Most body scanners are designed to work one person at a time, checkpoint style. QinetiQ has developed a scanner that can be used in crowded places without having to slow down or stop moving targets. The body scanner, capable of detecting hidden explosives or weapons on a person, has been demonstrated publicly in the United Kingdom for the first time.

The QinetiQ SPO-NX

SPO-NX from QinetiQ – a company spun out of the UK’s Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) in 2001 – can quickly screen large groups of people for concealed weapons or explosives in a passive, non-intrusive way, without needing people to stop or slow down. The system was built into the immersive Securing Crowded Places Demonstrator at UK Security Expo 2016 last November, consisting of three linked zones set in and close to the entrance of the Olympia exhibition centre in London.

To safeguard privacy, the system does not generate images of the body beneath the subject’s clothing. Instead, it displays a video-style image of the subject with a “threat level” overlaid when it detects unusual objects concealed on an individual, enabling law enforcement or security personnel to investigate further. The system is entirely passive and does not emit radiation.

Upgraded security screening

In 2014, the USA’s Transport Security Administration (TSA) awarded QinetiQ a 24-month contract to implement the technology. The system – an upgrade from the QinetiQ SPO-7R already in use by the US Transportation Security Administration – enables the operator to scan crowds and search for anomalies, without the need to disrupt the flow of foot traffic through the area, minimising inconvenience and enabling security screening in locations where it was impractical before.

By scanning the crowd before they converge, risk is managed without the need to slow down the footfall further
(Click to see larger image)
The QinetiQ SPO-NX is designed to operate in relatively large, open spaces such as a train station concourse

The law enforcement community has been asking for this solution for many years,” says Colin Cameron, Technical Leader, Protective Security Technologies at QinetiQ. “Under the supervision of the Transportation Security Administration, some law enforcement teams have been using the technology at special events and on some of the country’s busiest mass transit systems, including rail, metro and commuter ferry. Last Thanksgiving holiday, for example, it was deployed as part of enhanced security measures at Washington Union Station in central Washington DC.”

Passive Millimetre Wave Technology

The scanning system uses Passive Millimetre Wave Technology, which exploits part of the electromagnetic spectrum that sits between visible/infrared and radio. “It therefore has characteristics of both parts, so for example we can build pseudo-optical cameras in a similar way to infrared cameras, but we can also see through materials and obscurants just like radio waves can penetrate these materials,” explains Cameron. “So for security applications, we can build sensors that can sense or see through materials and obscurants. In the case of the SPO-NX system, we exploit this approach to find potential suicide bombers or people with large concealed weapons.”

But with what sort of numbers of people can the system operate and at what rate? Facial recognition systems operating on moving video targets, for example, can be limited to a certain number of faces caught in a single frame of video. “At the UK Security Expo we achieved a rate of 380 people an hour, but this was limited by the particular concept of operation and other factors. It takes about four to five seconds to scan one person, so throughput rates could be significantly higher.”

Operator-controlled scanning

Unlike airport scanning systems that mostly require people to pass through a “checkpoint” arrangement, the SPO-NX is designed to operate in relatively large, open spaces such as a train station concourse, but without necessarily scanning all of the people all of the time. Whether the deployment of such a system in Brussels or Paris could have detected the guns and explosives being carried by the perpetrators of those terrorist attacks is a matter for speculation.

"The SPO-NX system is completely passive and privacy-protecting"

Depending on the concept of operation at a particular event or location, the operator may or may not wish to scan 100% of people passing the sensor,” explains Cameron. “There is a trade-off between scanning people that have no restriction placed on them for security versus slowing people or funnelling people through a checkpoint of some type to ensure 100% scanning – even if it is a high throughput checkpoint. Different users are likely to use this technology in different ways and random sampling of crowds is certainly one viable approach.”

To get an idea of the scale and scope of operation, it helps to consider the range limits of the SPO-NX. The standard model has a range of 6m to 15m. A longer-range option will also be available, with a range of up to around 25m with a larger front lens on the sensor. This moves the security perimeter further back, making the earlier detection of a threat possible, explains Cameron, especially where there is a high throughput of people flowing into a contained space. By scanning the crowd before they converge, risk is managed without the need to funnel or slow down the footfall further. At present the scanner is operator-controlled, but part of the roadmap at QinetiQ is the development of automated tracking.

