Handhold Logo

A team from The Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) led by Dr. Charles Gillan and Dr. David Linton, became the first from Northern Ireland to co-ordinate and win an FP7 security proposal. HANDHOLD is a project that will deliver a mobile device to provide enhanced detection facilities at border crossings and airports.

It is widely acknowledged that dogs play a fundamental role in the detection of explosives and other types of contraband due to their enhanced olfactory ability relative to human beings. However, in order to achieve a suitable response from a dog upon the discovery of a substance, the animal needs to undergo substantial training, which is an expensive operation. In addition, there is an ongoing need to maintain the dog’s detection capability, which requires refresher training every few weeks. It is also reported that a dog can only be operational for up to 2 hours before the ambient temperature and the general psychological state of the dog start to impact the detection capability. In addition to these there is also a significant cost in employing and maintaining the skills of the dog handler who needs to understand the basic principles of how the dog has been conditioned and to have a working knowledge of applying those principles in everyday environments.

While the dog will remain a central part of the detection process, both sensor technology and low power embedded system computing have improved to the extent that the time is now right to develop a substantially improved detection device that can complement the role played by dogs.

The HANDHOLD project will develop a modular, reconfigurable sensor system for active stand-off deployment for the detection of chemical (C), biological (B), radiological (R), nuclear (N) and explosive (E) (CBRNE) substances. 

The HANDHOLD consortium consists of nine partners who bring complementary expertise in all the fields needed to develop a mobile network based, low power CBRNE sensor system. Irish involvement in the consortium includes the Irish Customs Authority, Scorpion Networks, Tyndall National Institute Cork and NUI Galway. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Germany and representatives from law enforcement from around Europe give the team a strong multi-national flavour.

The addition of CSIT based firm Capna DSP in the consortium further highlights the strengths in Northern Ireland and indeed the ECIT Institute environment for international security research and development.

The HANDHOLD project website can be found at http://www.handhold.eu/.