By Ian Roxborough
As I learnt today, the folks at Homeland Security are trying to develop non-invasive screening at speed that will enable passengers to move through the airport securely and without all the hassle of going through the security procedures. That’s something we will all appreciate. But as Dr. Reginald Brothers, Under-Secretary for Science and Technology for the Department of Homeland Security noted in his keynote speech to the 8th TIDES tech demo at Fort McNair, the technology research being done at DHS is very broad and has a wide range of applications. Among the points made by Dr. Brothers were the need to develop decision-making tools that would enable human decision-makers to act faster – a facility needed in a wide range of disaster situations – and the need to build resilient communities, what he called “disaster-proofing society.” The parallels between what DHS is working on and what the HA/DR community is thinking about are striking. There clearly are opportunities for synergy here.
As an example of the kind of research DHS is doing, on display at the DHS exhibit stand were 3-D printed robots designed to search through collapsed buildings fitted with sensors designed to detect the heartbeats of humans buried in the rubble. These robots save time and enable rescue dogs and humans to quickly home in on places where they might save lives.
As Dr. Brothers emphasized, underpinning these and other initiatives is a commitment to a broad engagement with the community of users. Whether in the United States or abroad, people want to be involved; we need to find ways to empower dialogue between citizens, users, and the science and technology community. These connections and partnerships are coming into place and new synergies are emerging. After hearing what the DHS folks are up to, next time I go through airport security I promise to smile.