Galactic tech to body-scan 2,000 people per hour on LA Metro system

26 Sep 2018

Inside a New York subway carriage. Image: Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock

New body scanners developed with ESA technology will passively scan thousands of passengers for weapons on the LA Metro.

Whether you agree with it or not, body scanners for security reasons are about to become a lot more prevalent.

But rather than using large, bulky machines that require one person to step in it at a time, new technology about to be installed in the Los Angeles Metro system will not even require you to stop moving.

Announced by LA Metro CEO Philip Washington, new screening cameras will be placed in various locations across the transit system and will be capable of passively scanning people as they come and go. In doing so, it is estimated that they can analyse as many as 2,000 passengers per hour for any metallic and non-metallic items.

The technology was originally developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) as a means of better understanding galactic evolution, but it has since been adopted by the UK company Thruvision, which will provide the LA Metro scanners.

Explaining how it works, Thruvision said that the cameras can detect when there is an absence of naturally occurring, extremely high-frequency terahertz waves, emitted by anything that is warm, such as our bodies.

A computer screen showing the Thruvision technology scanning passengers for weapons.

The Thruvision scanner in action. Image: Thruvision

Can scan up to 10 metres

“When an object is hidden in clothing or strapped to a person, these waves are blocked and their absence is detected by the system’s software,” explained Stefan Hale, chief operating officer at Thruvision. “The technology does not emit radiation of any kind and no anatomical details are displayed.”

Since acquiring the technology from ESA, Thruvision has deployed 300 cameras in 18 countries around the world. When placed in the LA Metro, they will be able to spot hidden objects at distances of up to 10 metres.

When the technology was being developed for space reasons by ESA researchers, terahertz scanners were effective in answering a number of cosmic mysteries. ESA engineer Peter de Maagt, who led the original team, explained: “Observing galaxies in the terahertz range can help us better understand how they were formed in the early universe, and how stars have formed throughout history.

“And, in environmental monitoring, these frequencies can reveal details of ozone depletion as well as helping us understand global climate change.”

Inside a New York subway carriage. Image: Benoit Daoust/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic