Port of Antwerp tests Blockchain Software System

Blockchain

T-Mining is currently working on a pilot project that will make container handling in the port of Antwerp more efficient and secure. Using blockchain technology, processes that involve several parties – carriers, terminals, forwarders, hauliers, drivers, shippers etc. – are securely digitised without any central middleman being involved.

Just getting a container from point A to point B frequently involves more than 30 different parties, with an average of 200 interactions between them. Given that many of these interactions are carried out by e-mail, phone and even (still, nowadays) by fax, paperwork accounts for up to half of the cost of container transport.

“We aim to do something about this,” says Nico Wauters, CEO of T-Mining. This Antwerp start-up has developed a solution for a recognised problem in the port. When a container arrives in the port it is collected from the terminal by a truck driver or shipper. To ensure that the right person picks up the right container a PIN code is used. However, the PIN code is transmitted via a number of parties, which of course is not without risk. Somebody with bad intentions can simply copy the PIN code, which naturally can cause great problems.

“We have developed a very secure solution for this,” explains Nico Wauters. “Currently, when we want to transfer a valuable object we generally make use of a trusted intermediary to carry out the transfer. For instance, when you want to sell a house the notary not only carries out all the paperwork but also ensures that the money lands safely in your bank account while the buyer receives full title to the property, without any unpleasant surprises for either party. But this intermediary naturally does not work for free, and furthermore the additional step causes extra delay.”

The blockchain solution overcomes these issues, permitting safer and faster transfer of valuable objects, fully digitally and without a middleman. “With our blockchain platform the right truck driver is given clearance to collect a particular container, without any possibility of the process being intercepted. Furthermore our blockchain platform uses a distributed network, so that the transaction can go ahead only if there is consensus among all participating parties, thus excluding any attempts at fraud or undesired manipulations.”

A pilot project is currently running in the port of Antwerp with a limited number of parties. “We want to test whether it all works smoothly in practice,” says Nico Wauters. “Together with PSA, MSC, a forwarder and a transporter, we ensure secure handling of the first containers on our blockchain platform. Thanks to the City of Antwerp we even have an office in Singapore where we are working hard to introduce our solution there too. Our ambition is to serve the first paying customers by the end of this year,” Nico Wauters concludes. Source: Port of Antwerp

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New Technology to Detect Illegal Nuclear Cargo at Ports and Borders

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Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed new glass scintillators to detect suspicious nuclear material at borders and ports. The new scintillators are cheap, effective and more stable than the current scintillators in use.

Scintillators, which produce bright light when struck by radiation, are used extensively by the US Government in homeland security as radiation detectors. By observing the amount of light produced, and how quickly, the source of radiation may be identified.

Dr Patrick Feng, who led the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation project, began to develop new types of scintillators in 2010, in order to “strengthen national security by improving the cost-to-performance ratio of radiation detectors”. To improve this ratio, he had to “bridge the gap” between effective scintillators made from expensive materials, and affordable but far less effective models.

Although there are many types of scintillator available, the best-performing scintillators are made from trans-stilbene. This crystallised form of a molecule allows border security tell the difference between gamma rays, which appear naturally everywhere, and neutrons, which are often associated with threatening materials such as plutonium and uranium, by producing a bright light in response.

The gold standard scintillator material for the past 40 years has been the crystalline form of a molecule called trans-stilbene, despite intense research to develop a replacement. Trans-stilbene is highly effective at differentiating between two types of radiation: gamma rays, which are ubiquitous in the environment, and neutrons, which emanate almost exclusively from controlled threat materials such as plutonium or uranium. Trans-stilbene is very sensitive to these materials, producing a bright light in response to their presence.

These crystals, however, are too fragile and expensive (around S1,000 per cubic inch)  to be used in the field, and instead, security personnel will tend to use plastic-based scintillators, which can be moulded into large shapes but are ineffective at differentiating between different types of radiation or detecting weak sources.

In order to find a good alternative, Dr Feng and his team at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, CA, began to experiment with organic glass components, which are capable of discriminating between different types of radiation.

Tests demonstrated that scintillators made with organic glass performed even better than the trans-stilbene scintillators in radiation detection tests.

The researchers were able to improve their design further when they drew a parallel between the behaviour of LEDs, which produce light when electrical energy is applied, and scintillators, which respond to radioactive sources. They found that adding fluorine, which is used in some LEDs, into the scintillator components helped stabilise them. This allowed for the organic glass to be melted down and cast into large blocks without becoming cloudy or crystallising upon cooling.

