News & Events
Transitioning Technology

Student Spotlight: Srikrishna Karanam April 29, 2016

Srikrishna Karanam, an ALERT Ph.D. student in Computer and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), has been “Searching for people in camera networks,” (the title of his doctoral thesis) with his faculty advisor, Prof. Richard Radke, for over three years.

As described by Srikrishna, “The overall goal of the project is to design and develop a system, called tag and track, to assist TSA officials in detecting and tracking persons of interest in critical and busy environments such as airports. My role is to develop and implement the underlying algorithms that drive the system.” (To see the related ALERT 101 video, click here).

After completing his Bachelor of Technology degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from the National Institute of Technology Warangal in India, Srikrishna joined RPI as a Master’s student, initially involved in tracking people as they moved in videos, before joining ALERT’s video analytics research team.

When asked what about his work drives him, he states, “I am very passionate about algorithmic research being actually used to solve real-world problems. My involvement with ALERT has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to develop algorithms and systems keeping real-world constraints in mind… How do we ensure that the system works efficiently in such cases and does not ‘lose’ the person being tracked in the crowd? This is one of the several questions I want to address going forward.”

Naturally, there have been challenges along the way.  Srikrishna and his team worked to design a user-friendly system so that someone unfamiliar with Computer Vision was able to utilize the software. He states that, “The system had to work in real-time on live video feeds in the airport, so developing efficient and optimized algorithms was critical.” As a result of his work, he has authored and co-authored 9 papers (including 1 journal article and 5 conference papers in press, as well as several submitted).

When asked about his experience working with Prof. Radke, he says, “I have immensely enjoyed working with Prof. Radke. He has given me a lot of independence in developing ideas for my dissertation, and I feel that has helped me grow as a researcher.”

After he completes his Ph.D., Srikrishna hopes to transition to industry, with the goal of continuing his work with Computer Vision, and finding the opportunity to implement both basic and applied research.

Of the impact his participation in the program has had on this research interests, Srikrishna states, “ALERT’s emphasis on transitioning laboratory research to real-world solutions has had a huge impact on my research philosophy. Now, when I think of possible solution approaches to a certain problem, ensuring that my approach is adaptable to real-world scenarios is a top priority.”

Northeastern News spotlights ALERT research in Airport Security Technologies April 28, 2016

FUTURE OF AIRPORT SECURITY – Northeastern News, 4/28/2016

According to the International Air Transport Association, about 8 million travelers make their way through airports around the world each day. Traditional security requires passengers to stand still while being screened, but Northeastern researchers are developing cutting-edge technology that can detect suspicious behavior—even when passengers are on the move…

Profs. Camps, Martinez, Radke, Rappaport, and Sznaier’s work is featured in this dynamic video story.

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TESSA02 Final Report Now Available April 1, 2016

The final report from the TESSA 02 Workshop, Fundamentals and Advances in Trace Sampling and Detection Workshop Information, is now available for download.

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The Associated Press features ALERT Researcher Otto Gregory’s work February 17, 2016

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — A University of Rhode Island professor has developed a sensor that detects the kind of explosive used in the Paris bombings, to try to stop future attacks.

Professor Otto Gregory compares his sensor to a dog’s nose, the gold standard in explosives detection. It “sniffs” the air for vapors emitted from explosives.

Photo Description: In this Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 photo University of Rhode Island engineering professor Otto Gregory, right, is reflected in a silicon wafer, center, that contains sensors to detect explosives, in front of a thin film surface analyzer, behind, in a laboratory on the school’s campus, in South Kingstown, R.I. He has developed a sensor that detects the explosive used in the Paris bombings, to try to stop future attacks. Gregory compares his sensor to a dog’s nose, the gold standard in explosives detection. It “sniffs” the air for vapors emitted from explosives. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

 

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DHS S&T hosts “The Nose Knows” Twitter Chat 12/17, 12pm December 17, 2015

Join the “The Nose Knows” Thursday December 17th at noon EST. Tune in and chat about improving canine explosives detection.

The Nose Knows: The Science of Threat Detection Canines

Did you know  dogs’ noses are a million times more sensitive than a human’s nose? Dogs can be trained to detect a wide variety of specific scents, such as drugs, fruits, and explosives and are trained to alert their handlers to the presence of these hazardous items by pawing, barking or, in the case of something dangerous, sitting or lying quietly.