Privacy-protected scanning system

So, what differentiates this system from other scanning systems available? “The SPO-NX system is completely passive and privacy-protecting,” says Cameron. “It is therefore safe and easy for end users to deploy, because there are no privacy or other regulatory issues to navigate that some competitive systems have. It also allows fully non-cooperative scanning – people being scanned do not need to stop or pause their journey and do not need to divest any objects from their pockets or from their person.”

SPO-NX is a portable system that can be set up by one person in less than five minutes. This makes it a cost-effective asset that can be re-deployed at a new venue or location as required. Alternatively, it can be fixed permanently on a wall or ceiling mount. It is a real-time system, self-calibrates and can be operated locally at the sensor head or, for example, remotely from a CCTV control room.”

Download PDF version

Author profile

Ron Alalouff Contributing Editor, SourceSecurity.com

In case you missed it

ASSA ABLOY's Yale celebrates 175 years, smart locks and new partnerships
ASSA ABLOY's Yale celebrates 175 years, smart locks and new partnerships

When Linus Yale Sr. invented the pin tumbler cylinder lock, it was the start of an iconic security brand that would eventually be known all over the world. What began in a lock shop in Newport, New York, would eventually evolve into the global presence of the brand “Yale” that we know today. The Yale brand was purchased in August 2000 by the Swedish lock manufacturer ASSA ABLOY Group, which expanded Yale’s global presence in the ensuing years and recently has led the way into smart locks and building automation. This year, ASSA ABLOY is marking the 175th anniversary of the Yale brand. Global home security brand “People all over the world trust the brand to protect what they love most in their homes,” says Kate Clark, Managing Director of Yale EMEA at ASSA ABLOY. Although Yale has a successful commercial sector business in the United States, in the rest of the world Yale is a residential brand. The Yale brand is well known in 130 countries from Australia to the Czech Republic to Colombia, and is popular in Africa, too. In the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) market alone, Yale has around 20,000 products; that’s without counting products sold in the Asia-Pacific and Americas regions. Yale is familiar as a generic term for “lock” in some areas and is one of the largest home security brands in the world. Expansion into digital locks Good old-fashioned cylinder locks still look nice and cost the right amount of money, so they are in demand “I think we stand for safety, quality and reliability, and that hasn’t changed,” says Clark. “It’s as important now as ever. We have tried to pioneer new technology in the industry, new innovations. The rate of acceleration has increased, and there are so many technologies we have to understand and work with.” Growing beyond its heritage in mechanical locking systems, Yale is now expanding into digital locks that can protect homes with a high level of security synonymous with the Yale brand. The current selection of locks includes partnerships with tech brands such as Nest Labs (Google) and Alexa (Amazon). There is a rapid acceleration of growth in the electro-mechanical lock market. But even as the focus expands to smart locks and partnerships with tech companies, Yale continues to dedicate time and resources to the design of their core mechanical products. Good old-fashioned cylinder locks still look nice and cost the right amount of money, so they are in demand. Yale padlocks and bike locks also keep the name top-of-mind. There’s an ongoing education process as home locks expand beyond the use of mechanical devices and even personal identification (PIN) codes. Beyond mechanical locks and PIN codes “It’s important for people to know that we have been around a long time, and we want to celebrate that,” says Clark. “It’s a fantastic story around the brand and what we have achieved. Internally we have a lot of people doing a lot of great things with the brand. We inspire people working with the brand and show them that this is the pedigree, and it should be cherished. We are also raising awareness among younger people, so they know that we are still relevant.” We have an obligation to show people that the new technologies are just as secure as mechanical locks" There’s an ongoing education process as home locks expand beyond the use of mechanical devices and even personal identification (PIN) codes. “We have to take people on a journey,” says Clark. “We have an obligation to show them that the new technologies are just as secure as mechanical locks. If we eliminate PIN codes, we have to do it in a secure and safe way. Then suddenly access to your home can be made available by a company you trust.” Smart home security “We have a responsibility to do our best job with the new technology – it’s wonderful, but it needs to be used correctly,” says Clark. “I personally feel a responsibility to do that in the right way.” For example, in working with Amazon and Alexa to remotely authorise the delivery of a parcel to a home, concerns of security must be weighed carefully along with issues of convenience. “It’s important that we get the balance right,” says Clark. “We need to know the right person is giving the right voice command to lock a lock. We have to be true to our core as ‘security first.’” Will Yale be here another 175 years? Clark says she doesn’t expect to be around to find out but will do her best to preserve and promote the brand until she hands it off to a new caretaker.

