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Airlines for America (A4A) Visit ALERT July 28, 2017

On July 19, 2017, ALERT hosted Airlines for America (A4A), a trade association based in Washington, D.C. A4A member airlines and their affiliates transport more than 90% of U.S. passenger and cargo traffic. A4A’s stated purpose is to “foster a business and regulatory environment that ensures safe and secure air transportation and enables U.S. airlines to flourish, stimulating economic growth.” As such, A4A’s support is critical to ALERT’s mission and developing closer ties is of strategic importance to our researchers and our industrial partners.

A4A representatives started the day by being presented with an overview of ALERT’s organization, research, and partnerships with industry by ALERT’s Deputy Director, Prof. Carey Rappaport. This presentation was given at Northeastern University’s Kostas Institute for Homeland Security (KRI) in Burlington, MA and was followed by a tour of ALERT’s Video Analytics Laboratory, which is housed at KRI and is currently being used for ALERT’s Correlating Luggage and Specific Passengers (CLASP) research project.

The group then returned to Northeastern’s main campus in Boston, MA and toured the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) Laboratory led by Professor Carey Rappaport and the Sensing, Imaging, Control and Actuation (SICA) laboratory lead by Professor Jose Martinez-Lorenzo. Both labs provided demos of ALERT’s On-the-Move technologies and Whole Body Scanning technologies; the latter demo was assisted by ALERT’s current Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) students. The A4A team was very impressed with the research presented and requested a second day-long event to allow representatives from A4A member organizations to see firsthand the results of ALERT’s research efforts.

In building partnerships with A4A and the airlines and affiliates they represent, ALERT hopes to deliver relevant and field-able technologies to the air transportation community.

Five Questions with Srikrishna Karanam (RPI, MS ’14, PhD ’17) July 28, 2017

Former ALERT student researcher, Srikrishna Karanam, reflects on his time with ALERT and how it prepared him for working in the Homeland Security Enterprise.

Srikrishna joined ALERT in 2013 as a graduate student working with Prof. Richard J. Radke at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on video analytics problems in camera networks. At RPI, he earned his MS in Electrical Engineering and his Ph.D. in Computer and Systems Engineering. Srikrishna is now working as a Research Scientist at Siemens Corporate Research, focusing on computer vision and machine learning.

What professional development opportunities, aside from research experience, benefitted you during your time as an ALERT student?

SK:  During my time as an ALERT student, I attended several major conferences in Computer Vision – CVPR 2015 in Boston, MA, BMVC 2015 in Swansea, UK and ICCV 2015 in Santiago, Chile.  Going to these conferences allowed me to discuss open problems and establish connections with several researchers in my field. Furthermore, I participated in several ALERT events – ASPIRE, ADSA, and ALERT annual meetings – where I got opportunities to present my work to several stakeholders in the security and surveillance industry.

These ALERT events were crucial in that they helped me focus my algorithmic and systems research on operational aspects from an end-user’s perspective – I believe these are critical issues as we transition laboratory research into working prototypes in the real world. 

We understand that you were working under the supervision of former ALERT student, Ziyan Wu (RPI, PhD ‘14) during an internship with Siemens Corporate Research (Princeton, NJ) last year. What were some highlights from that experience?

SK:  I was given a lot of independence in addressing existing problems the group at Siemens was tackling. This gave me an opportunity to explore several algorithmic as well as implementation and engineering components of the project I was assigned to. At the algorithmic level, I developed new algorithms and demonstrated improved performance on internal datasets. In addition, I assisted the group in integrating these algorithms as part of a large system that has been deployed for in-the-field testing.

This assignment provided me with valuable, real-world, hands-on research experience. Ziyan and others in the Vision Technologies and Solutions group were very supportive, kind, and welcoming, and I thoroughly enjoyed working there and developed great friendships along the way. 

During your time at ALERT, you collaborated with ALERT teams from RPI, Northeastern University, and Boston University. Can you tell us a little bit about these collaborations and how they have prepared you to work in industry? Have you continued these collaborations post-graduation?

SK:  I worked with the ALERT teams from RPI, Northeastern University, and Boston University on the VAST “Tag and Track” project (see related video at: http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/news-article/alert-101-is-back/) for over 3 years.  Each team was responsible for specific parts of the project, with the goal of deploying and testing a working prototype of the system at the Cleveland International Airport, which was successfully achieved in Summer 2015.

