Transport Security Expo 2010 takes place in London next week, on 15-16 September, showcasing “a range of the innovative solutions for the Transportation Security arena”, including:

– Systems Integration
– Access Control & Biometric Solutions
– Blast Containment
– CCTV & Monitoring
– Explosive Detection
– RFID / Tracking
– Cargo Screening
– Seals / Tamper Evident Solutions
– Perimeter Security and Intrusion Detection
– Training & Consultancy Services
– Baggage Screening
– Passenger Screening
– Physical Security

The conference includes over 30 Workshop Sessions on ‘Securing Cargo’, ‘Perimeter Security’,  ‘Passenger Security’ and ‘Terminal Security’. Click here to view the full workshop programme.

The EU is also holding its annual security research conference this month, from 22-24 September in Ostend, see conference website.

SCR ’10 is focussed on the EU’s R&D programme (the security research component of FP7) and includes plenary sessions on “Halfway through FP7”,  “After Lisbon: The continuum of internal and external security” and “Security as a pre-requisite for prosperity”.

In addition, there are dedicated sessions on Maritime Security, Standardisation, CBRN, Cybersecurity, Transport Security, Security of the Citizens (sic), Security of Infrastructures, Restoring Security, Improving Security, Security and Society and the coordination of EU Security Research.

As with the Berlin security research conference, “ethics and justice” are squeezed into a single session (on Security and Society). The words privacy, human rights, governance and accountability do not appear anywhere in the conference programme.

The conference also includes a “brokerage event” and exhibition to “facilitate networking between companies, scientific experts, operators and policy makers”. More than one thousand participants are expected.

The European Journalism Centre (EJC) and the European Commission are co-organising a one and a half-day briefing tackling the “current state of play on security research, its challenges and its opportunities in the future”.

The fifth German Security Research conference, organised by the Fraunhofer Group for Defence and Security, is under way in Berlin, see conference website and programme (pdf).

The eight conference sessions cover Security of Transport Systems, Building Protection, Surveillance and Control (2 sessions), Security-Related Legal and Ethical Principles, Detection of Hazardous Materials (2 sessions), Protection of Supply Networks and Security of Communication Networks.

While the inclusion of a session on legal and ethical principles is a welcome addition to the overwhelming focus on security technology, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that society should be (re-)oriented toward “future security”, and not the other way around.

Interesting article from Defense Technology International (Volume 4, Issue 4) describing advances in olfactory surveillance.

Sniff And Tell, Science Watch, 1 April 2010 by Michael Dumiak

Nanoparticle gel and integrative data are the latest tools being tested for security in military and civilian infrastructures. They hold the potential of snaring everyday criminals such as drug smugglers and terrorists like the foiled underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Detection equipment is getting smaller, more integrated and easier to use, says Steven Bell, a physical chemist at Queens University of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Bell produced a prototype gel swab tester that relies on handheld Raman spectrometers to detect trace elements of explosives, drugs, or chemical and biological agents.

Bells background is in Raman spectroscopy, an electromagnetic spectrum-scanning technique that focuses a laser onto a sample. The scanner collects the laser light scattering off the sample surface. Some of this light undergoes a change in energy state. The pattern of energy change identifies the chemical bonding within the sample.

Raman spectroscopy is an old science. Recent advances in optoelectronics, Bell says, such as small lasers, small spectrometers, and high-efficiency detectors, make using it in the field more practical. Its gone from an instrument that would fill a room to one thats a handheld.

One problem with Raman spectroscopy has been that the light scattering is minuscule. The way around this is to use a surface-enhancera device that magnifies the signal from the sample.

Bells team uses silver and gold nanoparticles for this, a common technique. What his team is doing, though, is putting the particles in a polymer gel. They remain active but are accessible to light, he says.

What he has in mind are stamp-sized pads with a protective covering over the gel. Peel back the covering, expose the gel and swab it on the surface to be tested.

The other challenge is canceling out background noise and focusing on the material of interest, a process akin to putting a tuner on a radio.

