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Sweden and Acquris develop "Naked Camera"
The new naked camera is a buzz word these days, is not just an American invention. Sweden and Acquris is together with France and Italy, the world leader in the development of the technology behind the next generátion of "naked Acquris is working with a EU project called IMATERA as national coordinator for Sweden and develops together with the French Thales (TED) and Italian Ulis and research laboratories CEA-LETI and FBK-irst, a "naked camera". As a Swedish research laboratories, we use the Swedish Defense Research Institute (FOI) and Chalmers University of Technology (CTH).
The purpose is primarily to develop the technology for a room temperature sensor with high resolution (320x240 or 640x480 pixels) and high readout speed (20-25 times / second). This sensor must then be included as a "camera" in a scan equipment.
If we start to bone up what a "naked camera" is. As everyone knows, today's cameras use visible light to "see" images. However, there is technology that uses heat waves instead. These cameras have been installed, including some schools to curb vandalism. The idea there is that you do not see who is there but simply that someone is there. Thereby circumvent the requirements of the Swedish administrative boards. These cameras are known using the heat energy from the human body and creates an image based on it, unfortunately with very limited detail.
What you do in a "naked camera" is that instead use radio waves to create pictures, hence making these images look very strange. But not any type of radio waves but radio waves with very high frequency called, somewhat misleading, Terahertz-wave, THz.
First, we should do a crash course in what Terahertz is. On our regular radio, we have up to 108 MHz or millions electromagnetic oscillations per second. In our cell phones, we have between 900 MHz to 1900 MHz. In a WLAN and Bluetooth, we have approximately 2400 MHz or 2.4 gigahertz (GHz). If we continue upward, we pass the radar dish and microwave ovens, etc. and will come up to NIR or Near Infra Red. Over there is visible light with the first red, then green up to blue, then ultraviolet (UV). These are all electromagnetic waves. What distinguishes a bit is that the light also includes light particles called photons. In a normal camera we captured the light particles and the quantity of these light particles determines how bright it is, the speed with which they "vibrate" determine what color they are. To create colors in a high qulity camera we use various filters that let through various parts of the light spectrum (vibration) which means that one sees a color image. This is both a camera's strength and its Achilles heel. By taking the shortcut of light particles, it is easy to do good and qualitative cameras. Unfortunately, the light particles generally have a limited capacity for penetration various materials. In principle, the materials need to be specifically designed to allow penetration. Eg a window must be completely transparent, otherwise it will color the light. A smoked piece of plastic is enough to make it impossible to see through the transparent of a motorcycle helmet, etc.. It is here IMATERA sensor comes into play. Since it works in an area almost up to infrared light, but it does not rely on the photons of light, you can do completely new things. All materials have quite different characteristics in these high frequencies. The materials that simply stops photons, is transparent to radio waves. Our smoked piece of plastic is not visible at all, the clothes on your body disappear completely, the robbers hood seems not to exist at all.
This was a bit of background. The "naked camera" which has begun to be used today have several shortcomings, mainly personal integrity. The simple solution to that is that the operator is placed in another room, so he/she will not be able to see the person being checked. Instead, he/she communicates with people in the security check point by radio, and notifies the personel who is doing the checking, if the person is carrying anything that needs to be explored. There are also several other shortcomings, the arrangement requires more staff, the security check takes longer, the detail is limited, the peripherals are expensive and complicated and not least, it is inconvenient for the person being scanned. The systems available today are slow to very slow (a scan can take anywhere from 1.5 seconds / "side" up to 20 seconds). If the person moves during the process it might require that the scanning is done once more, etc. Furthermore, we can't be oblivious to the human factor present which can make the process uncertain and inconsistent. This together makes the current solutions do not work optimally. All this together means that security checks at airports are lengthy, intrusive and slower, but that indeed become safer.
IMATERA project's goal is instead to make security checks quicker, promoting integrity, consistency, and above all make us all safer.
How are we doing it?
Since the IMATERA project sensor works at room temperature (not chilled like most other systems on the market) peripheral are "cheaper". Additionally, the sensor is manufactured in a standard manufacturing process for integrated circuits which also makes it "cheaper". In addition, the sensor is working in "TV speed," or 20-25 frames per second which means that the scanning can be started already in the queue, making the whole process going faster.
IMATERA project's biggest advantage over the other systems on the market is that we have entered the integrity aspect into the design stage. Acquris has not only had the task of selecting frequencies, but we also have on our lot to develop a demonstrator. This work includes, at our own initiative, to also develop a smart software that do the analysis for the operator. Thus makeing it unnecessary to set aside separate areas for the operator since the software does not show the image from the sensor (as do all other systems on the market) but a normal video image where suspicious objects instead been highlighted with a outline, in the video image. Thus, this project works just as well all over the world, no one need feel any violation of his privacy because only the computer sees the image from the sensor, makes the analysis and then presents a simplified result of the video image. In addition, our "camera" look at larger distances (up to about 20 meters) so that it can also work on border crossings, checkpoints in the troubled areas, etc. As the "camera" has a clever software that makes the analysis, it can also be used in football stadiums, in shopping malls or other places where you neither want people to bring weapons. This is because no one sees the image from the sensor, but only an analysis of it. Therefore, could our IMATERA camera (if it was avalible as a product on the market) probably have stopped the tragedy in Espoo, Finland if it had beeb placed in the entrance to the mall.
IMATERA project runs until 2012 and we hope to have an initial prototype available in end of 2010, beginning of 2011. For more information on IMATERA or if you want to be involved and contribute financially so it can be completed earlier, please contact John Öhgren, 0701-901050.