The “Tag and Track” project provided me with real-world research, development, and project management experience, helping develop skills that are particularly relevant to industrial research labs. At Siemens Corporate Technology, I have been working on solving vision problems with practical relevance across multiple industrial units, and my experience with ALERT has helped me transition into my current work environment seamlessly.

Because of this project, I developed close collaborations (and friendships) with several researchers from Northeastern (specifically, Mengran Gou (NU, PhD ’17) and Oliver Lehmann (NU, PhD ’15)) in addition to Ziyan Wu and Austin Li (RPI, PhD ’15) from RPI. For instance, since the winter of 2015, Mengran and I have been closely collaborating on a project where our goal is to benchmark the current state-of-the-art in person re-identification for the convenience of the larger research community – as part of this work, we have evaluated several hundreds of different algorithms on numerous public datasets. Ziyan and I have been closely working together on numerous problems for many years – initially at RPI and now at Siemens.

Can you describe your role at Siemens and the research you are conducting now?

SK:  I work as a Research Scientist in the Vision Technologies and Solutions group at Siemens Corporate Technology, where I research topics in Computer Vision and Machine Learning. I am responsible for developing algorithms to address research problems, as well as prototype systems that leverage these algorithms to solve real-world problems. My current research focuses on all aspects of image indexing, search, and retrieval with applications in object recognition and pose estimation.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

SK:  My past research experience at RPI and ALERT has made me realize the importance of, and challenges in, getting lab-optimized research to work effectively in the “wild” real-world. To this end, I hope to contribute towards bridging this “gap,” enabling and building systems that offer Computer Vision, Machine Learning, and Data Analytics technologies as services to solve a wide variety of real-world problems.

ADSA16 Presentations Now Available June 20, 2017

We are pleased to announce that the presentations from The Sixteenth Advanced Development for Security Applications Workshop (ADSA16) which was held on May 2-3, 2017 at Northeastern University in Boston, MA are now available for download.

The title of the workshop was, “Addressing the Requirement for Different Stakeholders in Transportation Security.” View all slides, as well as the reports from past ADSA workshops here.

If you have any questions regarding the topics and technologies discussed at the workshop, please contact ALERT at alert-info@coe.neu.edu.

ALERT Launches Video Analytics Lab at Kostas Research Institute May 30, 2017

A Better Testing Facility for Solving Real World Problems

Northeastern University’s George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security is now home to ALERT’s new Video Analytics Laboratory. Providing secure access, 1225 sq. feet of open space, controlled lighting conditions, and a fully networked and flexible camera grid, ALERT can better investigate and develop video and sensor technologies to address the needs of the Homeland Security Enterprise.

Using Video Technologies to Improve Passenger Experience

The first research project to leverage the lab is entitled Research and Development of Systems for Tracking Passengers and Divested Items at the Checkpoint. Funded by the Department of Homeland Security, this project is known by the acronym CLASP (Correlating Luggage and Specific Passengers) and leverages the technical expertise of ALERT research teams from Boston University, Marquette University, Northeastern University, Purdue University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. These teams will work towards developing an automated system capable of tracking passengers and divested items at airport security checkpoints.

CLASP will primarily focus on using video technologies to assist the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in effectively identifying security incidents like theft of items, or bags left behind at the checkpoint. By automating and improving the technologies associated with these objectives, ALERT hopes to improve rates of detection and at the same time improve the passenger experience.

CLASP was the result of DHS’s interest in initial work done by ALERT Project Investigator Richard Radke’s lab. A video of their work can be seen below:

(Z. Wu and R.J. Radke, Real-Time Airport Security Checkpoint Surveillance Using a Camera Network. Workshop on Camera Networks and Wide Area Scene Analysis, in conjunction with CVPR 2011, June 2011.).

Government & Industry Partners Make the Difference

In order to deliver the system outlined in CLASP, the researchers working on the project require access to video data displaying real-world checkpoint security situations. Actual airport security video is generally restricted, so ALERT partnered with Massport, the Transportation Security Administration at Boston Logan International Airport, and industrial partners such as Rapiscan Systems to create an accurate representation of an airport security checkpoint in the ALERT Video Analytics Laboratory. This full-scale, mock airport security checkpoint uses the same hardware and design specifications currently used by the TSA at airports such as Logan, and gives ALERT a space to generate usable video data for this project and hopefully to the video analytics research community as a whole.

CLASP is just the beginning of work that can be done in this new laboratory and ALERT is hoping to leverage it for additional homeland security-related projects going forward. If you are interested in partnering with ALERT on future projects, please connect with us via email at alert-info@coe.neu.edu.

Industry Spotlight: Q&A with Dr. Mark Witinski of Pendar Technologies May 30, 2017

ALERT recently caught up with Dr. Mark Witinski, Vice President of Chemical Analysis & Security Group, at Pendar Technologies. Dr. Witinski served as co-founder and President of Eos Photonics prior to the merger which formed Pendar Technologies. At Pendar Technologies, he focuses primarily on applications development, business to business strategic partnerships, and government sales.

1) Can you describe the work Pendar Technologies does and how it contributes to the Homeland Security Enterprise?

Pendar’s work in furthering the Homeland Security Enterprise takes a few forms.  The most critical one – the one that is the focus of our first product – is giving security and military personnel the tools to analyze unknown chemicals in the field and without physical contact. This is generally referred to as “Standoff Detection.”

 2) Pendar Technologies is one of ALERT’s industrial members. How has collaboration with ALERT been beneficial to Pendar Technologies?

For Pendar, there are two major benefits to our longstanding ALERT membership.  One is direct interaction with thought leaders in the Homeland Security space, where we learn first-hand about the contemporary challenges and frontiers in various security settings.  The other major benefit has been formal and informal collaborations with other members of the ALERT community that serve to address those challenges.  For instance, Pendar has pursued new sensing modalities with other industrial members and has also fostered collaborations with academic research groups from ALERT affiliated universities including: Northeastern University, Purdue University, Tufts University, The University of Rhode Island, and The University of Puerto Rico.

3) Can you describe some of the technology that has been developed or improved upon through the Pendar Technologies/ALERT partnership?

Sure. Pendar uses a unique laser technology called the Quantum Cascade Laser.  Critical advancements in that technology were made through two years of partnership with ALERT and The John Adams Institute for Innovation (JAII). This work was especially important as it came during a very formative time in our company.  Working with ALERT and JAII helped to reduce the market risk pursuing the technological path that we were on.

4) You completed your doctorate in Chemical Physics at Cornell University where your research focused on molecular beams and laser spectroscopy to examine the dynamics of molecular collisions. What inspired you to pursue this research area?

This is an interesting question—one I even ask myself sometimes. My graduate work, and my postdoc work for that matter, were both focused on gas phase chemistry. Specifically, I sought to examine the detailed aspects of individual molecular reactions to gain the understanding that underpins how, for instance, ground level pollutants form and how they are removed.  The atmosphere is a reactor—a very large and hard to control reactor.  As a health matter, dangers lie not only in exposure to chemicals that are directly emitted. Rather, substances and their levels are governed by a complex set of coupled reactions, reactions which I wanted to understand as fully as possible before even attempting to comment on a solution. In this process, I became exposed to many laser technologies, including the Quantum Cascade Laser.

5) Can you describe your current role at Pendar Technologies and how your technical background prepared you for this role?

What I try to do is to listen to leaders from the agencies that all of us rely on to enhance our security.  Often, these conversations reveal that many agencies, as well as the Defense Departments of the world share similar needs, although they may not communicate directly with one another.  If a security capability is both desired and is lacking in multiple user groups, it tells me that a new capability is truly needed for protection of the public and of military forces. I then work with other Pendar scientists and engineers to see if we can offer a solution.

6) What emerging technology or research in the chemical analysis and security domains are you most excited about?

One of the things about chemical analysis that is not immediately obvious is that, at the most fundamental of levels, we basically have the tools that we are going to have for the foreseeable future: Mass Spectrometry, Infrared Spectroscopy, Chromatography, Raman Spectroscopy, X-Ray Imaging, Ion Mobility Spectrometry, and the list goes on.