We have a long list of target molecules we are working our way through, developing modifications which promote binding of our targets of interest and discourage binding of interfering materials, Bell says.

Target molecules include underground drugs, chemical and biological weapons and substances like PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate), the explosive Abdulmutallab concealed in his skivvies before boarding the Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit last Christmas in Amsterdam.

Bells swab detection, and techniques like it, will be good for targeted searches. But they dont solve the problem of mass infrastructure such as airports, rail stations or even military checkpoints. This is the challenge Wolfgang Koch is putting his mind to at the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics of Wachtberg, Germany.

Kochs team developed a data-fusion system for tunnel-like spaces such as hallways or corridors using ready-made laser scanners, video cameras and tracking sensors. Its about data integration. The principal problem with chemical sensors and sniffersthe artificial equivalents of nosesis poor resolution, he says. We are not able to localize smell, associate the smell to an individual and track him as he moves.

This data fusion aims to tie the input from different types of sensors together in a meaningful way, freeing human security from some of the workload inherent to routine tasks so they can be more observant. Access areas like corridors mean people enter and leave naturally. We can equip the hall with chemical sensors. They are not expensive, you can have several of them in a sniffing wall, Koch says. Data-fusion algorithms combine output of all sensors at all times and combine them with the position of all persons at all times. You can associate trace signatures with an individual. A suspect can then be electronically tagged with a label, followed and questioned. The next step for Koch is to set up a pilot project with the system.

There will likely be no single solution to security in airports, rail stations and other areas people pass through. It does seem that some type of data linking will be necessary, given the rapidly expanding universe of scanners and sensors.

Not everyone is happy about this. The academic activist group Transnational Institute (TI) of Amsterdam, for one, warns of a NeoConOpticon, its term for the rise of a security-industrial complex (think military-industrial complex) in Europe. TI decries the mania for surveillance systems – a splendid discussion for classrooms and dissertations, no doubt, but one that loses traction in the real world of crime and terrorism.

Koch sees the issue of heightened security from a different perspective. It gives us back a piece of normality in the infrastructure.

Here is an e-mail from FRONTEX that we did not receive:

We would like to inform you that Frontex R&D Unit has issued a tender call for the conduct of two studies as follows:

1.    Ethics of Border Security

2.    Forward Study on European Border Checks

The deadline for proposals is 21 May 2010 and the studies should be completed within 6 months, in close consultation with us.

As companies/institutions/individuals with whom we have had fruitful contact in the past, we would like to invite you to consider making a proposal for one or both studies should the subject be within your area of expertise, or to forward this information to others who you believe can offer the skills we are looking for.

Full details on the tender can be found at: http://www.frontex.europa.eu/procurement/calls_for_tenders_above_60000/

Please note that the “above €60,000” figure mentioned refers to both studies TOGETHER, though each lot can be bid on separately.

NO2ID | Stop the database state

The “European eID Interoperability Platform”, or STORK, is an EU-funded programme to set up standards for the interoperability of electronic ID systems across Europe. The project has recently caught the attention of NO2ID, the UK-based campaign against ID cards and the database state which, “after careful negotiation over several months” and a grant from Microsoft’s corporate social responsibility fund to cover the costs of its participation, has now been formally admitted to a STORK working group, representing civil society interests.

“As far as we know, we are the first non-governmental and non-corporate organisation to be given such a level of access”, said No2ID. “As things stand the Home Office’s scheme is by far the most pernicious ID scheme in the continent, if not the world. But if developing European standards starts to present a threat to privacy and civil liberties, then we are now in a much better position to know about it and lobby against it”.

See also The Register: “With MS funding, No2ID gains entry to EU eID group”

The production of extravagant PR material is always a good indication that government agencies or public bodies have been given too much money. This is the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from “No, you can’t”, the short film that now greets visitors to the European Commission’s security research website.


