University of Wisconsin testing body scanners that use AI to check for threats

(Liberty Defense)

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The University of Wisconsin Police Department is testing whether body scanners that use radar imaging and artificial intelligence are a good fit for security outside campus events, like Big Ten football games that draw tens of thousands of fans.

The university signed an agreement this week with Liberty Defense for a beta test on its Madison campus, with an expected start date in the second quarter of 2022. Liberty Defense claims its “Hexwave” scanners can find threats like pipe bombs, flares and plastic guns that go undetected with traditional metal detectors. UW-Madison Police Capt. Jason Whitney told EdScoop the department is interested in the company’s claim that its AI software can analyze body scans to differentiate between threats and everyday objects like belts, wallets or keys, speeding up the screening process.

“You’re able to keep your jackets on, which is a nice feature for this especially in Wisconsin for the football games, where it’s cold,” Liberty Defense Chief Executive Officer Bill Frain said. “If you’ve got triple layers on you might have to take something off, but for the most part you can keep your jacket on, you keep your belt on, you don’t have to take your shoes off.”

The portable devices use radio waves to scan people between two side panels, a process similar to airport security body scans. Software then analyzes the scans and alerts security personnel on a remote screen if it finds a threat. The system does not display or store the scans to protect privacy, Frain said. Instead, the system displays a red circle showing where the AI detected the object on a figure.

Wisconsin uses metal detectors at its basketball stadium, but has never introduced them outside Camp Randall Stadium for football games — though there is a clear-bag policy. The details of the agreement, including how many scanners there will be, aren’t finalized yet, but Whitney said there’s potential in testing the technology at the basketball and football stadiums, as well as for concerts and speaking events and in hospital emergency rooms.

Camp Randall Stadium holds about 80,000 people for Badgers football games.

“That’s our job — to be on that leading edge of security in a large campus … people coming and going every single day, large sporting events, along with many other events that occur on campus on a daily basis,” Whitney said. “We’re always looking at the best ways that we can protect the environment that we’re putting these people into and using the technology to our advantage.”

Liberty Defense has also signed an agreement with the Maryland Stadium Authority to test the scanners at the complex that houses Baltimore Orioles’ Camden Yards and Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium. Frain said there are also plans in the works for testing at a theme park, an international airport and a large house of worship.

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