Smart home access control growth and the future of door security
Smart home access control growth and the future of door security

There’s growing noise around smart homes and smarter security. You’ve probably heard it. But there is a place where access control and more have been smart for decades: the workplace. Home automation and IoT are still playing catch-up with the commercial sector. A new insights report from ASSA ABLOY and IFSEC Global — “The Smart Door Locks Report 2018” — measures just how fast consumer smart technology is running. According to a survey conducted for the report, 61% of households now claim to own at least one smart home device or system. Energy monitors, home CCTV cameras, intruder alarms and smart door locks are the most popular, according to the report. All these functions, of course, have been available to businesses for years.61% of households now claim to own at least one smart home device or system Educating the smart home consumer Paradoxically, report data also questions how much consumers really know about their smarter home. A surprising 42% of those surveyed, for example, were unaware they could control a smart door lock from their phone. In fact, many leading smart door lock models offer this feature, delivered by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and an app. Despite a wealth of features offered by the latest smart door locks — remote and location-based locking/unlocking; voice activation; timed access; emailed entry alerts; and integration with smart camera and lighting systems — most people still have limited knowledge of their capabilities.  Smart technology is increasingly becoming the new norm in terms of home security  Only 14% of survey respondents described themselves as “very familiar” with what a smart lock can do. Even though most of them probably use smart access control solutions at their workplace. Secure homes through smart technology Monitoring and security are not the only drivers for smart home adoption. We humans also love convenience, and modern living presents us with problems that smart home technology can solve. Ironically, given the report’s findings, it takes a smartphone to really unlock the convenient possibilities of smarter living. The device that’s “always to hand” is central to the newest generation of smart door locks.A smart door lock is a convenient way for a landlord or agency to offer round-the-clock check-in and check-out If homeowners wish to remotely manage property access for friends and family, many smart door locks oblige. You let in guests remotely, send them a virtual digital key, or provide a temporary or single-use PIN to unlock the door. It is just as easy to revoke a digital key, if you don’t want its owner to come around anymore. This is a significant improvement over sharing physical keys — or hiding one under the doormat. We cannot be totally sure where a metal key ends up and have no way to track or cancel it once it’s “out in the wild”. Commercial access control offers such functionality as standard, of course.  In addition, smart door locks offer more than just stand-alone operation and clever functions. In a domestic setting, magic happens when locks work in harmony with a home automation system, connected by protocols like Z-Wave, ZigBee or Wi-Fi. "Smart" security on the move  The smartphone is becoming a remote control for managing a connected life beyond just home (and even workplace) security. According to Accenture, the parcel delivery services market will grow by $343 billion by 2020. Just like home security, convenience is a major driver of change. Homeowners can send guests a virtual digital key to their phones, or provide a temporary or single-use PIN to unlock the door A recent PostNord pilot in Sweden aimed to remove the inconvenience of waiting home for a postal delivery. Selected customers of some major Scandinavian e-retailers could choose to have parcels delivered inside their front door, if it was equipped with a Yale smart door lock.  Home delivery is among potential smart services covered in “The Smart Door Locks Report 2018 ”. When asked whether the ability to receive parcels securely in a porch or lobby would make them more likely to invest in a smart door lock, 79% said it would.It is easy to revoke a digital key, if you don’t want its owner to come around anymore Holiday rentals and smart home tech ASSA ABLOY research published in 2017 forecasts continued growth in the European holiday rentals sector (at 5.8% CAGR). Smart door locks are also making an impact here, at both ends of the market: for service providers — agents and homeowners — and for travellers. A smart door lock is a convenient way for a landlord or agency to offer round-the-clock check-in and check-out, without creating extra work or staff costs. Both Intersoft, in Croatia, and Hoomvip in Spain have built holiday rentals management systems around an app and the ENTR® smart door lock. Agents issue, revoke, track and manage virtual keys for all their guests, saving everyone time and hassle. Travellers use their phones and an app to unlock their apartment. For these visitors the smartphone is already an essential travel accessory. It is a boarding pass, a credit card, a travel guide, and a postcard home... why not a door key, too? And if this key is backed by a trusted home security brand — and a company with vast experience in the mature market for commercial “smart” security — better still.