“No, you can’t” – EU Security Research ‘infomercial’

It’s clearly something to do with preventing lightly armed people with mental illness boarding European aircraft, but is the deranged central character, crude Asian stereotyping and abject lack of meaningful information in this ‘infomercial’ meant to convey a deeper message about the European Union? Barrack Obama said “yes, we can”, the European Commission says “no, you can’t”. Speaks for itself really.

Regardless of message or metaphor, how anyone thought this was a justifiable use of public funds beggars belief. You’d have thought the Commission might have learned a few lessons from the frankly even more embarrassing INDECT video and the ridicule it invited.


A Harfang UAV at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan

Further evidence of the EU’s unswerving commitment to the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or pilotless ‘drone’ planes) into European airspace has emerged in recent weeks. The European Commission, however, is yet to issue as much as a single communication explaining the EU’s UAV programme or setting out policy options for the member states.  So much for openness and transparency.

At present, drones/UAVs are only permitted to operate in ‘segregated airspace’ for military operations because of fears about public safety. Manned aircraft operating in commercial airspace are subject to stringent air traffic control safety regulations; those promoting UAV’s have yet to convince regulators of their safety (see the second comment in this post for a list of notable accidents). Last week the UK Civil Aviation Authority grounded an unlicensed Merseyside Police drone following the Force’s boast that it had been used to track down a car thief.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) has just awarded a contract to the European defence giant EADS and its subsidiary Astrium, Europe’s largest space company, to lead a six-month feasibility study demonstrating the safety of UAVs in civil airspace. EADS, the self-proclaimed “leading manufacturer of UAVs in Europe”, will use a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV in the attempt to convince regulators, while Astrium will provide the satellite-based services “needed to operate the UAVs safely in civil airspace”. EADS and Astrium already use this technology in Afghanistan, where the French air force have deployed one of their Harfang UAVs.

According to ASDNews, the consortium will meet key European civil and military stakeholders during the study in order to “receive their endorsements on safety and regulatory policy, and on future applications”. ASDNews also predicts that upon completion of the study, the EDA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will jointly fund a full demonstration programme. One wonders when, if ever, the European Parliament or the member states will be formally consulted?

“The outcome of this study will further reinforce our capability to propose leading-edge and secured solutions to our customers” said Bernhard Gerwert, CEO Military Air Systems, an integrated Business Unit of EADS Defence & Security. Like the European Defence Agency, FRONTEX is also doing its bit for UAVs and will host an event in Spain for manufacturers this coming June.

See previous posts on this topic:

Two upcoming international conferences on the theme of border controls showcase the people, organisations and corporations building the state apparatuses of the future – but who is holding them to account?

Border Security 2010 is a commercial venture of the SMI Group on “land, air and maritime border security issues” that also has a counter-terrorism and public order focus. The event is sponsored by a host of defence and Homeland Security companies and takes place in Rome on 3-4 March 2010, following “sell out events in Istanbul in 2008, and Warsaw in 2009”.

Keynote speakers include Edgar Beugels (Head of Research and Development Unit, Frontex), Keith Best, (UK Immigration Advisory Service) and Thomas Tass (Executive Director, Borderpol). The conference also includes presentations on:

  • The EFFISEC project (an FP7 project on checkpoint security)
  • ‘Border Violence’ (brought to you by the European office of the Department of Homeland Security)
  • EADS National Security Programme for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Uses for unmanned aerial systems [drones etc.] in Border Security Operations
  • Security Planning and Technological Application in International Major Events: The Italian G8 Summit Experience
  • NATO’s International Border Security Agenda
  • Biometric Technologies for Border Processing (from the EU-funded European Biometrics Forum)
  • Analysis of the Mumbai Terror Attacks
  • UK National Security & UK Maritime Security
  • See full programme (pdf)

For its 2011 event SMI plans “a special focus on the use of border management technologies” with “special insights into how different surveillance technologies are being used to aid decision making and improve security at all levels”. Heralding a new era of government by robot, ‘Border Security 2011’ will consider “how far the human factor is being replaced and what your role will be in the 21st century environment”.

