Bomb Detection


On July 7, 2005 at the peak of the rush hour, bombs were detonated in three crowded subway trains and aboard a London bus. Fifty-four people died and 700 were injured in the blasts. Three of the four bombers are included in the dead. A week later there were attempted explosions on three more Underground trains and another bus. Millions of people around the world have joined a two-minute silence to pay tribute to the victims of the London bombings.

This tragedy brought home the reality that our own subway, bus and trains systems are vulnerable to a similar attack. Since 9/11 most of the US focus has been on aviation safety. In New York only the Metropolitan Transit Authority serves 14.6 million people across 5,000 square miles with more than 8,200 rail and subway cars and 734 rail stations.

In January of 2003, the United States Government established the Department of Homeland Security to focus America's efforts to thwart those who seek to do us harm. The Department has an overriding and urgent mission: secure the American homeland and protect the American people.

The Department's strategic goals and objectives are directly linked to accomplishing the three objectives of the National Strategy:1) Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States; 2) Reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism; and 3) Minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur.

More specifically the strategic goals are:
Awareness -- Identify and understand threats, assess vulnerabilities, determine potential impacts and disseminate timely information to our homeland security partners and the American public.

Prevention -- Detect, deter and mitigate threats to our homeland.

Protection -- Safeguard our people and their freedoms, critical infrastructure, property and the economy of our Nation from acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.

Response -- Lead, manage and coordinate the national response to acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.

Recovery -- Lead national, state, local and private sector efforts to restore services and rebuild communities after acts of terrorism, natural disasters, or other emergencies.

Service -- Serve the public effectively by facilitating lawful trade, travel and immigration.

Organizational Excellence -- Value our most important resource, our people. Create a culture that promotes a common identity, innovation, mutual respect, accountability and teamwork to achieve efficiencies, effectiveness, and operational synergies.
Twenty two existing agencies and approximately 180,000 men and woman became part of the four directorates forming the Department of Homeland Security.
The Border and Transportation Security directorate will bring the major border security and transportation operations under one roof,

The Emergency Preparedness and Response directorate will oversee domestic disaster preparedness training and coordinate government disaster response

The Science and Technology directorate will seek to utilize all scientific and technological advantages when securing the homeland

The Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection directorate will analyze intelligence and information from other agencies (including the CIA, FBI, DIA and NSA) involving threats to homeland security and evaluate vulnerabilities in the nation's infrastructure

The Secret Service and the Coast Guard are also located in the Department of Homeland Security, remaining intact and reporting directly to the Secretary
Those of us who travel by air are familiar with the long lines for scanning carry-on baggage, the waving of the metal detector wands, the removal of one's shoes and so forth. We have read about the reinforced cockpit doors and the stationing of federal marshals on flights. We have observed or been part of random searches at the gate as was Al Gore.

There is also a watch list of names of suspected terrorists. Senator Ted Kennedy has been stopped for special attention three times at Boston's Logan International Airport. Also of Irish decent I have received special treatment in being unable to get a Southwest board pass over the internet or at a kiosk at the airport. I had to go in person to the counter.

The technology is basically visual inspection and interpretation of x-rayed luggage an approach subject to error due to several factors including fatigue. Once arriving late at the Mexico City airport I had in my carry-on luggage a letter opener (part of a last minute desk set gift). This was confiscated although my associate who was directly ahead of me sailed through security with the very same desk set. The agency responsible for aviation security is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 19, 2001. In February 2002, TSA assumed responsibility for security at the nation's ~429 airports and by the end of the year had deployed a federal work force of ~44,000 to meet challenging Congressional deadlines for screening all passengers and baggage. TSA was originally part of the Department of Transportation but was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in March 2003. The agency has a $5.6 billion budget for 2006 of which $4.6 billion is for aviation security and of which $291 million is for surface transportation security.

The agency employs two approaches to detecting possible explosive devices:
Explosives Trace Detection (ETDs) works by collecting samples and detecting vapors and residues of explosives. The human operators collect samples by using swabs to rub different areas of the bags. Swabs are then dropped into chemical analyzers that separate and identify any threat explosives present in less than 10 seconds. ETDs are characterized by small weight and size, and relatively low cost (about $40,000 each). The effectiveness of ETD is determined by the effectiveness of the human operator in collecting the sample.

Explosives Detection Systems (EDSs) use probing radiation (currently computer-aided tomography (CAT scan) X-rays adapted from the medical field) to take fundamental measurements of materials in bags to automatically recognize the characteristic signatures of threat explosives. EDSs are characterized by large size and weight, and high cost (about $750,000 each). They run in an automated mode.
TSA's 2006 budget for ETDs and EDSs is $367 million down from $840 in FY2004. The two main vendors for EDSs systems are L-3 Communications with about 530 machines installed and GE Infrastructure (Invision) with 800 machines installed. In late 2004 TSA certified a third vendor, Reveal Imaging Technologies, offering a cheaper system. The eXaminer 3DX 6500 from L-3 is capable of screening up to 600 bags per hour and has a false alarm rate of less than 17 percent on average nationwide. Trace portal equipment vendors include GE Infrastructure and Security and Smiths Detection. Approximately 150 machines have been installed in airports.

What has this to do with EDA?

In a speech to the Electronics Industries Alliance in 2002 then Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said
“Again, when we take a look at these applications of technology, we look to your industry and those related to it to help us come up with solutions. We look to your enlightened self-interest. That's good. That's good self-interest. We want you to do well by doing good. We think there's a market for these products that are either on research board or on the back of your mind or down the road, across the board -- biotech, infotech, you name it. We're going to look to the technology sector.”
The government is relying on innovation by end users of EDA software and services to develop accurate, rapid and affordable means for the detection of possible explosives.

In June 2005 Celoxica Ltd announced that HiEnergy Technologies, Inc., a developer of advanced stoichiometric sensor devices, has adopted the Celoxica DK Design Suite of C-based design and synthesis tools to accelerate chemical formula analysis algorithms. Portions of the algorithm are moved to hardware to accelerate the signal processing and free the embedded processor for other tasks. HiEnergy and Celoxica have successfully implemented and delivered these algorithms using Celoxica RC2000 FPGA boards in HiEnergy's SIEGMA 3E3 product used for the remote detection of hidden homemade bombs.

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