Canines have been used by law enforcement agencies for decades to alert their handlers to threats or objects of interest. The Department of Homeland Security  (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Canine Program is working with DHS partners, including the Transportation Security Administration, other federal agencies, and state and local first responders to provide independent verification of canine teams’ performance, as well as ways to enhance overall detection capability…

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ADSA13 Presentations Now Available December 17, 2015

We are pleased to announce that the ADSA13 Workshop presentations are now available for download. View all slides, as well as the reports from past ADSA workshops at:

If you have any questions regarding the topics and technologies discussed at the workshop, please contact Carl Crawford at crawford.carl@csuptwo.com.

ALERT researchers work to develop robust Canine Training Aids December 16, 2015

Because of their volatility, explosives are rarely used pure, they are often mixed with other materials such as polymers. Explosives are exposed to polymers for a variety of reason: (1) when they are “plasticized” for shaping; (2) when they are encased for safe handling, (e.g. dog training aids); and (3) when they are collected for forensic evidence or storage. ALERT has focused on finding the best materials for developing devices such as these.

As a result of our study of polymer/HME interactions, ALERT researchers have developed a method of polymer encapsulation that is used to create safe trace explosive sources for canine and instrument training. Polycarbonate microspheres containing only a low percentage of TATP have been demonstrated to last for years, yet produce pure TATP vapor when heated at the designated program rate. This approach provides canine handlers and instrument vendors with safe access to stored hazardous explosives at trace levels for use in detection, calibration, and validation of instruments as well and the training of explosives detecting canines.

ALERT has received enthusiastic support from law enforcement and instrument vendors and are in negotiation for possible licensing with a commercial vendor. In the near term, law enforcement agencies and instrument vendors are able to request these training aids directly from ALERT.

Oxley said “Some of our biggest service clients are law enforcement agencies. When some of the improvised devices came into vogue, they were too sensitive for law enforcement agencies to handle.” Oxley explained that for the Popular Science crew, her team not only conducted a demonstration, but ran a test to determine if the dogs detect pseudo explosives as they do the real explosives.

“It worked and we were really excited, because this was a first-time run during which the dogs were testing both,” said the chemistry professor and co-coordinator of the URI Forensic Science Partnership. “We wanted to make sure they could associate one with the other; that was an extremely important task.

“With K-9s, we are looking at the odor signature, and we have to do that on an explosive-by-explosive basis,” she said.She added that Metropolitan Transit Authority police took advantage of training opportunities at URI long before other groups, but more and more agencies are seeking training, including the federal Transportation Security Administration, which has rotated dozens of agents through the URI campus this summer.

Photo caption: Sgt. Bill Finucane of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department in New York works with McCarney, one of the department’s dogs, while testing canine explosive training aids developed by URI’s Jimmie Oxley and her team.

ADSA12 Final Report Now Available October 19, 2015

We are pleased to announce that the ADSA12 Workshop Final Report is now available for download at the following link:

ADSA12 Final Report – Personnel and Divested Items Screening at the Checkpoint

If you have any questions regarding the topics and technologies discussed at the workshop, please contact Carl Crawford at crawford.carl@csuptwo.com.

TESSA02 Workshop Announced July 1, 2015

ALERT is pleased to announce it will be hosting the Second “Trace Explosives Sampling for Security Applications” (TESSA02) Workshop, which will be held on August 5th, 2015 at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. The title of the workshop will be “Fundamentals and Advances in Trace Sampling and Detection.” The TESSA02 Workshop, held in 2014, was the first in the series to deal with the development of a roadmap for understanding contact sampling for trace explosives detection. The topic of contact sampling was chosen for the workshop in order to support the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) objective of improving the performance of existing technologies.

For more information, visit the TESSA02 Workshop event page here!

ALERT Research Featured in The New York Times July 1, 2015

ALERT “Tag-and-Track” video surveillance research was featured in a recent New York Times article, which discussed the video analytics project being led by Prof. Octavia Camps and Prof. Mario Sznaier at Northeastern University.

The software developed by Profs. Camps and Sznaier, along with their fellow researchers and students, uses airport security cameras to detect suspicious behavior by passengers. The article makes note of the high success rate and capabilities of the software, as it is currently in use at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to detect passengers who try to enter secure areas of the airport through an exit lane.

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