What advances the capabilities of these methods is how they are practiced and integrated in a way that leverages advances in other disciplines. For instance, modern systems are engaging high speed portable computing, ever improving camera systems, additive manufacturing technology, wireless communications, etc… It is through careful integration and mastery of the entire chemical/instrument/user system that disruptive advances occur. It seems clear that the necessity of end-to-end mastery in this space is causing security developers to collaborate more, and venues like ALERT are key in fostering needed collaborations.

ADSA16: Bringing Transportation Security Stakeholders Together May 30, 2017

The Sixteenth Advanced Development for Security Applications (ADSA16) Workshop was held on May 2-3, 2017 at Northeastern University in Boston with 160 participants in attendance. The theme for the workshop was “Addressing the Requirements for Different Stakeholders in Transportation Security,” which explored the stakeholder perspectives of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airlines, vendors, passengers, academia, and national labs.

Some of the topics discussed at ADSA16 were methods and technologies to optimize airport security checkpoints; emerging technologies; explosives trace detection; deep learning; and techniques and strategies for securing soft targets (malls, arenas, outdoor events).

ADSA16 was unique from previous workshops, because it included the involvement of airline representatives from Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue, who discussed the importance of forming partnerships with aviation security stakeholders during an insightful panel discussion.

The ADSA Workshop series has been convened by the DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) since 2009. Originally named the “Algorithm Development for Security Applications” Workshop series, the name was changed following ADSA10 in 2014 to reflect how the scope of the workshop series has expanded well beyond algorithms. The ADSA Workshop series is intended 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.

The next ADSA Workshop (ADSA17) will be held at the same location on October 17-18, 2017 with the theme “Systems Engineering of Aviation Security Systems.” Specific topics that will be addressed include requirement specifications for systems and subsystems; the acquisition and use of metadata; assessment, management, and use of risk; and layered security. ADSA17 is expected to continue to draw interested and engaged communities from the Homeland Security Enterprise.

For more information about the upcoming ADSA17, please visit the ADSA17 information page. To read up on previous ADSA Workshops, check out ALERT’s collection of final reports.

Spring 2017 ASPIRE Announced January 27, 2017

Every year ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS host the Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE) aimed at building connections between students and ALERT industrial collaborators. The upcoming ASPIRE will be held on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at Northeastern University and will feature presentations by industry members, a poster session by students, and a “speed-dating” session for students and industry members to have one-on-one time to discuss their common goals.

The previous ASPIRE (held in Spring 2016) was attended by students from ALERT’s academic partner institutions, as well as representatives from the following ALERT industrial collaborators: American Science & Engineering, Analog Devices Inc., HXI LLC, Morpho Detection, Passport Systems Inc., Rapiscan Systems, and Raytheon Company; as well as representatives from two government agencies, the Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

ASPIRE continues to give students the opportunity to present their research and career aspirations to industry members looking to recruit for internships and full-time positions. ASPIRE also offers participants a unique format in which to cover a broad range of topics significant to the Homeland Security Enterprise, and provides students and industry members with meaningful and effective networking opportunities.

This event is by invitation only for our ALERT and Gordon-CenSSIS industry members and students. More details and an agenda are forthcoming.

Photo caption: Yongfang Cheng, Northeastern University PhD candidate meeting with Piero Landolfi and Kurt Bistany of Morpho Detection at the 2016 ASPIRE.

Job Opportunity at Analog Devices December 2, 2016

ALERT Industrial Member, Analog Devices is looking to fill an Electrical Design Engineer position. 

Electrical Design Engineer (New Graduate) Job Reference Number: 161791

Job Description:

Seeking a highly motivated entry-level Electrical Design Engineer responsible for Digital/Analog Electronics, FPGA and Microprocessor design with emphasis on high-speed data conversion. Work closely with internal team members to design control systems pertaining to Microwave and Millimeter Wave development programs covering a range of commercial, military, and aerospace applications. Create and release engineering documents and provide technical support to sales and customers.

Principal Job responsibilities will include:

  • Design of analog/digital circuits utilizing FPGA, Embedded Processors, high-speed data converters and DDR memory.
  • Design DC Power conditioning, management, and sequencing circuits.
  • FPGA coding utilizing VHDL/Verilog HDL implementing custom control interfaces, DSP algorithms, and memory interfaces. Test-bench generation, simulation, compilation and timing closure.
  • Work closely with PCB designers to specify PCB design rules, component placement, and power plane distribution. Perform PCB signal integrity, crosstalk, and timing analysis.
  • Analog/Digital circuit simulation.
  • Hardware test, debug, and validation.

