News & Events
Transitioning Technology

ALERT Renames the ADSA workshops August 13, 2014

We are pleased to announce the renaming of the ADSA workshops from “Algorithm Development for Security Applications” to “Advanced Development for Security Applications.” This change reflects the fact that the scope of these workshops has expanded well beyond algorithms as the series has progressed.

For example, the following topics for development are now being addressed in these workshops: energy sources (e.g., X-ray, neutrons), sensors (e.g., photon counting X-ray detectors, trace), concept of operations, hardening, deterrence, simulants and testing. The acronym for the workshops, ADSA, will remain the same.

The Eleventh ADSA Workshop (ADSA11) has been scheduled for November 4th and 5th at Northeastern University in Boston, MA.  The title of the workshop will be “Explosive Detection in Cargo for Aviation Security – Part II.”

RI Senator Jack Reed Visits ALERT at URI February 25, 2014

FROM URI NEWS, KINGSTON, RI – February, 25, 2014 — U.S. Sen. Jack Reed met Monday with University of Rhode Island professors from chemistry, engineering and cyber security to see firsthand some of the leading research they are conducting on explosives, explosives detection, and cyber security, and discuss efforts to strengthen URI’s role in physical and cyber security study.

During a campus tour yesterday with Gerald Sonnenfeld, URI vice president for research and economic development; Jimmie Oxley, URI professor of chemistry and director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence in Explosives, Detection, Mitigation, and Response at the University of Rhode Island; Otto Gregory, URI distinguished professor of engineering and co-director of the Sensors and Surface Technology Partnership; Lisa DiPippo, associate professor of computer science and the academic director of the Cyber Security Program at URI; Alan Davis of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport; and URI students, Reed observed demonstrations of some of the work URI is doing to improve security, detect explosives and neutralize their impact, and strengthen the nation’s cyber security capabilities.

[Photo Credit: URI Photos by Michael Salerno Photography.]

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VAST program featured on fedscoop.com February 14, 2014

ALERT’s VAST program which resulted from a partnership with the TSA and CLE airport is discussed in an article featured on fedscoop.com in “Researchers solve major security problem for airports”.
The VAST effort is addressing the needs of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) to monitor and intercept threats by individuals to airport security. ALERT, the TSA Ohio Senior Federal Security Director, and the Commissioner of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport collaborated with ALERT researchers, Siemens Corporate Research and TSA practitioners in 2011 to develop and deploy “in-the-exit” and “tag-and-track” solutions at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
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TSA Federal Security Director Michael Young honors ALERT August 28, 2013

On Wednesday, August 28, ALERT researchers and personnel were honored with the presentation of an award by Ohio Transportation Security Administration Federal Security Director, Michael Young for ALERT’s efforts in the Video Analytic Surveillance Transition (VAST) project. The presentation, followed by a luncheon, was also attended by the Northeastern University Senior Vice Provost, Mel Bernstein, the Dean of Northeastern University’s College of Engineering, Nadine Aubry, and TSA Program Analyst, Edward Hertelendy.

ALERT’s VAST project, conducted in partnership with Siemens Corporate Research, TSA and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) is developing video analytics methods at CLE to address existing airport security concerns. As explained by ALERT director Michael Silevitch, “the ability to access real time data from the Cleveland airport enabled the ALERT researchers to test their methods and optimize performance. That, coupled with the collaboration of our industrial partner Siemens, was essential in terms of developing tools that would be of practical use to people in the field.”

TSA Award Presentation to ALERT. From left to right: Michael B. Silevitch, David Castanon, Octavia Camps, Edward Hertelendy, John Beaty, Michael Young, Carey Rappaport.

Taking a moment to recognize the partnership between ALERT and the TSA, Dean Aubry expressed that ALERT is a model center to the College of Engineering. “We are really proud to be able to do user inspired research, but the challenge is to take that research and to apply technology transfer in order to really make an impact on society and the security of our airports, and that’s what you are doing”. In her closing remarks the Dean emphasized the value of the collaboration for both academia and industry.

