It’s with a heavy heart that we join the rest of the world in sending heartfelt condolences to the people of Belgium following the attacks that occurred in Brussels this week.
In the wake of senseless attacks like these and those carried out in Paris last November, we find ourselves with more questions than answers. How could we have been better prepared? How can we keep our cities and citizens safe? What can be done to prevent future attacks? Its questions like these that are fueling an increased focus in public safety research and development investments here at Hitachi.
One of the latest twists in the investigation of the Brussels bombing was the discovery that the attackers used an acetone and peroxide-based explosive called triacetone triperoxide, or TATP. In the past, explosives used in these types of incidents have been largely nitrate-based, so modern detection systems, like those found in airports, target nitrates. Belgium authorities recovered 30 pounds of TATP from a dwelling used by the attackers in Brussels—it was also used in the Paris attacks. Experts had previously identified TATP as a potential gap in existing explosive detection capabilities and therefore posed a serious threat.
To screen for even nitrate-based explosive residues in airports today, authorities have to swab a passenger’s hands and wait for a machine to process the test – a process that takes a few minutes to complete and is not a practical solution to provide screening for every passenger.
In 2011, our research team in Japan began working on new high-throughput detection portal for counter-terrorism that enables detection of TATP vapor. In 2012, Hitachi delivered its first prototype for a new bomb-detecting departure gate capable of identifying both TATP and nitrate-based vapors.
The technology blows a short puff of air at a passenger's hand as he scans his pass then sucks in the air along with minute particles that are blown off the hand. It instantly analyses the particles for explosive substances like nitrates and TATP in seconds—fast enough to allow people to pass through the gate without delay.
While the focus for explosive detection at airports has been around the prevention of explosives being taken aboard a flight, now we have to be concerned about explosives in the departure area even before they enter the secure boarding area. This type of walk through detection portal can be used at the entrance to the airport to reduce the risk of explosives any where in the airport. A detection portal can be used at any entrance, like the entrance to hotels, metro stations, sporting events; any crowded space that could be a target for a terrorist attack
Hitachi is working on a number of other solutions to enhance public safety and prevent crime in tandem. Our Similar Face Search technology can scan 36 million faces in less than a second using new clustering and edge pattern recognition techniques; our Hitachi Visualization Suite is a cloud based public safety solution that is being used by police departments, housing authorities and transportation systems in the U.S. today to detect threats and prevent crimes from happening.
Our hope is that with these types of technological advancements, we will be better able to prevent attacks on innocent civilians, like those in Brussels and Paris, and make the world a safer place.