Why this company’s scanning technology is a smugglers’ nightmare

By Mike Freeman, The San Diego Union-Tribune
May 04, 2017

At Decision Sciences International Corp.’s Poway headquarters, a 20-foot shipping container sits beneath a car-wash size scanner.

After about a minute, images of the container’s contents pop up on a nearby TV screen, complete with a color-coded identification of the objects based on how they interact with naturally occurring subatomic particles.

It’s not a pretty picture. There’s ammunition, firearms, TNT, alcohol and currency inside. If shielded nuclear material were in the container, the company’s technology would identify it, too, said Chief Executive Dwight Johnson.

“If you’re (a customs) officer and you had a manifest that said it’s all furniture, you’d stop right now,” said Johnson. “It’s not all furniture.”

Last week, Decision Sciences said it received a contract with the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs to install one of its next-generation cargo scanning systems at its main port.

Though a pilot project, Decision Sciences is betting it will lead to further deployments of its technology, which is licensed from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and has been refined for more than a decade.

“In terms of total volume, Singapore is the second-largest port in the world,” said Johnson. “So this is a very important event for Decision Sciences.”

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