News & Events
Innovation Fast Track
ALERT’s Methods to Improve the Detection of Hidden Explosives Wins Patent March 3, 2017
ALERT researchers, Prof. Carey Rappaport and Prof. Jose Martinez-Lorenzo of Northeastern University were awarded a patent for “Signal Processing Methods and Systems for Explosives Detection and Identification Using Electromagnetic Radiation” (U.S. Patent 9,575,045) on February 21, 2017.
This patent is for an algorithm designed to rule out non-explosive concealed foreign objects affixed to the skin (i.e. hidden under clothing). Current security screening systems, such as AIT Millimeter Wave Scanners used at airports to scan passengers, are able to identify items with distinct shapes that are hidden on the body, such as guns and knives. However, explosives are considerably more difficult to identify in this manner, due to the fact that the size and shape of explosives can vary greatly, leading to time-consuming and potentially dangerous security pat-downs to determine if a suspicious object is a security threat, or a wallet that a passenger forgot to place in the bin.
Prof. Rappaport and Prof. Martinez-Lorenzo believe their algorithm, when plugged into existing screening systems, will greatly reduce the number of false alarms, and thus, the number of pat-downs needed, leading to greater accuracy in threat detection and shorter security lines. The improved reliability would benefit many: passengers, airlines, and the Transportation Security Administration; and possibly lead to the expansion of AIT Millimeter Wave Scanners into everyday use, such as railway stations, sporting venues, and other soft targets.
Image caption: Simulation of a human form with explosives slab affixed to chest.
ALERT Welcomes Newest Industrial Member, Analog Devices, Inc. November 1, 2016
ALERT is pleased to announce its newest industrial member, Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI). ADI is a leading designer and manufacturer of high-performance analog and microwave integrated circuits and complete integrated solutions. For more than 50 years, ADI has been at the forefront of innovation in the area of sensing and signal processing for commercial as well as Aerospace and Defense applications. Analog Devices has Massachusetts design centers in Wilmington, Chelmsford, and Norwood. ALERT welcomes Analog Devices, Inc. into our community and is looking forward to a long-standing strategic partnership.
Analog Devices’ Aerospace and Defense division joined ALERT’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) in the third quarter of 2016. ADI is interested in collaborating with ALERT faculty on millimeter-wave imaging, signal processing, CT imaging, and stand-off trace explosives detection. Mr. Bryan Goldstein, General Manager of ADI’s Aerospace and Defense division, will be presenting an overview of their company at ALERT’s annual IAB Meeting on Monday, November 14, 2016.
The keynote address for this year’s IAB Meeting will be given by George Naccara, Federal Security Director for the Transportation Administration (TSA) under the Department of Homeland Security at Logan International Airport.
ALERT’s annual IAB Meeting, and other members-only events give industrial 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 the Annual Student Pipeline Industry Roundtable Event (ASPIRE), providing industrial members with access to qualified job-seeking students; the opportunity to request targeted research in an area of interest to their organizations; and waivers of ALERT workshop registration fees. 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 email@example.com.
Photo Caption: ALERT researcher, Prof. Carey Rappaport of Northeastern University presents at a previous IAB Meeting. The annual IAB Meeting brings industrial members together with faculty, as well as local, state, and federal representatives.
ADSA14 Presentations Now Available October 31, 2016
We are pleased to announce that the ADSA14 Workshop presentations are now available for download. 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 Carl Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALERT Phase 2 Year 3 Annual Report Available Online! September 30, 2016
ALERT is proud to announce that the Phase 2 Year 3 Annual Report is now available for download online. This report details the continued research in ALERT’s four thrusts:
- R1 Characterization & Elimination of Illicit Explosives
- R2 Trace & Vapor Sensors
- R3 Bulk Sensors & Sensor Systems
- R4 Video Analytics & Signature Analysis
A full bibliography of publications and presentations conducted under ALERT support follows the individual project reports. Comprehensive descriptions of the Year 3 activities that took place in our Research and Transition, Education, Strategic Studies, Safety, and Information Protection Programs, as well as the ALERT Phase 2 Overview and Year 3 Highlights, Infrastructure and Evaluation, and Industrial/Practitioner and Government Partnerships can also be accessed in the Annual Report.
DHS S&T to Conduct Virtual Facebook Town Hall to Improve Industry Partnerships September 23, 2016
On September 27, from 1-2 p.m. ET, DHS S&T Office of Public-Private Partnerships invites you to join in a Facebook virtual town hall. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss how S&T collaborates with industry, and is an opportunity to provide S&T with feedback on how to improve partnerships and engagement efforts to make it easier and more efficient to work with DHS:
“The S&T Office of Public-Private Partnerships is dedicated to redefining the way S&T does business with industry innovators to find more effective and novel ways to research, develop, and transition new technologies for our customers within the HSE. We know we cannot do this alone, so we’re looking for input on ways we can improve our outreach to ensure that we clearly communicate high-priority needs and requirements. We also welcome feedback on our existing opportunities and tools for traditional and non-traditional partners as we engage with them to discover, connect, develop, and transition technologies”
For more information on the event, visit the official event page.
ALERT’s work in Improving Security Screening featured in IEEE Antennas & Propagation Magazine September 19, 2016
ALERT Bulk Sensors & Sensor Systems Thrust Leader Professor Carey Rappaport and ALERT Researcher Assistant Professor Jose Martinez Lorenzo’s article on Improving Security Screening: A Comparison of Multistatic Radar Configurations for Human Body Imaging was one of four featured articles in the August issue of IEEE Antennas & Propagation Magazine. The four articles in this issue focused on “various concepts that could enhance future imaging scenarios” and asks the question, “…is it possible to combine all of these ideas into a next-generation advanced imaging system for security and other applications?”.
