Bomb-Screening Technology

Over the past six years, the United States has seen a dramatic rise in bomb threats. According to the United States Bomb Data Center’s 2016-2017 Explosive Incidents Report, there were a total of 15,943 recorded bomb-related incidents.

Now, numerous organizations are beginning to speak out about these attacks. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced on Feb. 27 that it will test bomb-detection equipment with Amtrak at New York Penn Station.

This decision aims to prevent future attacks performed by travelers who are wearing suicide bomb jackets.

How does it work?

The TSA has created the technology to be simple, yet productive. Two versions of the technology look like futuristic cameras that can detect hidden explosives without the need to conduct a physical search.

Equipment meant to detect explosive vests is not new for the TSA. The U.S. agency has tested different types of similar equipment for more than 10 years. However, the newest form of technology is from companies called QinetiQ, whose technology is housed on a tripod, and Thruvision. If the technology permanently becomes implemented into the subway stations, the cameras would be installed in the ceiling of the station and be monitored remotely. This would eliminate the potential of taking up any floor space and would also be more discreet.

The machines were created to measure radio frequencies emanating from the body, which is similar to a thermal camera.

“We’re measuring the radiation coming from the body,” said Kevin Gramer, vice president for the Americas for Thruvision. “One of the simplest ways to explain it is the person’s skin is the transmitter. There are items that block the transmission.”

The technology admittedly peers through clothes, but the image is animated to avoid privacy concerns like the ones with earlier full-body scanners. A picture of an individual appears on a laptop that is monitored by TSA security officers. A green image appears over the body in what is known as a “green ghost.”

The cameras are able to spot an explosive device made from powders, gels or other weapons. The security official then has the ability to pull the suspected individual aside for further testing.

Public opinion

One concern about this kind of technology is that the process would be invasive to the individual. However, Thruvision is set up in such a manner that it is safe and as non-invasive as possible given the circumstances.

“Nobody is afraid to stand in front of our system,” Gramer claimed in a public statement regarding the policies and procedures of the technology.

Professor Jeffrey Bumgarner of North Dakota State added that he personally does not have any problem with the technology. “The passenger rail train is a genuine potential target, and TSA is responsible for helping to secure that mode of transportation.”

Additionally, numerous elected officials agree that it is time to make permanent changes regarding TSA protection against possible threats. The new technology follows incidents such as the December 2017 New York City subway pipe-bomb explosion.

“The ability to detect concealed explosives worn by cowards looking to do us harm — demands the federal government continue to put both the testing and the perfecting of this technology on the fast-track,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York declared.

The TSA will continue to test similar technology and is adamantly working with passenger rail and transit agencies to test bomb-detection equipment, including New Jersey Transit, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District.

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