Plastered across headlines around the globe are reports of terrorist attacks and activities. Countries increase homeland security budgets to advance the technologies used to counter all possible threats.
After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the world realized the need for a stronger emphasis on homeland security. Homeland security encompasses all aspects of defense against external threats.
With governments allocating more spending, the homeland security technologies market is expected to grow exponentially each year. The U.S. spent an estimated US$50 billion on homeland security in 2009, tripling the amount spent prior to the 9/11 attacks. The U.K. has also tripled its spending following the 2005 London bombings, with an estimated amount of $5.7 billion for the fiscal year of 2009-2010.
A Homeland Security Research Corporation report covered the potential spending for 20 countries from 2009 to 2018. It found the U.S. to be the top spender at $993 billion by 2018, with China second at $183.4 billion. Significant funds have been set aside for European countries and major Asian nations, such as Japan and India, highlighting the importance of homeland security worldwide.
The first step for homeland security is prevention. In the U.S., the FBI focuses on gathering information to fill information gaps through methods such as monitoring telecommunications. By analyzing the collected material, it can recognize threats in a timely manner.
Real-time video analytics can highlight suspicious areas, from unmanned bags at airports to people crossing into restricted areas. An incident occurred in January when a man entered a secure area at Newark Liberty International Airport through an exit door, closing the airport for hours and disrupting air traffic. His actions were caught on video, enabling authorities to identify him and press charges.
Cybersecurity protects sensitive information on computers and the Internet, thus preventing hackers from stealing someone's identity or discovering sensitive corporate and government secrets or terrorist acts. The cybersecurity market is expected to reach $11 billion by 2013, with an annual growth of 7 to 8 percent. Defense companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon have created cybersecurity divisions to protect US government computers. According to Bloomberg, security breaches have doubled from 37,000 cases to 72,000 cases in the past fiscal year.
The Carnivore system, renamed DCS1000, is used by the FBI to intercept information communicated through the Internet. It uses packet-sniffing software, which helps gather information from specific, questionable sources. Software developed by Actimize analyzes patterns for possible terrorist or illegal activities. It is designed for government and commercial purposes, such as banks. The solution can point out account abnormalities which helps to indicate criminal activity.
Most physical attacks are carried out using chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear and explosive materials. A range of technologies screen for such materials.
Existing field devices are unable to detect shielded or even lightly shielded radioactive sources. False alarms are not uncommon, requiring new technology to decrease the number of false positives. New machines are expected to lower the need for secondary inspections, with more accurate radiation detection and identification of radioactive isotopes. The U.S. has budgeted $20 millionfor 2010 to purchase more explosive detection machines.
Traditional methods for screening illegal items include X-ray machines, which can view cargo contents without wasting time or manpower. Airports and seaports use a robotic “ferret” that can climb into cargo containers in search of illegal or dangerous substances. Automated screening for hazardous materials is faster and easier, reducing the chances of something being overlooked.
Security equipment must consider throughput along with safety. Designed for airports, a GE baggage screening system can screen 542 bags per hour, making it one of the fastest detection systems.
Many methods detect for explosive materials, the most common being ion mobility spectrometry and gas chromatography. Boeing and Siemens have signed US contracts to equip 429 airports with explosive detection systems, worth more than $1 billion. Lockheed Martin received a $500 million contract to install explosive trace detection systems.
In the event that explosive material has been detonated, mass spectrometry can offer insight into the type of materials used. New solutions can analyze explosives and illegal substances with very small samples, such as the residue off of a boarding pass or a cotton swab. This ability to identify smaller samples is a breakthrough, as explosions destroy most of the evidence.
Bomb makers often follow a formula, thus giving the bomb a signature. By identifying the compounds of an explosive device, the authorities are able to compare it to known bombs and pinpoint a suspect.
Eye in the Sky
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) help survey sites that cannot be easily accessed.
They do everything from monitoring coastal borders to gathering intelligence from disaster areas. The U.S. deploys UAVs to monitor its borders, since surveillance would be impossible by manpower alone. The UAVs can fly for 30 hours and are equipped with thermal tracking to spot illegal immigrants or fugitives. Military applications for missile-equipped UAVs are expected to increase, with the goal of deploying them for 30 percent of military flight missions and 10 percent of ground missions by 2115.
UAVs are also effective for rescue missions. Some are programmed to carry supplies to hard-to-reach disaster areas and then return to base. They work faster than conventional carriers, saving precious manpower for other recovery efforts.
Homeland security counters natural threats, thus requiring tools to effectively survey and convey information to government and local agencies to enable a timely response for disaster relief.
The American Red Cross improved its rescue tactics with handheld devices and data collection software to assess areas devoured by Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike in 2008. It used 25 handheld devices to collect 17,000 damage assessments for Hurricane Gustav in as little as two weeks time.
The devices allowed for more data collection in less time, and easier access to information compared to the the less convenient method of using pencil and paper. The data was then sent in real time with GPRS or Bluetooth for constant communication.
Problems with poorly scribbled site reports were eliminated with a built-in camera and GPRS mapping abilities, enabling faster relief to disaster zones.
Biological threats factor into homeland security response. A Smiths mobile testing device allows for easy handling for first responders in hazmat suits, and it detects and identifies small amounts of agents in less than 65 minutes, speeding up investigations. A simple interface is essential, allowing inexperienced emergency personnel to use the device quickly and effectively.
Robotics have been proven useful during a disaster, since robots can survey sites that are either unsafe or unreachable for human first responders. In dangerous situations, they are also sent in, so human lifes are not at risk. Its ability to do what humans cannot, such as entering high radiation areas, has allowed it to become an essential part of homeland security. The Pentagon plans to use robots to replace a third of its armed vehicles and weaponry in the near future.
There are already robots for bomb disposal and explosive detection. A snake-like robot has been developed to swiftly maneuver through wreckage. In a demonstration, it located and disabled a bomb hidden in a car, which a bomb squad could not reach.
The market for homeland security technologies will continue to grow. New technologies seek better, faster, cheaper and more effective ways to battle threat and disaster situations.
At Japan's Tohoku University, two professors are creating robots engineered for earthquake relief, due to the prevalence of large earthquakes in their country. One robot, equipped with cameras and other sensors, is able to climb 70-degree slopes, an obstacle for many current robots. Another can survey a disaster area with a pole-mounted camera, which takes multiple images that can be pieced together to generate a 3-D map.
There will always be a demand for improved existing technologies, such as system integration, biometrics, data collection, cybersecurity, and detection. While terrorists and other malicious entities may not have the funding for advanced weaponry, they often find new ways to inflict damage. The best form of defense is to advance modes of counterterrorism to meet and overcome all homeland security threats.