March 10, 2008

New British Camera Can See Through Clothes

In what some have called a security industry breakthrough, a British company has developed a new camera that can see through clothes at a distance of up to 80 feet, even when people are in motion. 

The new camera, called the T500 made by ThruVision, uses "passive imaging technology" to detect weapons, drugs or explosives that might be hidden under people's clothes.

The T5000 will be officially unveiled at a scientific development exhibition March 12-13 sponsored by Britain's Home Office.

The camera's passive imaging technology identifies objects by the natural electromagnetic rays, known as Terahertz or T-rays, they emit.  However, ThruVision says the images do not reveal physical body details and the screening itself is harmless.

The technology has both civilian and military applications, and could be used in crowded airports, shopping malls, sporting events and other venues where large groups of people are gathered.   

"Acts of terrorism have shaken the world in recent years and security precautions have been tightened globally," said Clive Beattie, the chief executive of ThruVision, in an interview with Reuters.

"The ability to see both metallic and non-metallic items on people out to 25 meters is certainly a key capability that will enhance any comprehensive security system."

While the technology may enhance detection, it may also increase concerns about civil liberties, and reinforce fears that Britain may be turning in to a society constantly under watch by hundreds of thousands of closed-circuit television cameras that already monitor people throughout the country every day.

In developing the T5000 technology, ThruVision collaborated with the European Space Agency and leveraged its research into dying stars.   The imaging technology works on the premise that all people and objects emit low levels of electromagnetic radiation. The Terahertz travel through both clouds and walls, and are between infrared and microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Different materials emit unique signature waves, so that explosives can be distinguished from a block of clay, and a bag of flour, for instance, can be differentiated from drugs such as cocaine.  


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