Advanced Imaging


Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Take Your Shoes Off and Step in Line!


By Keith Reid

Air travel, which goes with the job, has become a chore for this editor. It doesn't help being based out of Chicago, where you have to endure the regular delays associated with O'Hare's overcrowded air corridors.

Adding to the negative experience are the delays linked to the security measure imposed by the Transportation Security Administration. It's not that I fail to see the need — an irritation on the ground is better than my airplane exploding in flight at 30,000 feet any day. But, from time to time, you tend to wonder if all of this is just perfecting solutions to yesterday's threats. Especially when those solutions are not always uniform in practice or fail to take advantage of what technology can bring to the table.

One technology covered in this issue has the promise to address at least one common airport irritation in the United States — removing your shoes for X-ray inspection. It also promises to address some potential future threats. That technology uses terahertz radiation, which is non-ionizing so it doesn't harm the subject and spectrally effective at identifying a range of bad things like high explosives. While it has its limitations in penetrating metal and water, it holds tremendous promise in a system where it would work in conjunction with traditional screening methods.

Although still largely in the laboratory stage, some applications of "T-rays" are being used to inspect the foam on the space shuttle for adhesion and to sample pharmaceuticals for quality control. The main hurdle is increasing the strength of T-ray sources and developing effective sensor arrays to make possible real-time scanning. Today, it can take minutes to hours to scan a simple object. In the future, an airline passenger may just have to walk over a convenient scanner to have his or her shoes inspected on the way to the conventional X-ray portal.

Continuing our military and homeland defense theme is an article on military displays for the land, battlefield environment. The digitization of the battlefield is increasing at exponential speeds, and all that data from text, to 3D rendering of terrain, to remote sensing and line-of-sight imagery has to be displayed somewhere. While consumer technology may be incorporated into the heart of these display systems, you won't find these military and industrial grade monitors on the shelves at the local computer superstore. Nor will you find some of the future display technologies that are covered.

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