News & Events
Research

ALERT Student Emily Belk featured in podcast, “Thinking Through Autonomy” January 3, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Centers of Excellence (COE) Summit Grand Challenge Student Competition was held on July 31, 2019 at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. ALERT Student Emily Belk of Northeastern University and her team won first place with their proposal entitled, “Automated Drone Integrated Information System (ADIIS).” In October 2019, she was invited to participate in Ken Dunlap’s podcast, “Thinking Through Autonomy”, along with other students and mentors to discuss their research and experiences at the Grand Challenge Student Competition. Others featured in the podcast included COE representatives who advised the student participants and served on the COE Summit Grand Challenge Committee –  Beth Austin-DeFares from the Maritime Security COE at Stevens Institute of Technology, Stu Mackenzie from the Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis  COE at George Mason University, and Andrea Whitesell from the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute COE at the University of Illinois at Urbana– Champaign, as well as, Will Case, a student from Johnson C. Smith University who was a member of the second place winning team.

Hear Emily’s experiences during the Grand Challenge and her work with ALERT on the podcast, “Thinking Through Autonomy”.

ALERT Collaborates with CBP on Technology Demonstration at Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport December 18, 2019

On Thursday, November 21, 2019, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport headed by Chief Victor Todorov, hosted an all-day Technology Demonstration organized and led by ALERT Industrial Liaison Officer, Ms. Emel Bulat. The meeting was well-attended with six members of the ALERT researchers and staff, seven industry representatives, six senior DHS personnel and 25 CBP officers participating.

To kick-off the meeting, General Robert Newman, Executive Director for the Office of Mission and Capability Support at DHS S&T gave welcoming remarks along with Dr. Laura Parker, Program Manager for DHS S&T, Mr. David Taylor, Portfolio Manager, for DHS S&T and CBP Assistant Port Director Edward Morones. In preparation for the event, four of ALERT’s industry partners including Pendar Technologies, Rapiscan Systems, Rigaku Analytical Equipment, and Smiths Detection prepared live demonstrations of six instruments including handheld Raman Spectroscopy units and bench-top or handheld Ion Mobility Spectrometry systems.

406A3291

One week prior to the event, vendors were given a list of approximately 40 compounds, mostly from a Drug Enforcement Agency list of precursors, to add to their instruments’ lookup libraries for sample identification. Ten samples consisting of 1 to 4 compounds from the aforementioned list were prepared for analysis and scanned. At the end of the meeting, six “live” shipments were scanned on the warehouse floor. A team of CBP/DHS S&T/ALERT evaluators are currently reviewing the results which will be reported to the participating vendors by the end of December.

The enthusiasm with which the CBP Officers and vendors prepared for and participated in the Technology Demonstration made this event a great success. We thank them for their partnership and teamwork.

ALERT Researchers, Dr. Jimmie Oxley and Dr. Otto Gregory featured in the Press December 18, 2019

ALERT Researcher and URI Professor, Dr. Jimmie Oxley, was recently featured on CBS News discussing TSA projects aimed at improving the security screening process for travelers. The story details new technology being developed as part of ALERT research at URI such as the desensitizing agent known as SCHMOO (Safe Control of Hazard Materials or Others Onsite) recently developed by Dr. Oxley’s team.  SCHMOO is a unique gel that can be applied to hazardous materials to neutralize them and allow for safe removal and transportation for later analysis.

The CBS article also describes the “digital dog nose” being developed by ALERT Researcher and URI Professor, Otto Gregory with the goal of detecting explosives as well as or better than a bomb-sniffing dog.  Dr. Gregory is featured in an additional story on ABC News  during with he describes one benefit of the digital dog nose as being available around the clock, thereby not requiring breaks and reinforcement which is necessary for the dogs.

Both news items also describe the “Innovation Checkpoint” at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas which is a testing space for TSA technologies such as ID readers that will scan licenses to validate identification and flight information without the need to show a boarding pass at the security checkpoint.

ott

Dr. Gregory’s related journal article titled, “Orthogonal Sensors for the Trace Detection of Explosives” appeared in IEEE Sensors in October 2019 and was the subject of a lead story in the IEEE Spectrum.

Watch the full CBS feature story here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tsa-testing-advanced-airport-security-technology-digital-dog-nose-innovation-checkpoint/

Watch the full ABC affiliate feature story here: https://youtu.be/LSqfRB5eqwc

 

ALERT Researcher Matteo Rinaldi Receives $473K NSF Grant October 31, 2019

ALERT Faculty Professor Matteo Rinaldi is part of a research team awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for “Fully Integrated Parametric Filters for Extensive Phase-Noise Reduction in Low-Power RF Front-Ends and Resonant Sensing Platforms.” Dr. Rinaldi, along with Assistant Professor Cristian Cassella (PI), and Associate Professor Marvin Onabajo, will use this award to develop next-generation micro- and nano-sensors with a longer battery lifetime and the ability to transmit a higher volume of data.

The project, executed by a multidisciplinary team of machine learning, systems, and networking researchers, aims to develop new techniques to achieve frequency stability in low-power and high-frequency integrated oscillators, addressing one of the most critical challenges that is currently limiting the performance of RF receivers and resonant sensing platforms. This research will lead to integrated wireless front-ends with longer battery lifetime and capable to transmit larger volumes of information, at higher rates. Moreover, the outcomes of the research will enable unprecedented levels of resolution and sensitivity to be attained in next-generation low-power micro- and nano-sensors.

