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Companies Introduce New Software to Defeat Suicide Bombers 


By Valerie Insinna 

The military continues to invest in behavior prediction software that can alert defense and law enforcement agencies to a terrorist threat in real time.

The Army in December awarded Modus Operandi, a Melbourne, Fla.-based software company, a $1 million contract to develop a system that can detect gestures that indicate criminal intent or activity.

The system, Clear Heart, will use sensors to identify body movements, such as a person pointing a gun or planting an improvised explosive device. Then, software will analyze the likelihood of the threat and present data to intelligence analysts.

In an earlier stage of the project, Modus Operandi used a Microsoft Kinect — a commercial off-the-shelf sensor that is used to play video games — to build libraries of gestures. The Kinect could recognize those gestures, and the system was able to notify analysts of a threat, said Rick McNeight, the company’s president.

“We were pretty successful in phase one of being able to feel for several different gestures such as pointing a gun, stick your hands up [and] fists raised,” he said.

The second stage will broaden the gesture library to include data from a local police department, McNeight said.

The company will also try to solve one of the system’s biggest problems: being able to pick out a threatening individual in a crowd.

If the system had been deployed at Sandy Hook Elementary School “it could recognize a single individual carrying a gun through that hall,” McNeight said. “But put that guy holding a gun with 50 kids in that hall, and it’s very hard to recognize.”

At the end of the 18-month contract, Modus Operandi plans to have developed a demonstrable prototype, he added.

One behavioral prediction software tool already in use is Dfuze, an intelligence database that allows law enforcement to share data such as video, audio or photos.

In an investigation of a terrorist group, for example, law enforcement can document the components used in explosive devices and find patterns, said Laine Napier, vice president of Intelligent Software Solutions, which created Dfuze. “You can predict what kinds of material they might be getting their hands on.”

That was the case in the 2006 liquid bomb plot investigation, when terrorists planned, but failed, to destroy 10 aircraft traveling from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada.

“We were able to identify that the batteries that they were utilizing in their devices were only actually available for sale in Pakistan, so we then knew that this group had Pakistani backing, basically, or had traveled to Pakistan,” said Neil Fretwell, lead investigator for the U.K. Police National Bomb Data Centre at Metropolitan Police.

Dfuze has also been deployed by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, Napier said, but he declined to give details on how the product was used.

Photo Credit: Intelligent Software Solutions

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