The result was an indefinitely stable scintillator able to differentiate between non-threatening radioactive sources, such as those used in medical treatments, and those which could constitute threats. The organic glass components are cheap and easy to manufacture, and do not degrade over time.

Next, the researchers will cast a large prototype for field testing, and hopefully demonstrate that the scintillator can withstand environmental wear and tear, for instance, due to the humidity of ports where checks are carried out. They also hope to adjust the scintillator to distinguish between safe sources of gamma radiation, and those which could be used to make “dirty bombs”. Source: Sandia Laboratory

Houston International Airport – Customs officers take a closer look at faces

Customs and Border Protection is analyzing the distance between travelers’ eyes and the width of their foreheads to better track international travelers.

This week the agency began using facial recognition technology at Bush Intercontinental Airport on one daily flight departing Houston for Tokyo.

“The use of biometrics is approaching an almost everyday type of experience,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry research company. “It’s much more common now than it was 10 to 20 years ago.”

Similar technology is increasingly used everywhere. For instance, fingerprints are used to unlock phones and access secure banking information. Facebook can automatically recognize and tag friends in photos. And a variety of airport entities, ranging from airlines to the Transportation Security Administration, also are using biometric data to enhance security and expedite traveling.

Some still question the reliability of facial recognition technology, but it has evolved over the years and continues improving.

Delta and JetBlue recently announced collaborations with Customs and Border Protection to integrate facial recognition technology as part of the boarding process. And Customs began piloting its own facial recognition technology in June 2016 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The technology then was rolled out at Washington Dulles International Airport in May 2017, and seven additional airports will receive the technology in the next several months.

Customs “sees potential for the technology to transform the travel process provided privacy issues can be addressed,” an agency spokesperson said in an email.

“The use of biometrics to confirm identity from the beginning to the end of travel has the potential to reduce the frequency travelers have to present travel documents throughout the airport.”

Currently, the system takes pictures of individual travelers right before they board an international flight. That photo is then compared with a flight-specific photo gallery Customs and Border Protection created using travel documents passengers provided to the airline.

Officials say capturing this type of biometric information will ensure travelers aren’t lying about their identity. And the agency spokesperson emphasized that Customs worked closely with its privacy office. If the photo captured at boarding is matched to a U.S. passport, the photo of that traveler – having been confirmed as a U.S. citizen – is discarded after a short period of time.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any resistance by consumers to this,” Harteveldt said, “provided they’re given very clear explanations about what information is being collected, why it’s being collected and a high-level understanding of the safeguards that will be taken to keep their biometrics data safe and secure.”

 Opinions vary on whether capturing such data from departing travelers will boost security or hurt airlines’ on-time performance. But the point is moot. Laws requiring exit control have been on the books for many years.

“It is already required by law, and it has taken way too long to implement an effective exit technology,” said Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that pushes for stricter immigration controls.

He said monitoring foreign travelers as they leave the U.S. helps enforce immigration laws. And if visitors enter the country legally but officials later realize they pose a threat, this exit system will tell officials if they are still in the U.S.

Harteveldt, however, said passport and visa information is already collected when travelers leave the country. He doesn’t believe biometrics are needed.”I’m just not sure it adds a lot of value to the exit process,” he said.

But compared with fingerprint technology, Harteveldt said facial scanning can be faster and cleaner. There’s no need to touch anything. Customs officers at Bush Intercontinental began taking the fingerprints of some departing international travelers in 2015.

Anthony Roman, president of global investigation and risk management firm Roman & Associates, said the best type of security is layered and uses cross-verification, such as a Customs and Border Protection officer checking passports, fingerprinting machines and facial recognition technology.

As for the latter, he said developers claim to have solved problems found in the older facial recognition technology. These past problems included false readings caused by a shadow on the face, blinking at the wrong time or even grimacing. Algorithms were also slow at processing the data.

The new technology is supposed to be faster and more accurate. “Whether that’s true or not, time will tell,” Roman said.

Arthur is still waiting to see that facial recognition technology is as reliable as fingerprinting. He wants to know the number of false positives and if facial recognition technology is affected by haircuts, beards or glasses.

They both agree, however, that the vigilance is warranted.

“Our technology needs to keep evolving,” Roman said. “We need to keep changing what we’re doing. It makes it more difficult for the insurgents to create long-term research and development projects to overcome existing technology.” Source: Houston Chronicle