Senior Vice Provost Bernstein reminded the attendees that the award ALERT was being honored with was not only an award about the outstanding work being done, but also for the commitment to the mission of advancement for the common good. “The model program between ALERT and the Cleveland airport is really quite impressive,” he said. “The fact is that this may not have been the easiest thing to do, but it really speaks to the opportunity, talent, the willingness of the Northeastern side, and the understanding that TSA has to be able to make this kind of investment. This is really what we had hoped would happen in the early days of DHS, and this is one great example”.

Michael Young, while presenting the award to the ALERT team, mentioned the recent successes of the VAST partnership, and the notability of the project through both industry and academia. He briefly explained his history with the ALERT Center of Excellence and noted that this award is really about collaboration. The award states on it, “In recognition of your technological research and innovation in support of TSA-Cleveland in the development of advanced algorithms for CCTV Surveillance Systems”. Director Young then proceeded to present the ALERT team with TSA Challenge Coins to show appreciation and recognize the work and support of each individual team member.

This award reflects ALERT’s ability to make a positive impact on critical problems faced by the Homeland Security Enterprise. ALERT looks forward to continuing this valuable partnership with the Transportation Security Administration through years to come.

 

Banner and Side Bar Photo Credit: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo
 

August 1st at 1pm EDT – Technologies for Bomb Response Twitter Chat August 1, 2013

DHS S&T will be hosting a twitter chat on Technologies for Bomb Response today at 1pm EDT. Those of you that are interested can follow the conversation at https://twitter.com/dhsscitech or at #STTechTalk.

The First Responders Group, with support from the Explosives Division and the DHS Office for Bombing Prevention, is hosting a Twitter Chat August 1 from 1:00-2:00 pm EDT. The topic is Technologies for Bomb Response, and the discussion will feature the Semi-Autonomous Pipe Bomb End-Cap Remover (SAPBER), FiRST App (a smart phone application for bomb response), and more!

A Twitter Chat is a virtual, two-way conversation that allows us to reach out to targeted audiences, ask for their feedback on S&T products/services, and answer their questions. We encourage our Twitter followers to tweet (message) us during the Chat so we can provide real-time responses. Twitter users can follow the full conversation using our hashtag (#STTechTalk), a designated word that links tweets from S&T and from participants.

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Prof. Carey Rappaport Highlighted on Northeastern University’s Website for ALERT Airport Security Research July 18, 2013

Prof. Carey Rappaport and his ALERT research team were highlighted on Northeastern University’s webiste, in a section titled “Making Tomorrow Happen,” for their research in airport security. To learn more and read the article, visit NEU’s website:

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ALERT Co-Director Provides Insight on Marathon Bombing Devices April 20, 2013

ALERT Co-Director Jimmie Oxley speaks with Rhode Island News Team 10 about the type of explosive devices used in the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Pressure cooker bombs, like the ones reportedly used in the explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, are a common and simple way to make an explosive device, according to a University of Rhode Island chemistry professor.

“It only takes a small amount of black powder to ignite a powerful blast,” said Jimmie Oxley, who also is a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center for Excellence for Explosives, Detection, Mitigation and Response.

She said if you put it inside a common kitchen pressure cooker, you’ll have a weapon. The steel container will make fragments which are what do the most damage.

“If you feel the sharpness of those edges, if that hits you, you can see why it takes off an arm. If it was a pressure cooker, it would create frag,” Oxley said.

Oxley said of all terrorist weapons, a homemade bomb is the most accessible…

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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.

 

 

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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.

An Introduction to the Research and Industrial Collaboration Conference (RICC) October 3, 2012


For more than a decade, the RICC has fostered in-depth dialog among members of the academic, industrial and government communities interested in collaboration in subsurface sensing and imaging and homeland security related topics. This video, taken at the 2011 RICC, provides an overview of the successful event from the perspective of its participants.