Dr. Rinaldi’s research with ALERT focuses on understanding and exploiting the fundamental properties of micro/nanomechanical structures and advanced nanomaterials to engineer new classes of micro and nanoelectromechanical systems (M/NEMS) with unique and enabling features applied to the areas of chemical, physical and biological sensing and low power reconfigurable radio communication systems. These next generation trace detectors should provide near real-time detection, high sensitivity, and high specificity for a targeted group of explosives, and should result in very low false positive and false negative rates. Read more about Matteo Rinaldi’s work in Multi-Functional Nano-Electro-Opto-Mechanical (NEOM) Sensing Platform.

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.

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 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).

ALERT Researchers Awarded Best Paper at 2018 ICDSC Conference September 27, 2018

September 27, 2018

Dr. Octavia Camps (Project R4-A.1; Northeastern University), Dr. Richard Radke (Project R4-A.3; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), and their research team received the Best Paper Award at the 2018 International Conference on Distributed Smart Cameras (ICDSC) in Eindhoven, Netherlands on September 3-4, 2018.

The paper, titled “Correlating Belongings with Passengers in a Simulated Airport Security Checkpoint,” is co-authored by Ashraful Islam, Yuexi Zhang, Dong Yin, Octavia Camps and Richard Radke. The research for this paper was done using data collected for CLASP (Correlating Luggage and Specific Passengers) project at ALERT’s Video Analytics Lab located at the Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at Northeastern University.

According to the paper’s abstract, “Automatic algorithms for tracking and associating passengers and their divested objects at an airport security screening checkpoint would have great potential for improving checkpoint efficiency, including flow analysis, theft detection, line-of-sight maintenance, and risk-based screening. In this paper, we present algorithms for these tracking and association problems and demonstrate their effectiveness in a full-scale physical simulation of an airport security screening checkpoint. Our algorithms leverage both hand-crafted and deep-learning-based approaches for passenger and bin tracking, and are able to accurately track and associate objects through a ceiling-mounted multi-camera array. We validate our algorithm on ground-truthed datasets collected at the simulated checkpoint that reflect natural passenger behavior, achieving high rates of passenger/object/transfer event detection while maintaining low false alarm and mismatch rates.”

Click here to read the paper and learn more about this research.

ALERT Leads Trace Detection Seminar for Industrial Partner September 27, 2018

September 27, 2018

ALERT Thrust R2 Lead, Dr. Steve Beaudoin (Purdue University) led a seminar on Trace Detection at Rapiscan Systems, an OSI Systems Company, in Andover, Massachusetts on August 17, 2018. Rapiscan Systems, an ALERT Industrial Partner, specializes in providing state-of-the-art products, solutions, and services to meet the threat detection needs at airports, border crossings, railway stations, government and military installations, and high-risk facilities around the world.

Under the ALERT Industrial Partnership model, Industrial Partners can select one or more ways to allocate their membership fees. One of those options is a full-day seminar on a topic of the Industrial Partner’s choice and relevant to one of ALERT’s four research thrusts.

Dr. Beaudoin spent the morning with about 15-20 Rapiscan employees, interns, and co-op students from several disciplines. During this time, he gave a 2-hour (10:00am-12:00pm) lecture style presentation on Trace Detection covering three topics of interest: particulate explosives, compound explosives, and the TESSA Project – Contact Sampling Study. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions during the presentation, and after lunch, there were several more hours of Q&A and discussion (ending at 4:00pm). Several collaboration opportunities were discussed throughout the day, as well as several ways in which the two organizations can support one another’s work.

The feedback throughout the day, from several Rapiscan employees, was very positive and was followed by a request for more seminars in the future. Dr. Beaudoin’s contact sampling project report and seminar presentation was disseminated to the Rapiscan team as a resource.

According to Stefan Lukow, Ph.D., Director of Research and Development at Rapiscan Systems, “The seminar last Friday was very well received by many members of my R&D group as well as the greater engineering team. Throughout Steve’s presentation, there were many discussions and also ideas spurred for potential collaboration or suggestions for future work to be done by either side.  It was informative and took the tone of a discussion rather than a lecture. Following the presentations, Steve made himself available for additional discussion with the engineering team for more in-depth discussions and several took him up on this offer. Overall, it was greatly beneficial to have Steve present his work and that of the ALERT center. I hope for more opportunities in the near future.”

For more information about ALERT’s customizable Industrial Partnerships and benefits of partnering with ALERT, please visit the ALERT Website or email Emel Bulat (Industrial and Government Liaison Officer) or Kristy Provinzano (Industry Liaison Associate).

Photo caption: Low-resolution scanning electron microscope image of freestanding micro-patterned traps used during contact sampling

Summer 2018 REU Program July 31, 2018

July 31, 2018

This summer, ALERT is hosting seven undergraduate students who are participating in the 10-week long Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. At Northeastern University, two students are working with Professor Carey Rappaport (Project R3-A.2, Project R3-A.3), and three students are working with Professor Jose Martinez Lorenzo (Project R3-B.1, Project R3-B.2). ALERT is also hosting two students at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez who are doing research with Professor Samuel Hernandez (Project R3-C), and one student at Duke University who is working with Professor Joel Greenberg (Project R1-C.3).

The ALERT REU Program at Northeastern University collaborates with other REU programs in the College of Engineering to build a cohort of students who jointly attend professional development meetings and program activities. At the end of the summer, each REU creates a research poster and presents a final presentation on their research project. These deliverables address the project’s overall mission and endeavors, the REU’s specific contributions to the project, as well as the knowledge and skills they gained from the experience.

If you are interested in hearing more about the experiences of past REU students, please check out our short video: “ALERT Undergraduate Research in the AIT Lab at Northeastern University.”

Caption: REU students, Diego Rojas and Alexis Costales, conduct research in Professor Jose Martinez Lorenzo’s laboratory at Northeastern University.