Software distinguishes shampoo from bombs

Tech Culture

Since the recent U.K. terror scare, security at major airports has increased steadily. Problem is, it's hard to tell exactly what security is looking for. The threat of liquid explosives is making it hard for governments to permit passengers to bring fluids onto planes. But does airport security really want my lip gloss, perfume and hairspray?

Enter Guardian Technologies International, in Herndon, Va. According to an article by IDG News Service, the company's PinPoint image analysis software can differentiate explosive liquids from non-explosive ones using algorithms. The Travel Security Agency is considering using the technology, which hooks up to a PC, in collaboration with current X-ray equipment.

X-ray tech being used at airports now is only able to determine the densities of items, leaving a large margin of error in trying to tell explosive objects from carry-on items such as household shampoo.

Guardian Technologies Vice President Steven Lancaster told IDG News Service that plastic items, when scanned, appear in the green color spectrum, while the most dense items, such as those made of metal, will be more in the black and blue spectrums. Explosive items are in the orange spectrum, alongside organic items such as clothing, shoes and food, he said.

The PinPoint software uses "classic imaging technologies," such as spatial, domain and spectral analysis, to filter the images further and detect the difference between explosives and other organic items, Lancaster said. It also can detect whether an explosive is being hidden inside or behind an item that falls into one of the other color spectrums.

PinPoint: coming to an airport near you (in the next few months). Umm, as if you can wait that long to reapply your lip gloss on an eight-hour flight.

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