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Camera Detects Concealed Weapons


PHILADELPHIA -- A technology that can spot distant galaxies is now being

aimed at a more terrestrial concern: the detection of concealed weapons.

Researchers have designed ways to use "millimeter-wave" cameras, in

combination with regular photography, to detect whether a person is hiding

a gun, knife or bomb under his clothing, and to pinpoint the location of

the object. For years, astronomers have used radio telescopes that rely on

millimeter-wave technology. The U.S. Army has funded some of this research

with hopes of developing devices that display images showing concealed

weapons on civilians or enemy soldiers. The technology also could be used

by police, airport security and convenience stores, researchers say.

"The idea is, you take a visual image of a scene, and then you take a

millimeter-wave image of the same scene, and the millimeter-wave image is

able to see guns hidden underneath someone's clothing," said Rick Blum, an

electrical-engineering professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.,

who has done extensive research on so-called image-fusion technology.

Making such a device for soldiers in the field still may be several years

away, said William Sander, a consultant to the Army Research Office in

Durham, N.C., which has funded Mr. Blum's research.

But some private firms already have introduced millimeter-wave sensors

designed for civilian uses such as office-building security. Brijot Imaging

Systems Inc., Orlando, Fla., has licensed millimeter-wave technology from

defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. Brijot is about to begin shipping a

camera system, which resembles an oversize personal computer, and spots

weapons on people up to 45 feet away. Also, British defense contractor

Qinetiq Ltd. has developed a millimeter-wave imaging device for security at

airports and other public areas. Qinetiq says it successfully tested a

prototype at London's Gatwick Airport in 2002.

Millimeter energy-waves radiate naturally from people and some objects.

Some inanimate objects, including metals, are poor emitters of millimeter

waves . Millimeter-wave sensors work by detecting the contrast between the

waves emitted by a person and the low amount emitted by metals near the

person. The data can be processed into an image showing a human body in

white and any metallic objects in black. The images don't reveal nudity,

researchers say.

Alone, millimeter-wave cameras can be of limited use because the images

they produce can be grainy. So the challenge has been to find a way to fuse

the millimeter-wave images with photo images, either still or moving. Such

a fusion could produce what appears to be a regular photo or video of a

person, but with outlines of a gun, for instance, hidden under a

sweatshirt. Fusing such images isn't easy. One difficulty is "registering"

two images of the same scene, or properly lining up matching objects in a


Mr. Blum has been working on such a method for nearly a decade. He began

his research after hearing from police officers who wanted better

surveillance technologies to spot armed suspects. Mr. Blum developed

software that automatically fuses such images. He has applied for patents

for the software, and his technology is being licensed to a start-up firm,

SuperVision Technologies Inc., in Bethlehem. The firm was founded by

Leopoldo Mayoral, who has run an engineering-consulting firm that has done

work for the Defense Department. One scenario that Mr. Mayoral envisions

for the technology is convenience-store security. Video and millimeter-wave

sensors could be mounted near the store entrance. If the sensors detect a

gun hidden beneath a person's clothing, a device could automatically lock

the doors. The store clerk could then question the person to try to

determine his intent, Mr. Mayoral said.

Though Mr. Blum was initially inspired by law-enforcement needs, he has

received funding for his research from the Army Research Office. The office

has given Mr. Blum grants totaling about $300,000 over the past five years

to develop methods to fuse images taken from different sensors, said Mr.

Sander, the Army Research Office consultant. The funding is part of the

Army's effort to build on technology such as night-vision goggles, and

develop devices that fuse images from multiple sources, Mr. Sander said.

And the research isn't limited to images. Mr. Sander said the Army is

interested in developing acoustic and odor-based sensors, which could help

detect the presence of an enemy soldier lying in wait for an ambush.

While SuperVision is in early-stage development, Brijot is about to begin

shipping its device in June, said Chief Executive Brian Andrew. The device,

known as BIS-WDS, sells for about $60,000, and Mr. Andrew says he has

received orders totaling more than $100 million. That high price tag is

one potential barrier to widespread deployment of millimeter-wave devices.

Mr. Mayoral of SuperVision says he hopes to sell a product for $3,000 to

$7,000 initially. Brijot's customers are mainly distributors of security

products. Users are likely to include security personnel at commercial

buildings, Mr. Andrew said. Brijot's device has a video display that can

be monitored by security personnel. But it doesn't show any of the actual

millimeter-wave image. Instead, it displays a red bracket on the area of a

person's body where a weapon is concealed, and flashes the message "gun

detected," according to a video demonstration on Brijot's Web site.

One advantage of millimeter wave-based devices such as Brijot's is that

they are "passive," Mr. Andrew said. This means they don't send radiation

through people, so there are no health concerns. Also, they don't require

people to walk through an archway metal detector. In fact, they can be used

without anyone knowing that a weapons detector is present, Mr. Andrew said.

Mr. Andrew doesn't believe there would be any serious legal ramifications

of using such a detection system without the knowledge of the people being

monitored. He noted that operators of many public and private buildings

have the right to refuse entry to anyone carrying a concealed weapon. "If

you can put a video-surveillance camera, you can put this up," he said.

One privacy rights advocate said millimeter-wave-based security devices

should be used with certain safeguards in place. Beth Givens, director of

the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, said that the devices should

have built-in mechanisms so they "cannot be used by an operator as a tool

for voyeurism." She also thinks the machines shouldn't be used on public

streets, and should be limited to buildings or facilities that require

heightened security, such as federal office buildings, airports or prisons.


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  • 2 years later...

Letzter Ausweg Nowosibirsk. Das Jugendamt Gießen hat jetzt den ersten jugendlichen Straftäter in die russische Einöde geschickt. Holzhacken, Gewaltmärsche ? bei 40 Grad Minus soll der 16-jährige so seine Aggressionen abbauen.

Härtere Strafen für jugendliche Gewalttäter hatte Ministerpräsident Roland Koch (CDU) in seinem Wahlkampf gefordert. Jetzt macht der Fall aus Hessen Furore.

Der Junge hatte geprügelt, gepöbelt und dabei niemanden verschont. Seine Mutter nicht, die erwachsenen Betreuer nicht. In der Schule, im Heim, in der Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie. Überall.

Das Kreis-Jugendamt sah nur noch eine Möglichkeit: Sibirien. ?Das ist für ihn die letzte Chance?, bestätigte Jugenddezernent Stefan Becker dem Hessischen Rundfunk.

Warum Sibirien? Weil es ein ?möglichst reizarmes Gebiet? ist, so Becker. Kein Internet, kein Handy, kein TV. Auch auf fließendes Wasser muss der Junge verzichten. ?Wenn er es warm haben will, muss er sein Feuerholz selbst hacken?, erklärt der Pädagoge. Ein Plumpsklo habe sich der Junge schon gebaut.

Sein täglicher Schulweg: 2,5 Kilometer zu Fuß durchs meterdicke Eis. Für ganze neun Monate.

Die Kosten: ein Drittel dessen, was für einen deutschen Heimplatz bezahlt werden müsste, erklärt das Amt aus Gießen.

Ein Allheilmittel sei der Sibirien-Aufenthalt aber nicht, betonte Becker. ?Das ist eine Maßnahme, für einen Schüler, weil sie in diesem Fall angebracht ist.? Eine Mitarbeiterin des Jugendamtes hatte den Jungen kurz vor Weihnachten besucht. Ihr Urteil: ?Bisher sind die Zeichen positiv.?


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