generation aviation security capabilities as a part of its Apex Screening at Speed (SaS) Program. Under the Apex SaS Program, passenger and carry-on screening requirements have necessitated adoption of a risk-based screening approach to the aviation checkpoint. In support of these risk-based screening requirements, the Apex SaS Program seeks to develop video analytics algorithms capable of associating passengers and their carry-on items as they travel through the airport checkpoint. Combined with existing TSA technologies, these algorithms will enable risk-based screening to occur on a per passenger and per item basis, improving screening efficiency and increasing overall passenger throughput. As a secondary benefit, effective video analytics will be able to identify thefts or items left behind at the checkpoint.

DHS S&T is seeking the following from the ALERT CLASP Algorithms project to further meet the needs of the Apex SaS Program:

  • Algorithms capable of associating passengers and their carry-on items as they traverse the airport checkpoint that are robust to variations in lighting, passenger density, glare, camera angles, etc;
  • Requirements and best practices for algorithm deployment in an operational environment (recommended hardware, configurations, etc.); and
  • Algorithms capable of leveraging passenger/bag association information to identify actions at the checkpoint (such as interaction with scanning equipment, item theft, or items left behind).

Spring 2019: Upcoming ALERT Events November 29, 2018

Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE)

March 26, 2019

The Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE) will be held on March 26, 2019 at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). The ASPIRE is hosted by ALERT (Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) & Gordon-CenSSIS (The Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems). ASPIRE provides an optimal setting for dialogue between members of the academic, industrial, and government communities and also provides networking opportunities for students looking for internships, co-op experiences, and full-time jobs. ASPIRE is targeted at undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of engineering, science, and computer & information sciences who are interested in careers related to homeland security.

ALERT Technology Showcase and Research Review

May 14, 2019

ALERT will be hosting a Technology Showcase and Research Review on May 14, 2019 at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). This event will feature presentations and demonstrations of ALERT research results and tools from select ALERT projects. Attendees will also be able to interact with individual project researchers and collaborators to learn more about their research throughout the day.

Advanced Developments for Security Applications (ADSA20) Workshop

May 15-16, 2019

The twentieth Advanced Developments for Security Applications (ADSA20) Workshop will be held May 15-16, 2019 at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). Due to conflicts with other events, ALERT has changed the date previously provided. The theme of the workshop will be “Design, Development, Testing, Deployment and Operation of Effective Systems.” Topics that will be addressed include:

  • Defining “effective”
  • Effectiveness for other stakeholders: airlines and passengers
  • Effectiveness for other venues: subway, rail, and cargo
  • Human in the loop
  • Positive predictive value improvement
  • Detection versus deterrence versus displacement
  • Role of interconnectivity with open architectures
  • Correct operating point on the receiver operator characteristic curve
  • Application of metadata
  • Rapid response to an adapting adversary
  • Managing the threat list
  • Dealing with imperfect equipment
  • Role of Artificial Intelligence
  • Statistical significance of tests and influence of limited training data
  • Application of simulants
  • True versus auto-detection
  • Data augmentation
  • Transition – particularly from academia
  • Reducing time to market
  • Role of third parties

A formal invitation to register for the ADSA20 Workshop and the ALERT Technology Showcase and Research Review, along with the agenda and logistics information are forthcoming. These events are by invitation only. Please contact Tiffany Lam at t.lam@northeastern.edu if you are interested in attending.

Advanced Developments Encompassing Processes and Technologies for Customs and Border Protection (CBP-ADEPT-02)

July 17-18, 2019

The second workshop on Advanced Developments Encompassing Processes and Technologies for Customs and Border Protection (CBP-ADEPT-02) will be held July 17-18, 2019 at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). The CBP-ADEPT-02 Workshop will address advanced development and processes for tomorrow with presentations and panel discussions on specific topics, such as:

  • An adaptive adversary
  • Integration of equipment and data
  • Collection and use of meta-data
  • Deterrence/hardening
  • Insider threats
  • Con-Ops
  • Adaptation of TSA technologies
  • Economics – incentives
  • Simulation tools
  • War gaming applications

A formal invitation to register for the event, along with the agenda and logistics information is forthcoming. You can find more information about the CBP-ADEPT workshops in the following link:  http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/transitioning-technology/cbpadept/