HAMLeT Hazardous Material Localization And Person Tracking

The HAMLeT Hazardous Material Localization And Person Tracking system is a network of smell sensors that are attuned to particular chemical molecules. If a person walks past them with some sort of hazardous material - let's say, an explosive device - HAMLeT tracks that person's movement.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE in Wachtberg have built a prototype security system to replicate just such a scenario. They’ve named it HAMLeT, which stands for Hazardous Material Localization and Person Tracking.

“HAMLeT will alert security personnel to suspicious individuals,” says head of department Dr. Wolfgang Koch from the FKIE. The system involves a network of highly-sensitive smell sensors which follow an explosive’s trail. There are oscillating crystals on the sensor chips, and whenever the electronic noses capture chemical molecules, their oscillation frequency changes. The precise nature of the change is different for different substances.

A further component in the system – the sensor’s data fusion function – traces the explosive’s path and ferrets out the carrier. A second sensor network is needed to track the route the individual takes; for this, the researchers have used laser scanners.

“HAMLeT’s real achievement is its ability to collate all the data and convert it into a clear and accurate overall picture,” says Koch. The sensor data fusion process employs complex algorithms which allow HAMLeT to build up a precise image of pedestrian flows and connect a particular smell with a specific individual.

The Fraunhofer Institute performed a trial of the HAMLeT system for the German Armed Forces. In the test, researchers demonstrated that the system was capable of tracking five suspects carrying hidden explosives.

Science fiction fans of course remember early systems with "electronic noses", chief among these the mechanical Hound from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 that could track a single human being in a crowd by using the "ticking combinations of the olfactory system" of the device.

A system very similar to the HAMLeT sensor network was used in the excellent sequel Predator 2. In this 1990 film, Special Agent Peter Keyes (Busey) explains to an L.A. cop (Glover) how they are tracking an inhuman enemy:

Gary Busey - Special Agent Peter Keyes: Harrigan! Don't you show up in the damnedest places... Come here, Lieutenant. I got something you might find interesting.
Danny Glover - Lt. Mike Harrigan - What is this?
Keyes: How many times do I have to tell you? You don't know what you're dealing with... There's your killer. Wonderful, isn't it.. Pheromone signature left by his body. Scent molecules... Punch up three (points to video monitor).


(Tracking Predators by pheromones)

From Fraunhofer press release via Popular Science.

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