The Evolution of Millimetre Wave Scanners

The evolution of millimetre wave scanning

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High speed full body millimetre wave scanners utilised in leading airports can address many more applications in security and loss prevention.

In this exclusive article, we take a close look at millimetre wave scanning technology and uncover how it is safer, faster and more effective at providing leading security measures across a multitude of high attendance events, locations and infrastructure.

What are Millimetre Wave Scanners?

Millimetre wave (mmWave) scanners have become a common sight at airports and are making travel safer and more convenient.

The technology helps security staff spot items that are difficult to detect while permitting high throughput.

With scanning time in the range of seconds, travellers can soon be on their way to the airport lounge.

But, airports are not the only places in need of security.

Many more locations and events could benefit from the superior security offered by millimetre wave scanning.

However, there are some practical issues that must be considered.

Each person must stand still to be scanned and this inevitably leads to waiting times.

The scanner itself is also quite large, which can be a problem for space-constrained venues.

Furthermore, airport security checks may detract from the customer experience at an entertainment venue.

It may even offend employees in some organisations, particularly those working for smaller enterprises/in close-knit teams.

How should these issues be addressed? One solution is walk through detection.

Rohde & Schwarz, a pioneer in mmWave technology, has developed the R&S QPS Walk, a security scanner that does not require people to pause and pose.

This significantly speeds up the screening process and resolves many issues that face airport-style security checks.

Safe scanning with Millimetre Wave

Airport Body Scanner
Airport Style Body Scanner. Image credit: Raimond Spekking

The mmWave technology used by R&S QPS scanners (Quick Personnel Security) from Rohde & Schwarz is 100% safe for everyone.

Millimetre wave radiation is non-ionising and therefore non-damaging to body tissue, unlike x-rays that penetrate the body and can harm cells.

The power levels used by the R&S QPS scanners are even lower than standard Wi-Fi routers.

This does not mean, however, that effectiveness is compromised.

On the contrary, mmWave scanners can detect more than conventional scanners.

The R&S QPS system can identify not only metallic objects but also non-metallic objects, such as ceramics, plastic or composite liquid explosives and even organic materials like meat and vegetables.

It can also detect very small objects that could easily evade other scanning or manual inspection approaches.

The R&S QPS201 system is a proven security system, used in international airports around the globe and certified by the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC).

As its sibling, the R&S QPS Walk2000 uses the same scanning technology and the same analytics algorithms.

However, unlike the R&S QPS201, it allows people to walk through at a regular pace.

The system is composed of panels that contain planar arrays of mmWave transmitters and receivers.

Data is captured and processed using advanced DSP algorithms augmented with AI.

Scan results are shown on a gender-neutral avatar, rather than an image of the actual person being scanned.

This is a critical aspect that guarantees the privacy of anyone scanned by the QPS system.

The location of potential problematic objects is shown to the scanner operator on this avatar.

This ensures that further searches can be as fast and as minimally intrusive as possible.

High Tech Security for All

By allowing scans to be performed as people pass through, the R&S QPS Walk2000 can be used in many different locations and events that would benefit from enhanced protection.

People passing through the system may be only vaguely aware that scanning is happening, unless they are stopped for further examination.

The walk through system also increases throughput and minimises queuing, while maintaining high accuracy and detection rates.

In an airport, millimetre wave scanners prevent dangerous or unauthorised items from entering, but this is not the only application for mmWave scanning.

The technology also works in the opposite direction – it can prevent objects from exiting premises.

The combination of trained security staff and the cutting edge technology of the R&S QPS Walk2000 scanners makes it the most promising approach for loss prevention.

There is a rule that suggests while 80% of employees would not even consider taking assets from their employer, 10% will always try and another 10% will do so if they think there is little chance of detection.

Business owners thus often expect to lose a percentage of assets this way and plan to suffer such losses.

They may be unaware of how the assets are being lost or that there could be a solution.

Added Security Benefits

Millimetre Wave Scanner Multiview 3D Reconstruction
Millimetre Wave Scanner Multiview 3D Reconstruction. Image credit: Scientific Reports

There are already proven cases of the R&S QPS Walk2000 being used in loss prevention.

For example, meat factories can have problems with employees taking meat from work.

Metal detectors cannot detect meat products on a person and manual frisking takes time, is prone to human error and can cause discomfort.

The R&S QPS Walk2000 is the ideal solution in this scenario as its mmWave technology can easily detect meat, even when kept close to the skin.

The R&S QPS Walk2000 also supports a German cosmetics distributor.

Cosmetics can be physically small but high in value and some can easily exceed several hundred euros.

Again, metal detection will not work for detecting these products because they are usually packed in glass or plastic.

As in other workplaces, manual frisking can cause waiting times and high security staff costs.

Another interesting example is the use of mmWave scanning to detect Blu-ray discs that contain major film or video game releases.

Companies distributing Blu-ray discs may face severe penalties if the discs appear on the market before they are formally launched.

The flat shape of the discs makes them easy to hide, making them hard to discover during manual frisking routines.

Further applications of a mmWave security scanner include use in data centres, where the system can help prevent data leaks.

The R&S QPS Walk2000 offers an effective defense against physical theft using portable devices.

All employees can be quickly and easily scanned, even during shift changes.

Most importantly, thefts can be detected without offending the trustworthy 80%, while at the same time effectively deterring the 10% that would only attempt it if given the opportunity.

AI Playing an Important Role

The use of AI algorithms is key to the adaptability of R&S QPS systems, which can be trained to detect a diverse range of objects and thus be applied in a wide range of scenarios.

The algorithms are trained in the Rohde & Schwarz labs, using high quality data sets, to identify specific objects with extremely high accuracy.

In this way, the detection capabilities and sensitivity of a given system can be tailored and optimised to each intended use case.

A Reputable Scanning Solution

Rohde & Schwarz is a known name in the air travel industry for the high levels of discretion and privacy provided by its R&S QPS201 scanner.

When it comes to winning customer trust and confidence, these qualities are as important as the system’s proven speed and high accuracy.

The system is also more compact than other types of scanners and provides additional advantages, such as being easily accessible to wheelchair users.

With the R&S QPS Walk2000, high quality security is no longer only just for airports.

Now, the QPS technology can be applied in many situations with high foot traffic such as:

  • Events
  • Offices
  • Correctional facilities
  • Factories.

Users of these venues can benefit from increased safety and security, comparable to the aviation sector, with minimal impact on the overall user experience.

The first and most obvious benefit of the QPS Walk2000 is its high throughput at up to 750 persons per hour.

People can move through the scanner without pausing and posing, removing shoes or jackets or even needing to acknowledge that scanning is taking place.

This can make for a more pleasant user experience while demonstrating a strong commitment to ensuring safety and security.

Advanced millimetre wave scanners have proved successful in the aviation sector, providing increased protection for travellers while minimising waiting times at security checkpoints.

This has effectively reduced stresses for travellers as well as security staff.

Unfortunately, airport style security is not ideal for all environments that require protection.

Walk-through mmWave scanners can address the issues of pause-and-pose scanners and allow mmWave technology to be extended to additional use cases.

Data centres, factories, events and more can now all benefit from greater security and safety while ensuring favourable employee and customer experiences.

This article was originally published in the June 2023 edition of International Security Journal. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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