News & Events
Transitioning Technology

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.

Travis_DetectaChemALERT

“Travis Kisner, Director of Engineering from Detectachem, talks about the microsphere heater Detectachem developed for use with ALERT’s Trace Explosives Aids for Scent(TEAS)”

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:
http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/funding-announcement/sandia-national-lab-request-for-proposals/

TSA Innovative Concepts Broad Agency Announcement (TSICBAA):
http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4733

TSA Innovation for Aviation Security Broad Agency Announcement:
http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4734

DHS S&T Long Range Broad Agency Announcement (LRBAA):
http://www.northeastern.edu/alert/?p=4735

 

 

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:

https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DHS/TSA/HQTSA/TSA_OSCIOF_2016/listing.html

BostonGlobe.com Looks at ALERT’s Advances in Precursor Control May 11, 2016

Dr. Oxley’s research in Characterization of Explosives & Precursors (R1-A1) is discussed in “Defusing Hydrogen Peroxide” a feature in the Ideas section of bostonglobe.com. Prof. Oxley speaks of the method she has developed to chemically alter commonly found Hydrogen Peroxide so it is no longer useful as a component in explosives.

Defusing hydrogen peroxide

May 10, 2016 – Brainiac Section of www.bostonglobe.com

In March, suicide bombers in Brussels killed dozens and injured hundreds more. Their dramatic attack caught the world’s attention, but the material used couldn’t have been more ordinary — an explosive called TATP that can be made by distilling the same hydrogen peroxide sitting in your medicine cabinet.

Jimmie Oxley at the University of Rhode Island thinks she has an idea that could make such attacks far more difficult to execute — and she has filed a patent for it. The idea is to mix hydrogen peroxide with trace amounts of additional chemicals, so that it retains its usefulness as an antiseptic, but can no longer be distilled to make a bomb…

Read More

5/19 – DHS S&T Center of Excellence Technology Showcase May 9, 2016

Registration is open!

Date: May 19, 2016
Time: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location: Washington, DC

The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Office of University Programs and Stevens Institute of Technology invite you to attend the Spring 2016 Centers of Excellence(COE) Technology Showcase May 19, 2016 open 9:00 am- 4:00 pm. ​

Explore tools and technology or talk to experts in:
Border SecurityExplosives Detection  – Risk and Economic AnalysisNatural HazardsData & Visual AnalyticsFood DefenseTerrorism StudiesAnimal Disease DefenseMaritime and Arctic SecurityCritical Infrastructure Resilience – Training Opportunities – Hosting Interns – Working with the COEs

  • Experience demonstrations of COE tools, technologies, knowledge products
  • Connect with university experts (one-on-one if desired) to discuss pressing challenges
  • Develop new collaborations to support homeland security missions
  • Meet the newest COEs focused on Arctic security; critical infrastructure resilience; and borders, trade and immigration
  • Learn how to bring interns and professional development opportunities to your office

See the list of analytical tools that will be showcased on the registration website.

This event is free and open to the public. Please feel free to forward this invitation.

Hosted by Stevens Institute of Technology
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Suite G-17
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004

Centers of Excellence are a DHS Science and Technology Directorate program managed by the Office of University Programs.

For more information on COEs, visit the Virtual Showcase or email universityprograms@hq.dhs.gov.

If the registration link above does not work for you, try copying and pasting this into your browser:

http://www.cvent.com/d/rfqdxv

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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)

 

Read More

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…

Read More