Qualifications:

  • Recent Graduate, BSEE, MSEE preferred.
  • Familiarity with FPGA/CPLD programming and design application, Verilog/VHDL
  • Knowledge of Embedded processor code development preferred, C/C++
  • Experience with Modelsim, DxDesigner, Xilinx ISE/Vivado, or Mentor CAD tools a plus.
  • Candidate must have good communication skills.
  • S. Citizenship Required.

For positions requiring access to technical data, Analog Devices, Inc. may have to obtain export  licensing approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce – Bureau of Industry and Security and/or the U.S. Department of State – Directorate of Defense Trade Controls.  As such, applicants for this position – except US Citizens, US Permanent Residents, and protected individuals as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3) – may have to go through an export licensing review process.  

Analog Devices, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity Employer Minorities/Females/Vet/Disability

http://www.analog.com/en/about-adi/careers.html

RAND 2017 Graduate Student Summer Associate Program November 30, 2016

DHS’s new Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), the Homeland Security Operations Analysis Center (operated by Rand) sponsors a Graduate Student Summer Associate Program at RAND. All applications are due January 5, 2016.

This program provides a great opportunity for graduate students across the Centers of Excellence to explore a career serving the Homeland Security Enterprise through FFRDC research and analysis. The program is designed for full-time students who have completed at least two years of graduate work leading to a doctorate or professional degree. Further details about the program and eligibility criteria are described on our Graduate Student Summer Associate Program website.

This year’s application instructions are listed on the program website.

Developing a Next Generation Screening System to Keep First Responders Safe, and People in Motion November 1, 2016

ALERT is working on developing the first inexpensive, high resolution millimeter-wave radar (mm-wave) system for the purpose of detecting and identifying potential suicide bombers in motion and at a safe distance.  Current millimeter-wave imaging systems for security screening require people to stop and stand in front of the scanning system. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has identified that being able to detect security threats without interrupting the motion of the person under test will be one of the most valuable features of the next generation personnel screening systems [Checkpoint of the Future Roadmap 2020, now Smart Security].

Professors Carey Rappaport and Jose Martinez are leading a team that wants to make that feature a reality. ALERT’s mm-wave radar system uses multiple radar sensors simultaneously. By coordinating transmitters and receivers from both sides of a walkway, the full picture of a subject moving between them is formed. At present, mm-wave radar is the only modality that can both penetrate and sense beneath clothing as far as 50 meters away.

General sketch of the inexpensive, high-resolution radar system used for detecting security threats (a) at mid-ranges using an “on-the-move” configuration, and (b) at standoff-ranges using a “van-based” configuration.

General sketch of the inexpensive, high-resolution radar system used for detecting security threats (a) at mid-ranges using an “on-the-move” configuration, and (b) at standoff-ranges using a “van-based” configuration.

The high resolution mm-wave radar system has two configurations. The first configuration, “on-the-move,” will be able to distinguish security threats hidden on individuals at mid-ranges (2-10 meters) even when those individuals are in motion. The second “van-based” configuration of the system would be able to make detections at stand-off ranges (10-40 meters). The system is non-invasive, provides minimally-disruptive scanning with quality imaging and a fast data collection time of less than 10ms. ALERT’s system would also be the first radar system that is capable of functioning at multiple ranges for both indoor and outdoor scenarios

One of ALERT’s Industrial Members, HXI Inc., has been collaborating with our research team on this technology. Together, HXI and ALERT have designed, fabricated, integrated, and validated the radar system. ALERT expects that after the assembling the first Gen-3 prototype, the partnership will transition the technology to the millimeter-wave imaging market. Additionally, new low-cost miniaturized modules are being developed by HXI for the next generation mm-wave system.

To learn more about ALERT and the Development of “Stand-off” & “On-the-Move” Detection of Security Threats, contact ALERT at alert-info@northeastern.edu or read more on the project’s page.

Caption: (Image Above Right) Gen-2 mm-wave radar system. The transmitting vertical array is shown on the left of the image, while the receiving horizontal array is shown on the right.

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