News & Events
ALERT 101 is Back! July 17, 2013
ALERT 101: Video Analytics
We are pleased to present the second installment of ALERT 101. This segment’s topic is Video Analytics. ALERT researchers Richard Radke, Octavia Camps, and Venkatesh Saligrama explain what it is, how it’s used, and how they teach computers how to see and learn.
For users without YouTube access: ALERT 101: Video Analytics
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under Award(s) 2008-ST-061-ED0001 and/or 2008-ST-061-ED0002. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Inspired by the success of TED (www.ted.com) and other educational media forums, ALERT has developed the ALERT 101 video series. Each video short features different technologies and research areas that the ALERT Center engages in. We hope that these productions help educate and inform the global community on these topics in an accessible and enjoyable way.
ALERT and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Receive $750,000 DARPA Award May 16, 2013
ALERT and Los Alamos National Laboratory have received a $750,000 DARPA award for their partnership in Nuclear Magnetic Quadrupole Resonance research. Their proposal was submitted and accepted for the Methods for Explosive Detection at Standoff (MEDS) program. This project will be led by Prof. Carey Rappaport, the Principal Investigator from Northeastern University, and partner lead, Michelle Espy, from LANL.
ADSA09 – Call for Speakers February 4, 2013
ALERT is actively looking for speakers for the ADSA09 – Ninth Workshop for Algorithm Development for Security Applications: New Signatures for Explosive Detection for Aviation Security. This event will take place on May 7-8, 2013 at Northeastern University’s campus in Boston, MA.
Follow-on Funding Awarded to Dr. Conrad Jones January 16, 2013
Dr. Conrad Jones, a faculty member at Southern University, was awarded $50,000 of follow-on funding through the DHS Summer Research Team Program for MSIs. Dr. Jones was originally chosen to participate in the program during the summer of 2012 to work on ALERT research with Profs. Louisa Hope-Weeks and Brandon Weeks at Texas Tech University.
At the end of the summer, faculty participants are encouraged to apply for up to $50,000 in follow-on funding to continue the research collaboration at their home academic institutions during the following academic year.
Congratulations Dr. Jones!!!
(Photo Source: http://www.orau.gov/dhseducation/index.html)
David Castanon discusses ALERT-related research December 6, 2012
Watch Professor Castanon talk about his work in luggage screening, video analytics and explosives detection with the National Science Foundation:
ALERT presents the first installment of ALERT 101: Airport Screening Technologies December 1, 2012
We invite you to watch the first episode of ALERT 101 which focuses on the applications of Millimeter Wave Scanning and Backscatter X-ray in Airport Security Screening.
For users without YouTube access: ALERT 101: Airport Screening Tecnologies
Inspired by the success of TED (www.ted.com) and other educational media forums, ALERT has developed the ALERT 101 video series. Each video short will feature different technologies and research areas that the ALERT Center engages in. We hope that these productions help educate and inform the global community on these topics in an accessible and enjoyable way.
ALERT Researcher Carey Rappaport discusses his work with Northeastern University November 28, 2012
Watch Professor Rappaport talk about his Homeland Security Related Research with Northeastern University:
ALERT welcomes United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano November 19, 2012
Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats was pleased to host U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano on Monday, November 12th following her keynote address at Northeastern University’s Veteran’s Day Ceremony.
To kick off the visit, ALERT’s Director, Professor Michael B. Silevitch, provided Secretary Napolitano with an overview of the ALERT Center of Excellence. Prof. Silevitch then introduced undergraduate and graduate students involved with ALERT research and gave a summary of the demonstrations in video analytics and advanced imaging technologies that were prepared for her briefing. Michael described Napolitano’s visit as a significant opportunity for ALERT and its homeland security research, saying,
“It was very important to get validation from Secretary Napolitano about the relevance of our research and its transition to the field in the areas of video tracking of threats and passenger screening. This acknowledgement inspires us.”
Professor Octavia Camps led the first demonstration featuring ALERT’s Engage to Excel (E2E) Video Analytic Surveillance Transition project, VAST. VAST is a program developed in partnership with Siemens and the Cleveland Transportation Security Administration. The live demonstration exhibited the video analytic counter-flow program developed by Dr. Camps and her team and its ability to automatically detect when a person is proceeding the wrong way in an identified traffic pattern (for example, trying to enter through an exit). The resulting detections enable quick identification of an incident and minimize the impact on TSA resources. This project is currently installed within the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Following the video analytics demonstration, Professor Carey Rappaport showed Secretary Napolitano the capabilities of the ALERT Advanced Imaging Technologies (AIT) laboratory. This laboratory fuses together various scanning tools to create next-generation security scanning systems. Professor Rappaport, Assistant Professor Jose Martinez and graduate student Spiros Mantzavinos demonstrated the operation and data acquisition capabilities of ALERT’s advanced portal-based millimeter-wave imaging radar. During the demo, the system scanned a mannequin wrapped in a skin simulant with various representative objects attached for detection. These types of AIT systems can be used to detect illicit items that passengers may be attempting to carry on their person.
