Sick of intrusive airport security already? Just wait for the next generation of scanners which can read EVERY molecule in your body

By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:13:41 EST, 6  October 2012| UPDATED:13:41 EST, 6 October 2012

Security staff at airports can already force  us to go through metal detectors and use X-rays to see under our  clothes.

But a new technology being developed on  behalf of the U.S. government goes even further – soon officials will be able to  scan every single molecule in our bodies.

And travellers might not even know that they  are being watched, as the device can be operated from a distance of 50  metres.

Portable: The front (left) and back (right) views of the Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner show how small the device is which means that it could be used in a wide range of circumstances
Portable: The front (left) and back (right) views of the Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner show how small the device is which means that it could be used in a wide range of circumstances

Portable: The front (left) and back (right) views of the  Picosecond Programmable Laser scanner show how small the device is which means  that it could be used in a wide range of circumstances

It is reasonable to assume that the  Department of Homeland Security is primarily intending to use the  Picosecond  Programmable Laser scanners in airports, where security is  usually at its  highest.

But the device is small and light enough to  be easily portable, and could be installed in any building or even on the  street.

The invention, while technologically  exciting, raises the sinister spectre of government, businesses and  individuals having the ability to monitor everyone constantly.

As well as national security, the  device  could be used to everyday law enforcement – for example, it can  detect even the  tiniest quantity of drugs, such as the trace amounts of  cocaine found on many  banknotes.

Cutting the queues: The laser scanners will be ten million faster than existing security scanning technology, which would presumably shorten lines at airports but also cause privacy issues 

Cutting the queues: The laser scanners will be ten  million faster than existing security scanning technology, which would  presumably shorten lines at airports but also cause privacy issues

 

An unidentified undersecretary at  Homeland  Security has predicted that the technology will be used within  the next one to  two years.

Though the process of detecting  chemicals on  individuals is not new, the significant speed and unmatched accuracy of these  scanners makes them stand out against the rest of the market.

The new  scanners are said to be ten million  times faster and one million times  more sensitive than the scanners used in  airports and border patrols  currently.

No body scanner required: The laser will have similar if not stronger capabilities to that of a body scanner but could be used from up to 50 meters away 

No body scanner required: The laser will have similar if  not stronger capabilities to that of a body scanner but could be used from up to  50 meters away

 

Gizmodo reports that the government  subcontracted technology company In-Q-Tel to play  the middleman between them  and Genia Photonics, the company that has  acquired 30 patents relating to the  molecular-level scanners.

The company says that the Picosecond  Programmable Laser scanner can ‘penetrate clothing and many other  organic  materials and offers spectroscopic information, especially for  materials that  impact safety such as explosives and pharmacological  substances.’

The scanner  works by using lasers to  evaluate the presence of any chemical traces on people or packages, and then  that information is synched up to a  computer attached to the small machine.

The process of scanning and downloading the  information takes only picoseconds- so one-trillionth of a second- which means  that security workers would be alerted to any alarming substances as you were  approaching them.

The implications for this machine are both  obvious and widespread, as it will easily lend speed and accuracy to the system,  as well as an added element of nonprejudice.

Because it takes such a short amount of time  to use the laser technology and interpret the data, security officials will not  have to discriminate among suspicious passengers and will have time to use the  technology on everyone.

The issue there, however, is that passengers  will undoubtedly be upset that they are being searching without their knowledge  and without any notification.

The size and portability of the Picosecond  Programmable Laser scanner means that in addition to airports and border points  – which are expected to be the main areas of use – there is the possibility that  the scanners may be put in police cars and subway stations.

The unattributed Gizmodo report, which is  said to be written by a PhD student studying renewable energy solutions who  chose to remain anonymous, highlights the fact that many of the unanswered  questions relating to the government’s prospective implementation of the  scanners and the privacy issues at hand have yet to be answered.

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