The article presents the use of a fully multistatic millimeter wave radar system. The radar can be used for imaging concealed objects on the human body at airport security checkpoints with increased speed and accuracy.
ALERT REUs Present Summer Research August 29, 2016
This summer, ALERT hosted three undergraduate students at Northeastern University to participate in a 10-week Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The ALERT REU program at NEU is partnered with other REU programs in the university’s College of Engineering, and builds a cohort of motivated students who attend professional development meetings and program activities, including presentations on Research Ethics, Lab Safety, PowerPoint Presentation Skills and Scientific Storytelling. At the end of the summer, each REU gives a final presentation of their research project. The presentation addresses the project’s overall mission and endeavors, the REU’s specific contributions to the project, as well as what knowledge and skills they gained through the process. This year’s students worked on projects related to ALERT’s Bulk Sensors & Sensor Systems research.
REU Anthony Bisulco (’18) is a third year NU student who worked with Professor Jose Martinez-Lorenzo on ALERT’s Rapid Security Threat Detection via MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) Millimeter Wave Imaging project.
In his words, “The main purpose of my REU project is to improve the overall passenger experience during the airport security screening process. Currently, this process is plaqued with many downfalls such as slow throughput, frequent false alarms and significant passenger divestment and recollection. The working goal of the project I am working on is to improve this process by creating ‘On the Move Screening’ where passengers walk at a normal pace through what appears to be a tunnel without the need to divest any clothing or personal items.”
Anthony’s project worked to increase the image quality of a 3D imaging millimeter wave radar (“Tunnel System”) with the goal of improving the system’s threat detection capability. “One part of this radar is various transmitters/receivers which illuminate/receiver the target (Human Torso) at various angles. As a result of adding transmitters/receivers the image quality is increased. Rather than adding multiple transmitters or receivers, my project added microwave switches to the system, which is the equivalent of adding more transmitters and receivers for imaging. Overall, I mainly designed the system for controlling these switches and developed some algorithms for optimizing the best imaging positions.”
Spencer Pozder (‘19) and Justin Xia (‘19) worked with Professor Carey Rappaport on Feasibility Investigations in Multistatic Imaging Techniques for their Research Experience. Currently, active millimeter wave radar is used for imaging objects concealed on the human body at airport security checkpoints. The current monostatic configurations are unable to accurately image objects at certain angles, give lower resolution, cost more, trigger more false alarms and have longer execution times. ALERT is interested in a multistatic configuration in an “On the Move” scanning system, capable of receiving image information from multiple angles in parallel, possibly increasing resolution and accuracy of the images produced.
The team developed a product using hardware from ALERT Industrial Partners, Rapiscan and Analog Devices, creating a functional system and imaging algorithm capable of reconstructing images. They also redesigned and relocated transmitter and receiver boards to accommodate the optimized system configuration and designed mechanical structure for holding transmitters and receivers. The “On the Move” system is currently being prototyped and patented.
In addition to this program, ALERT partner universities, including the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and Notre Dame, also hosted summer REU participants in their labs.
The REU program is hosted and sponsored by the Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, and the Bernard M. Gordon Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems (Gordon-CenSSIS), a Graduated National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center.
ADSA15: Save the Date! August 19, 2016
The Fifteenth Advanced Development for Security Applications Workshop (ADSA15) will be held on November 15th and 16th at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. The title of the workshop will be “Next Generation Screening Technologies and Processes for the Checkpoint.” This workshop is a continuation of ADSA12, ADSA13, and ADSA14. The workshop is being convened by the DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT).
Presentation and panel discussions will address the following topics:
- Emerging hardware and algorithms
- Concepts of operations
- Protecting soft targets
- Data analytics – application to aviation security
- System architectures
- Business aspects of fusion
- Funding, innovation and deployment models
For more information on the ADSA workshops, visit our ADSA Workshop Page
This workshop is by invitation only.
If you are interested in learning more, or receiving an invitation, please contact Melanie Smith at email@example.com.
REMINDER: White Paper Submissions Due 7/1/2016 June 30, 2016
REMINDER: ALERT White Papers are due TOMORROW. Submissions will be accepted until July 1, 2016, 11:59pm local time.
Pursuant to the goals of DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, Office of University Programs (OUP), the ALERT Center of Excellence (COE) is accepting white paper submissions for research and transition projects in 2016 and beyond. The COE seeks end-user focused projects that conduct transformational research, develop technology, and provide educational development to improve effective characterization, detection, mitigation and response to explosives-related threats facing the country and the world.
This call will consider white papers for projects ranging from fundamental research through transition to the security enterprise (government, private sector). Submissions must document the problem, describe the gaps that exist, and how their project will address the gaps to protect the public from explosives-related threats. ALERT plans to fund approximately four awards for up to two years at $60,000 to $100,000 per year.
The Call for White Papers is available here: http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4738.
Any questions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Current Funding Opportunities in the Security Domain May 24, 2016
There are several funding opportunities in ALERT-related topics we would like the community to be aware of. Each of these are actively seeking proposals.
Sandia National Lab Request for Proposals:
TSA Innovative Concepts Broad Agency Announcement (TSICBAA):
TSA Innovation for Aviation Security Broad Agency Announcement:
DHS S&T Long Range Broad Agency Announcement (LRBAA):