“As a DHS-supported researcher, I found Secretary Napolitano’s visit very satisfying,” Prof. Rappaport commented. “She was of course quite knowledgeable about the science and technology we are pursuing, but she seemed keenly interested in how we were improving the state of the art. She was completely supportive and she motivated the students with her passion to keeping Americans safe.”
Spiros Mantzavinos, currently a Northeastern University Doctoral Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Gordon Engineering Leadership Fellow, had the opportunity to meet Secretary Napolitano. Mantzavinos said, “It was an honor to host Secretary Napolitano for a visit to our ALERT whole-body imaging lab. Receiving attention and recognition from such a prominent figure in the national security arena assures the relevance of the advances we are making.”
Handheld IED Detection Device with Firestorm Emergency Services November 8, 2012
ALERT research out of Missouri University of Science and Technology, led by Prof. Daryl Beetner, is currently working to develop methods to indirectly detect and locate explosives by identifying the electromagnetic emissions from these electronic initiators. This approach has the advantage that a device can potentially be detected from tens or even hundreds of meters away in a very short period of time using relatively small, inexpensive, low-power sensors.
Hidden explosives can be extraordinarily difficult to locate. While the most obvious approach is to look for the explosive compound, techniques which look for these compounds often only work from short distances, can only be used over a very limited area, or are very slow to generate a detection. An alternative is to instead look for the electronic trigger that is used to initiate the explosive. Electronics used in triggers like timers, wireless receivers, motion detectors, and microcontrollers, emit electromagnetic energy (i.e. radio waves) when they are turned on. These radio waves can potentially be detected from long distances in a short period of time using relatively small, inexpensive, low-power sensors.
In the last year, Beetner and his team have developed techniques to locate (not just detect) radio receivers using a stimulated emissions approach. Detection of electronics has an advantage over many other explosives detection techniques in that it can potentially be done relatively quickly from relatively long range and can be done with relatively inexpensive equipment. It gives the bomb technician one more point of information with which to make a decision about the presence of explosives and how to deal with the explosives once found. As Beetner explains, “We’ve developed methods to accurately detect and locate the most common types of radio receivers. We’ve shown that these techniques are fast and work well at long distances, even in very noisy urban environments”. While detection of suspect electronics does not necessarily indicate the presence of an explosive device, this information can be combined with other information relatively easily to confirm or add information about a threat. The information is unique from other explosive sensors so it is well primed for sensor fusion.
ALERT has teamed up with Firestorm Emergency Services to develop a commercial product around algorithms developed by Beetner and his group. Firestorm manufactures a small, inexpensive, hand-held device for detecting and locating the electromagnetic signatures from aircraft emergency beacons and from radio location beacons worn by Alzheimer’s patients, so they already have hardware under development that is ideal for the team’s approach. The fundamental detection methods developed here are also being extended with Firestorm to develop systems for locating vehicles at remote border crossings.
Breakthroughs in Ionic Polymer Characterization November 7, 2012
Research led by ALERT investigator Prof. Louisa Hope-Weeks at Texas Tech University, could make the sensitive materials used in detonators safer for mining and military use, as well as less harmful to the environment. Ionic polymers, the class of materials the group works with, are less toxic but more unstable compared to the heavy metals used in current commercial detonators. By understanding the structures of the materials, Hope-Weeks and her group can then develop associated compounds to make the polymers more stable and a more viable option for use.
Currently, explosives used in the field are lead-based, causing detonations to have a huge environmental impact. Hope-Weeks states that the purpose of this research is, “similar to if you take lead out of paint. We are trying to replace lead-based energetic materials with greener compounds” The complexity of the problem is that the researchers are looking at ways to keep power output the same, but to lower the sensitivity of the polymers. The current compound is too sensitive for common use and requires further evolution to become less shock sensitive to make sure the item doesn’t react until a true signal is sent.
“We wanted to make an optically activated material,” explains Hope-Weeks, “so that if, for example, a bomb squad wanted to blow up a car they suspect has a terrorist device inside, they would have something they could remotely place under the car and then activate it with a laser, rather than someone having to go in there and wire it up.” The added benefit of this new lead-free device would be that it’s green; thus, causing less of a long-term impact on the environment.
The long-term goal of the work is to make an optically activated material where lasers could be used to activate the explosive from a far distance and eliminate the need for a person to have to wire the charge.