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Study: Ordinary Wi-Fi can be used to detect bombs and other dangerous objects through bags

Researchers at Rutgers University–New Brunswick hope that a new Wi-Fi detection system they’ve developed will augment existing security systems at airports ad elsewhere. A Transportation Security Administration is shown here screening luggage at LaGuardia Airport on Sept. 26, 2017, in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Ordinary Wi-Fi can detect dangerous objects such as “weapons, bombs and explosive chemicals in bags at museums, stadiums, theme parks, schools and other public venues,” a new Rutgers University-New Brunswick study shows.

Researchers designed a object detection system that is “easy to set up, reduces security screening costs and avoids invading privacy such as when screeners open and inspect bags, backpacks and luggage,” according to the university.

Traditional screening methods usually requires high levels of staffing and expensive, specialized equipment.

How does it work?

Using just couple of antennas and a laptop, Wi-Fi signals can be used in most public places to see through bags, determine the dimensions of metal objects, and identify them, the report states. For example, that can include weapons, aluminum cans, laptops or batteries for bombs.

Wi-Fi can also be used to measure the amount of liquids in an object such as water, acid, alcohol, and other chemicals, according to an announcement from the university.

Researchers designed a system that requires a Wi-Fi device with two to three antennas and can be used with existing Wi-Fi networks.

The system works by having Wi-Fi signals penetrate bags and bounce off of different objects to figure out their sizes and shapes.

Is this a 'game changer'?

Professor Yingying Chen at Rutgers University told WCBS-TV their prototype detection system is a “game changer.”

“We feel really excited and we realized this could be very useful,” Chen said.

“It can help us to determine whether this is some dangerous weapons, or some dangerous materials, or it’s even a possible homemade bombs,” Chen added.

The system can even work if people just walk by receptors and transmitters. If something “suspicious” shows up, an alert appears on the computer.

The technology could also be attached to a “motorized car to weave through crowds,” the report states.

“We think the cost should be below $100,” Chen told the outlet.

When will it be ready?

The project is still in its research phase. According to Chen, more testing and work is needed to improve the system’s accuracy. It could be wheeled out for use sometime over the next two years.

Interestingly, the strength of the Wi-Fi signal is not a factor. It simply has to be there.

Chen told WCBS that she hopes the technology could be used to enhance the more rigorous screening systems used by airports.

In another development, Los Angeles will become the first U.S. city to deploy body scanners in its subway system to screen passengers.



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