New Tech to Detect Terrorist Suiciders in Metro Stations


This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

A new security screening technique currently being tested in the US is designed to scan large crowds and spot hidden explosives and suicide vests. The TSA hopes that the new technology would lead to better detection be it at a train station or an airport.

The technology uses cameras to scan people entering the transit system for dense items concealed under their clothing, according to The scanners are designed to operate in the background, passively scanning people walking by in real time without using radiation.  

“We’re really looking for those alarm indicators. And so as that bar turns from green to red, we know we’ve identified an individual that may need a little closer scrutiny,” said Alex Wiggins, head of security for Los Angeles’ transit authority. “If we can encounter that person as they enter the station in the mezzanine, we can very, very quickly isolate them and move to an area where if there is a threat we can contain that much better.”

The SPO-NX equipment can sense certain emissions made by the human body — and tell when those emissions are blocked by something such as a bomb vest or other contraband worn around the body under the clothes, according to manufacturer QinetiQ. The system can scan large crowds and flag potential risks so security workers can then screen them individually.

The TSA technology is currently being tested at Los Angeles’ busy 7th Street metro station where four of the region’s commuter lines connect. More than 86,000 people pass through there each weekday. One scanner is currently being tested at a TSA facility outside Washington, D.C. TSA said more testing will be needed.

The hope is eventually it can scan people as they pass by without them noticing they are being screened.