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Exclusive: On the crest of a mmWave

November 17, 2022

Body scanners are now familiar at airports – but the R&S QPS Walk2000 has far wider appeal, says Gary Walker, Rohde & Schwarz’s Special Projects Account Manager.

Loss prevention has turned into a hot topic – especially in days when people are feeling the squeeze – and technology sits alongside efforts in asset protection.

In the past, the employee screening devices at companies’ disposal were often inefficient and staff-heavy, undermining the business imperatives for procuring state of the art systems.

Rohde & Schwarz’s R&S QPS Walk2000 seems to make a very compelling argument for a change of mind. In one instance, a business can see a return on its investment in a matter of weeks.

So, how does it work? The AI-based millimeterwave (mmWave) screening is a completely touchless security approach. It can handle large volumes of people very quickly and efficiently, without the need for any outer garments or shoes to be removed or having to pause and pose.

The single scan of a person walking through the mmWave gate generates more than a billion readings, which are then analysed by AI in real time. AI allows a high degree of flexibility as the software can also be trained with detection capabilities for specific operational scenarios – for example, to detect food, data-bearing devices or pharmaceutical products.

Convenient

It is for this reason that the product is much favoured in future airport security concepts and the sort, which many people outside of the industry will be familiar with.

It can pick up any kind of dangerous object or substance concealed under clothing. mmWave screening is safe, comfortable and convenient for the person and also the security staff. Unlike x-rays that can penetrate the human body and harm cells, mmWaves get reflected by the skin and thus the technology is safe for use by anyone, including pregnant women and people wearing medical devices.

Unlike conventional security scanners, mmWave imaging detects metallic and non-metallic objects.

This includes solids and liquids as well as weapons and dangerous materials like explosives, drugs, currency, jewellery and electronics, small devices like USB sticks and SD cards. Even organic materials like meat and vegetables can be detected.

Add to those gels, ceramics, plastics, granulates and powders to the detection list, then most bases are covered.

Prior to the development of AI-based automated detection algorithms on imaging systems, detection and performance was limited to the human eye to spot anomalies or threats.

Clearly the airport industry is the obvious marketplace for the R&S QPS Walk2000, but Gary Walker, Rohde & Schwarz’s Special Projects Account Manager (Government, Security, Defence & Aviation), sees potential beyond.

He says: “There is an untapped market for commercial entities like supermarkets or large warehouses to make use of this technology, especially where there is a human element and the potential for internal loss.  Behind the scenes in stock rooms there are potentially more opportunities to remove goods as there can be less visibility and supervision, as these require more staffing hours to uphold.

According to a white paper commissioned by Rohde & Schwarz and written by experts Andreas Haegele, Dr Christoph Baur and Peter Walhoefer, theft from workplaces is at a level which causes real concern.

The discussion document cites figures from the US Chamber of Commerce, stating 75% of employees steal from their workplace.

An Association of Fraud Examiners’ 2020 report said that the average loss is $85,000 and the frequency of incidents of theft per company has increased from 1% in 2016 to an average of 3.2% in 2019.

As a result of under-staffing, security staff put in many extra hours and can end up getting tired, heightening the risk of failure to notice potential problems.

The report concludes: “Therefore, a combination of trained security staff and state-of-the-art AI based screening technology is the most promising approach towards loss prevention, deterring those 80% of employees potentially prone to steal from their employer.”

Walker acknowledges there is a major difference in attitude between the UK and our cousins across the pond.

He adds: “In the US, there is a wide use of scanners in shopping malls and even schools. In the UK we are looking at providing not just protection for companies against loss prevention, but these scanners have the potential to help make employees and visitors feel safe in their environment, whether in a warehouse, airport, sporting or entertainment venue. 

“They can detect an object quite accurately within a region. Let’s face it, it can be an uncomfortable and lengthy experience for a person to be (physically) searched, also for the person doing the searching. But, with the body scanner, it displays on an avatar the area where a suspect item is located which means it is more straightforward for security staff to have a look in that area, and send them on their way if there is no problem.”

Considerations

“Research and development are constantly being carried out into potential obstacles such as different shapes and clothing types, whilst remaining agnostic about gender, ethnicity and religious considerations. The recent pandemic has also underscored concerns about physical contact and the need to respect privacy.

“As far as the hardware is concerned, we are where we are today but it’s all to do with the AI, algorithms, software development and the use of real-life scenarios.”

The return on investment for purchasing a scanner like the R&S QPS Walk2000 can be swifter than anyone thinks. Six weeks in the case of one business owner, according to Walker.

And as the white paper put it: “Financial loss and consequential damage through theft or sabotage is a major problem for businesses and organisations. Legacy screening systems like metal detection have shortcomings reducing their effectiveness. Manual frisking is highly inefficient, slow and burdened with a lack of privacy and distance.

“Taking a holistic approach, Rohde & Schwarz provides security solutions using mmWave scanners for a wide array of businesses and organizations, ensuring peace of mind when it comes to loss prevention and asset protection.”

The Tech Spec

The R&S Quick Personnel Security (“QPS”) scanner family includes two solutions: the R&S®QPS201 and R&S QPS Walk2000.

The R&S QPS201 is a static mmWave security scanner, familiar to most people from airport installations. Persons step inside the R&S®QPS201 and assume a comfortable standing position while they are scanned. The scan is then analysed, and the results are displayed on a gender-neutral avatar. The R&S®QPS201 provides very high precision and is able to detect even tiny objects. A person is fully screened in 1.5 seconds. The technology is trusted and certified throughout the aviation industry with over 1000 scanners successfully in service at airports worldwide.

The R&S QPS Walk2000 is the first-of-its-kind walk-through mmWave scanner for fast, contactless, full-body screening in high-footfall areas.

The scanner has two advantages. Users do not need to remove outer garments like coats, jackets or shoes and they can pass through the scanner at walking speed without breaking the stride, completely removing the need for “pause and pose”.

The R&S QPS Walk2000 is designed to process up to 750 people per hour and thus ideally suited for fast crowd processing, for example, employee screening during a shift change at a distribution centre.

This article was originally published in the November 2022 edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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