A walk-through system for detecting ‘ghost guns’ and other threats

By Hannah Green – Inno Reporter

In his 30-year career in the security industry, Bill Frain has tried to stay ahead of the latest threats with innovative technologies. In the 1990s he worked on automated explosive detection for checked baggage. More recently, he helped deploy full-body scanners for airports.

“You have to really try and stay a step ahead and be innovative, be creative, be nimble and get technology that’s going to be out there to help prevent these incidents that are happening,” Frain told BostInno.

In his latest venture, as CEO of Liberty Defense Holdings Ltd., Frain has his eyes set on a new threat: So-called “ghost guns,” or untraceable weapons that are usually assembled at home. Oftentimes these weapons are made of plastic, meaning they won’t be found by the metal detectors used in venues like sports stadiums.

Frain said Liberty Defense’s technology is able to detect metal and non-metal weapons because it focuses on the shape and not the material of objects. It works much like a bat uses echolocation, with panels that emit radio frequencies that bounce off peoples’ bodies. The reflecting frequencies create a 3D image of a person’s body.

“The RF signal is very similar to the body scanners at the airport that you see today, except for we’re doing this in real time as someone is walking through the portal,” Frain said. “It will be a full walk-through system.”

Liberty Defense was founded in 2018 when it exclusively licensed this technology from MIT. Frain said MIT had been working for about three years to complete early-stage development of this technology through funding from Homeland Security.

The Wilmington-based company has been developing the AI that will determine which shapes on the body constitute potential threats. Frain said they’ve been training the algorithm to look for shapes similar to guns, pipe bombs or other explosives, as compared to a cellphone or a wallet.

“Our goal is to be able to detect all types of threats,” Frain said. “That’s the competitive advantage we have, is not just looking for metallics or that signal for metallics. We’re looking for anything. It could be a liquid, for example.”

The hardware consists of two panels on wheels that people will walk through to be scanned. The panels can be used indoors or outdoors.

Frain said the company has four beta partners set to start using the technology in August and September. They include Toronto Airport, the Baltimore Orioles’ stadium, the University of Wisconsin and a temple in Georgia. Liberty Defense also has a contract with TSA to screen aviation workers, who are now scanned by metal detectors.

These beta programs will allow Liberty Defense to gather additional, real-life data on the shapes it should and should not flag as threats. Frain said the company plans to have this product commercially available in the first quarter of 2023. He predicts one system will cost between $80,000 to $85,000.

“Unfortunately, based on what we’re seeing with the amount of guns being purchased and acquired and the threats that are continuing to happen, I think we’re going to start to see this type of technology more commonplace in the everyday places we go,” Frain said.

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