This theme is taken up by the second event. Towards E-Borders: The impact of new technologies on border controls in the EU takes place at the Academy of European law in Trier on 22-23 April 2010. The seminar will “take stock of the use and the impact of new technologies on EU borders” and the “role of Frontex and Europol”. Speakers include:

  • Erik Berglund (Director of Capacity Building Division, Frontex Agency, Warsaw)
  • Roland Genson (Director, Police and Customs Cooperation, Schengen Directorate, General Secretariat of the Council of the EU, Brussels)
  • Julie Gillis and Ian Neill (Director and deputy, e-Borders Programme, UK)
  • Jean-Dominique Nollet, Head of Analysis, Serious Crime Department, Europol)
  • Frank Paul (Head of Unit, Large-scale IT-systems and Biometrics, Directorate-General Justice, Freedom and Security, European Commission)

You can't appeal to robots for mercy or empathy - or punish them afterwards

Two interesting articles examining the development and implementation of combat robots of various sorts were published this month. In “The age of the killer robot is no longer a sci-fi fantasy” (Independent), Johann Hari considers the growing army of 12,000 robots used by the USA in some 33,000 military operations per year and offers the following conclusion:

Imagine if the beaches at Dover and the skies over Westminster were filled with robots controlled from Torah Borah, or Beijing, and could shoot us at any time. Some would scuttle away – and many would be determined to kill “their” people in revenge. The Lebanese editor Rami Khouri says that when Lebanon was bombarded by largely unmanned Israeli drones in 2006, it only “enhanced the spirit of defiance” and made more people back Hezbollah.

Is this a rational way to harness our genius for science and spend tens of billions of pounds? The scientists who were essential to developing the nuclear bomb – including Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, and Andrei Sakharov – turned on their own creations in horror and begged for them to be outlawed. Some distinguished robotics scientists, like Illah Nourbakhsh, are getting in early, and saying the development of autonomous military robots should be outlawed now.

There are some technologies that are so abhorrent to human beings that we forbid them outright. We have banned war-lasers that permanently blind people along with poison gas. The conveyor belt dragging us ever closer to a world of robot wars can be stopped – if we choose to.

The second article, “Israeli Robots Remake Battlefield” by Charles Levinson (Wall Street Journal), can only dampen Hari’s optimism. Levinson argues that the growing Israeli army of “robotic fighting machines” offers a “window onto the potential future of warfare”, with “over 40 countries now said to have military-robotics programs”.

‘Highlights’ from the article, for want of a better term, include:

  • Among the recently deployed technologies that set Israel ahead of the curve is the Guardium unmanned ground vehicle, which now drives itself along the Gaza and Lebanese borders. The Guardium was deployed to patrol for infiltrators in the wake of the abduction of soldiers doing the same job in 2006. The Guardium, developed by G-nius Ltd., is essentially an armored off-road golf cart with a suite of optical sensors and surveillance gear. It was put into the field for the first time 10 months ago.
  • In the Gaza conflict in January 2009, Israel unveiled remote-controlled bulldozers.
  • Within the next year, Israeli engineers expect to deploy the voice-commanded, six-wheeled Rex robot, capable of carrying 550 pounds of gear alongside advancing infantry.
  • After bomb-laden fishing boats tried to take out an Israeli Navy frigate off the coast off Gaza in 2002, Rafael designed the Protector SV, an unmanned, heavily armed speedboat that today makes up a growing part of the Israeli naval fleet. The Singapore Navy has also purchased the boat and is using it in patrols in the Persian Gulf.
  • Unlike the U.S. and other militaries, where UAVs are flown by certified, costly-to-train fighter pilots, Israeli defense companies have recently built their UAVs to allow an average 18-year-old recruit with just a few months’ training to pilot them.
  • “The Israelis do it differently, not because they’re more clever than we are, but because they live in a tough neighborhood and need to respond fast to operational issues,” says Thomas Tate, a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who now oversees defence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.
  • in 2009 the U.S. Air Force trained more “pilots” for unmanned aircraft than for manned fighters and bombers for the first time.