• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 10:32am

Chinese scientists develop mini-camera to scan crowds for potential suicide bombers

Home-grown imaging technology has the potential to help police scan a sea of people for signs of individuals under extreme stress

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 5:15am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 10:08am

Chinese scientists are developing a mini-camera to scan crowds for highly stressed individuals, offering law-enforcement officers a potential tool to spot would-be suicide bombers.

But the technology has raised concerns over its implications for individual privacy and potential abuse by government agencies.

Stress has a range of effects on the body. It can register as changes in heart rate, facial expression and body temperature, which scientists can already monitor from a distance. But the readings are not always reliable. For example, with enough practice, a person can learn to control their heartbeat.

That's why Chen Tong , an associate professor of electronic information engineering at Southwest University in Chongqing looked at another indicator - the level of blood oxygenation. Using hyperspectral imaging, which examines information across the electromagnetic spectrum, Chen and his research team have developed a "stress sensor" that measures the amount of oxygen in blood across exposed areas of a body, such as the face. "The higher the mental stress, the higher the blood oxygenation," he said.

I would feel ... tense if a police officer stared at me through strange goggles
Shanghai resident Li Jiancheng

Chen's research comes amid heightened fears over security on the mainland after a series of deadly attacks in public places. According to the authorities, the assailants ranged from knife-wielding religious extremists going on rampages in train stations to distraught citizens setting fire to crowded buses.

"They all looked and behaved as ordinary people but their level of mental stress must have been extremely high before they launched their attacks. Our technology can detect such people, so law enforcement officers can take precautions and prevent these tragedies," Chen said.

Officers looking through the device at a crowd would see a mental "stress bar" above each person's head, and the suspects highlighted with a red face.

The researchers said they were able to use the technology to tell the difference between high-blood oxygen levels produced by stress rather than just physical exertion.

Laboratory tests of the technology had yielded encouraging results, he said. But getting the device to work in the field presented new engineering challenges. The biggest obstacle was acquiring the remote data.

For example, security officers deployed in a busy bus station would need to filter a tremendous amount of data and process it in a short amount of time. Such computing power is not available in smartphone-sized devices, so officers would need to send the information to analysts off-site, over a Wi-fi network, which introduces a new set of challenges.

Chen said Professor Liu Guangyuan, at the same university, had also been working on a wrist strap which officers would "cuff" onto a suspect to measure heart rate, galvanic skin response and breathing rate. "The suspected terrorists could hopefully be filtered out by non-contact devices and then be checked more intensively with contact devices," Chen said.

But Li Jiancheng, a resident in Shanghai's Pudong district, said he worried the technology would be abused by the authorities. "The technology can be used on terrorists, but harmless people such as petitioners and protesters could be the target as well. I would feel uncomfortable and tense if a police officer stared at me through strange goggles," he said.

Chen said they would not let their technology out of the lab for commercial use until there were laws to regulate its use.


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This article is now closed to comments

This is such an idiotic idea. The contents of this article is so dumb, that everyone’s collective IQ dropped a few points just from reading about it.

First of all, you’re going to tell me that you can detect blood oxygenation levels with a camera? Then why are we still clipping sensors directly to hospital patients for this same purpose?

The biggest problem of all is that not everyone who is stressed is a threat. I’d be willing to bet that the first guy they catch with this new “tech” is just some fresh grad going to his first job interview. Or perhaps it’s some college student going to a final exam.
Poor Mr. ****** must have some serious self esteem, insecurity issues. Constantly dragging the poor old US into comments when it's totally irrelevant to the story.
But you must be nice and cool in the air conditioned McD's right now while enjoying free WiFi, right?
This is good for upskirt stuff, right?
People are under high stress due to various reasons. "Suicide bombing" constitutes only a very small portion. Many false positive cases will turn out.
****!How to distinguish metal stress and physical illness?Through temperature?We are human not the robot.The invent is a liar and the scientists are the son of b***h!
These are the same "chinese scientists" who have to tether their A $ $ to their back porch when out in the yard woking up some goat for supper . . . . the tether being the only way they can find their way back through the dense smog to their domain.
Smart . . those chinese scientists. . .
Ant Lee
any mentioning about "Chinese scientists" immediately destroy any credibility of the article.
This wouldn't work in the US because EVERYONE is stressed out to the max-all the time.
Watch, it won't be China implementing and rolling this out on a mass population. It will be the US, a supposedly free country, doing it against us.
Ant Lee
He is just another pathetic 50 cents trying to spread nonsense like the PRC is more advanced, civilized and humane than the US.



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