Britain makes camera that "sees" under clothes

LONDON Sun Mar 9, 2008 7:21am EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - A British company has developed a camera that can detect weapons, drugs or explosives hidden under people's clothes from up to 25 meters away in what could be a breakthrough for the security industry.

The T5000 camera, created by a company called ThruVision, uses what it calls "passive imaging technology" to identify objects by the natural electromagnetic rays -- known as Terahertz or T-rays -- that they emit.

The high-powered camera can detect hidden objects from up to 80 feet away and is effective even when people are moving. It does not reveal physical body details and the screening is harmless, the company says.

The technology, which has military and civilian applications and could be used in crowded airports, shopping malls or sporting events, will be unveiled at a scientific development exhibition sponsored by Britain's Home Office on March 12-13.

"Acts of terrorism have shaken the world in recent years and security precautions have been tightened globally," said Clive Beattie, the chief executive of ThruVision.

"The ability to see both metallic and non-metallic items on people out to 25 meters is certainly a key capability that will enhance any comprehensive security system."

While the technology may enhance detection, it may also increase concerns that Britain is becoming a surveillance society, with hundreds of thousands of closed-circuit television cameras already monitoring people countrywide every day.

ThruVision came up with the technology for the T5000 in collaboration with the European Space Agency and from studying research by astronomers into dying stars.

The technology works on the basis that all people and objects emit low levels of electromagnetic radiation. Terahertz rays lie somewhere between infrared and microwaves on the electromagnetic spectrum and travel through clouds and walls.

Depending on the material, the signature of the wave is different, so that explosives can be distinguished from a block of clay and cocaine is different from a bag of flour.

(Reporting by Luke Baker)

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