News & Events
New Video Analytics Dataset available for use August 25, 2017
ALERT Airport Re-Identification Dataset
As part of the ALERT video analytics effort, researchers at Northeastern University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed an annotated dataset that accurately reflects the real-world person re-identification problem. The dataset was constructed using video data from the six cameras installed post central security checkpoint at an active commercial airport within the United States. (No NDA required)Read More
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 email@example.com.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 Featured in DHS Science & Technology Newsroom August 29, 2016
The ALERT Center of Excellence works closely with industry partners like Detectachem and first responders to develop technologies and algorithms to enhance the ability to eliminate illicit explosives.
This month, ALERT was featured in the DHS S&T’s Responder Newsroom highlighting its improvement of explosives training solutions for first responders. The feature showcases ALERT’s work with K-9 explosive detection training aids (TEAS).
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.
ALERT Demos Tech at Centers of Excellence Technology Showcase June 28, 2016
On May 19th, ALERT brought its advances in explosives detection research to the 2016 Centers of Excellence Technology Showcase in Washington D.C. The day featured “Chat with an Expert” sessions, informational tables for each center, information on training opportunities, and live demonstrations. The Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate, Office of University Programs hosted the showcase at the Ronald Regan Building in Washington D.C. for over 250 government agencies and first responders.
Prof. Jimmie Oxley was on hand for the day for the “Chat with an Expert” sessions which allowed participants to have 10 minutes of one-on-one time with each expert to discuss specific technologies, center research or opportunities for partnership. Prof. Oxley also led ALERT’s live demo of the day – Trace Explosives Aids for Scent (TEAS).
Prof. Oxley’s research team developed a method of polymer encapsulation that is used to create safe trace explosives sources. Their research results show that Polycarbonate microspheres containing only a low percentage of Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) last for years, yet produce pure TATP vapor when heated at the designated program rate. Although they contain small amounts of actual explosives material, these TEAS are called pseudo-explosives because they have no potential to explode, thus providing users with safe access to stored hazardous explosives at trace levels.
Currently, 29 groups have tested prototypes of ALERT’s training aids, including NY MTA Police, MA State Police, Toronto Police, and industry collaborators such as K-9 Search On Site, and FLIR Systems, Inc.
The Live Demo
Officer William Qualls and his K-9 partner, Nate, demonstrated how they use TEAS in the field by having attendees hide one of the activated TEAS somewhere in the Showcase space and then Nate worked to find it. Travis Kisner, Director of Engineering from Detectachem, presented the microsphere heater Detectachem developed for use with ALERT’s TEAS. One of Prof. Oxley’s graduate students who worked on the development of TEAS was also on hand for the live demonstration to explain the science behind the tool.
ALERT’s Research and Networking with End Users
The ALERT team of Industry Liaison Emel Bulat and Director of Computer Services, Deanna Beirne presented ALERT technologies and center capabilities to the broad showcase audience. Center tools like VAST, PIMS and MVCTC were highlighted by the team and were of great interest to the participants. Videos and Fact Sheets for each tool were also on display.
The event resulted in dozens of connections for the center and a better understanding of what challenges end users like U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration are facing. ALERT is looking forward to furthering our linkages with end users and providing solutions to those challenges in our areas of expertise.
[Photo caption: Using ALERT’s Trace Explosives Aids for Scent(TEAS), Officer William Qualls interacts with his K-9 partner Nate as he identifies a bag containing TEAS. Nate sits by the location where he detects explosives.]
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):
TSA Industry Day – Innovating the Future Symposium, June 7-9th May 24, 2016
Dates: June 7-9, 2016
Location: TSA Security Integration Facility
The Innovating our Future Symposium is the first in a series of annual technology conferences being hosted by OSC. This three day event will consist of presentations and interactive breakout sessions for a variety of topics, with time made available for questions.
The Innovating our Future Symposium expands upon the following initiatives:
- OSC System Architecture and follow-on technical discussions from Industry Day in February 2016.
- TSA’s Passenger Screening Request for Information (RFI) to be released May 2016.
- TSA’s Primary Carry-on Screening System Targeted Broad Agency Announcement (T-BAA) to be released Fiscal Year 2016 Quarter 2.
- TSA’s Future Innovation Task Force T-BAA to be released Fiscal Year 2016 Quarter 3.
- TSA’s update to the AIT Detection Standards.
- TSA’s future update to the AT Detection Standards.
- TSA update on Cybersecurity
Registration is open: Your written registration must be emailed no later than:
5:00 PM EDT on May 30, 2016 for U. S. Citizens
5:00 PM EDT on May 17, 2016 for Non U. S. Citizens
Details on the event can be found at: