ALERT welcomes United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano
Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats was pleased to host U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano on Monday, November 12th following her keynote address at Northeastern University’s Veteran’s Day Ceremony.
To kick off the visit, ALERT’s Director, Professor Michael B. Silevitch, provided Secretary Napolitano with an overview of the ALERT Center of Excellence. Prof. Silevitch then introduced undergraduate and graduate students involved with ALERT research and gave a summary of the demonstrations in video analytics and advanced imaging technologies that were prepared for her briefing. Michael described Napolitano’s visit as a significant opportunity for ALERT and its homeland security research, saying,
“It was very important to get validation from Secretary Napolitano about the relevance of our research and its transition to the field in the areas of video tracking of threats and passenger screening. This acknowledgement inspires us.”
Professor Octavia Camps led the first demonstration featuring ALERT’s Engage to Excel (E2E) Video Analytic Surveillance Transition project, VAST. VAST is a program developed in partnership with Siemens and the Cleveland Transportation Security Administration. The live demonstration exhibited the video analytic counter-flow program developed by Dr. Camps and her team and its ability to automatically detect when a person is proceeding the wrong way in an identified traffic pattern (for example, trying to enter through an exit). The resulting detections enable quick identification of an incident and minimize the impact on TSA resources. This project is currently installed within the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Following the video analytics demonstration, Professor Carey Rappaport showed Secretary Napolitano the capabilities of the ALERT Advanced Imaging Technologies (AIT) laboratory. This laboratory fuses together various scanning tools to create next-generation security scanning systems. Professor Rappaport, Assistant Professor Jose Martinez and graduate student Spiros Mantzavinos demonstrated the operation and data acquisition capabilities of ALERT’s advanced portal-based millimeter-wave imaging radar. During the demo, the system scanned a mannequin wrapped in a skin simulant with various representative objects attached for detection. These types of AIT systems can be used to detect illicit items that passengers may be attempting to carry on their person.
“As a DHS-supported researcher, I found Secretary Napolitano’s visit very satisfying,” Prof. Rappaport commented. “She was of course quite knowledgeable about the science and technology we are pursuing, but she seemed keenly interested in how we were improving the state of the art. She was completely supportive and she motivated the students with her passion to keeping Americans safe.”
Spiros Mantzavinos, currently a Northeastern University Doctoral Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Gordon Engineering Leadership Fellow, had the opportunity to meet Secretary Napolitano. Mantzavinos said, “It was an honor to host Secretary Napolitano for a visit to our ALERT whole-body imaging lab. Receiving attention and recognition from such a prominent figure in the national security arena assures the relevance of the advances we are making.”