Photo: via Mobilisa Inc.
Dr. Nelson Ludlow is on the phone to talk about his previously classified technology, and the first thing I ask him is why he’s suddenly decided to talk now.But somehow I already know the answer.
“Deterrence, primarily, we want to get the word out there about what we’re capable of,” he says.
Ludlow is a proven Artificial Intelligence expert and a former Air Force pilot and intelligence officer. Upon his exodus from the gauntlet of military service he pinballed around Academia — Washington State, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Cambridge. Eventually he founded a company called Mobilisa, Inc., now known as Intellicheck Mobilisa, which specialises in mobile technology.
You know those sensors that tell gigantic nightclub bouncers the bubbly teen with the fake ID really isn’t 21 and isn’t named Betsy Ross? Well, somehow, those scanners evolved into counter-terrorism sea buoys capable of reaching inside every shipping container that enters American ports.
“How we do it is still classified, sure, but that we can do it isn’t classified,” says Ludlow to explain the apparent shift in transparency.
Ludlow’s company eventually (some might say inevitably) progressed into the defence side of things, even helping the intelligence and military services adopt their own CAC card, a smart card that electronically IDs the user.
Ludlow recalls the all-out scramble to lockdown the ports that followed the frenzied Post-9/11 realisation that authorities inspected a whopping 2 per cent, yes two per cent, of shipping containers crossing into U.S. ports.
That was in 2002, since then as part of a grand initiative, the Department of Homeland security has tried many options, one of which was to install sensors on the cranes. That wasn’t enough to satisfy Ludlow and his team.
Not only are the sensors less accurate, but they’re way too close.
Photo: via Intellicheck Mobilisa
“There are choke points in the water leading up to ports, and ships have to go through them. If we can put (bouys) out there farther out, we’d have more time to make decisions,” says Ludlow.The buoys can come equipped with cutting edge IR sensors and radiological sensors, and they’re not just a passive scan, they actively scan everything in their path.
“They can look generally in an area, but there is also some directionality in the sensors. They can pin point where sources are coming from, and reach into certain containers,” says Ludlow.
The information is then relayed back to what Ludlow equates to a mall surveillance office: a central area where ‘watchers’ can scan the information themselves.
The WiFi-like connection, developed during the company’s previous Research and Development into ship-to-ship communication, is almost instant — and its pooled between every bouy in a complete, secure network.
“It’s 100 megabytes a second. No satellites. You could plug in Netflix or movies [on the bouy] and move it right back to the shore,” he says.
Ludlow says the tech, which can sustain itself in the sea for long periods of time, can save border patrol boats, Navy boats, and Coast Guardsmen, from patrolling around the expanse of the ocean, looking for ne’er-do-wells.
Whether it’s human trafficking, or a dirty bomb, anyone using this tech can keep a watchful eye.
“Homeland security checks at the same time. It’s not covert, it’s right out in the water,” Ludlow says.
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