Bosch startup SAST addresses need for evolved solutions in security industry
Bosch startup SAST addresses need for evolved solutions in security industry

Security and Safety Things GmbH (SAST) is a new company that has announced its vision for an Internet of Things (IoT) platform for the next generation of security cameras. The Bosch startup plans to build a global ecosystem for the development of innovative security camera applications. Based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), SAST provides libraries, an API framework, and codecs for developers to work with. The SAST App Store will allow developers to build and market new applications, similar to today’s app stores for smartphone applications. We presented some questions to Nikolas Mangold-Takao, VP Product Management and Marketing, about the new venture, and here are his responses: Q: Why a new company now? What technology innovations have made this a good time to launch this company? The time is right to bring market needs and technological innovations together on one platform"Mangold-Takao: From a technical perspective we see two main drivers: increasing computing power at the edge and increasing internet connectivity, which will enable devices to directly communicate with each other and bring new technologies such as artificial intelligence also to the security and safety industry. At the same time, we see that this industry and its users are hungry for more innovative solutions – addressing new security needs while at the same leveraging the possibility to improve business operations for specific verticals, e.g. retail and transportation. The time is right to bring market needs and technological innovations together on one platform for this industry. Q: Why does SAST need to be a separate entity from Bosch? Mangold-Takao: SAST is setup as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Bosch Group. We wanted to make sure that SAST is able to underline its role as an industry standard platform across multiple players. SAST is open to get additional investors and is being setup as a startup in its own offices in Munich to foster the environment where speed and innovation can more easily take place. Having said that, several entities of the Bosch Group are very interesting partners for SAST. The SAST App Store will allow developers to build and market new applications, similar to today’s app stores for smartphone applications Q: Please explain your "value proposition" to the industry. Mangold-Takao: We will bring new innovations and possibilities to the security and safety industry by providing an open, secure and standardised Operating System for video security cameras, to also address pressing issues such as cyber security and data privacy concerns. Devices that run then with the SAST operating system will work with an application marketplace provided and operated by SAST. Integrators and users can then use these apps from this marketplace to deploy additional functionality on these devices. With our platform we will be able to build up a community of app developers, including the ones not yet developing for this industry who have expertise in computer vision and artificial intelligence. Q: It seems what you are doing has parallels with the Apple and Android "app" stores. How is your approach the same (and how is it different) than those approaches? We are setting up SAST as a user-centric company and involve selected users very early on in the process"Mangold-Takao: The approach is similar in the way that we plan to generate revenue by operating the application marketplace and thus participate in the app revenue. The difference is that there is much more needed than apps and cameras to create a complete working solution addressing a user problem in this industry – we need to make sure that our own platform as well as the new applications being created will work as a part of an end-to-end solution. Q: "Critical mass" and wide industry participation seem to be requirements for your success. How will you achieve those goals? Will you involve integrators, consultants, or other parties in addition to manufacturers (to drive awareness)? How? Mangold-Takao: SAST is in close exchange with device manufacturers, integrators and consultants, as well as application developers and large end-users at the moment to ensure that we are building the right platform and ecosystem for this industry. We are setting up SAST as a user-centric company and involve selected users very early on in the process. We will run dedicated programs and hackathons to attract app developers, already active and new to our industry. We will also run selected pilots with end-users throughout 2019 to ensure we have all partners involved early on. SAST sees the industry is hungry for more innovative solutions – with the retail vertical market a target for these solutions Q: What timeline do you foresee in terms of implementing these initiatives? Mangold-Takao: While we start with first app development programs and plan our first pilots already for this year, we are planning our commercial launch for end of 2019. Q: How does your new company relate to the new Open Security & Safety Alliance (OSSA)? Mangold-Takao: The Open Security and Safety Alliance has been working very closely with SAST over the past year, defining some important concepts and elements required. One of the most important elements is an open and standardised Operating System, specific to this industry, which will then bring forward new innovative technologies and solutions. SAST is actively working on this Operating System, based on Android Open Source Project (ASOP), but is evolved and hardened with industry-specific features. Q: What's the biggest thing you want the security industry to understand about SAST? What is your "message" to the industry? Mangold-Takao: Our message is simple: let’s build better security and safety systems – together! But for real, innovating an industry is a joint effort, we can only bring new innovation to this industry with partners who share our vision and are excited about new technology. At the same time, we strongly believe that our platform allows every partner to bring forward what they do best but also invite new partners to our industry.