How British technology could keep World Cup fans safe from gunmen


A mobile scanner designed to spot a 3D-printed plastic pistol hidden under a gunman’s clothing is to be used in Brazil after threats by organised criminals to disrupt the World Cup.

The scanner – initially developed by British university physicists to help undercover police identify armed London gang members – can discover hidden weapons within a couple of seconds from up to a distance of 25 metres even if the weapon has no metal parts.

The makers say that one of the units is due to be taken to Rio de Janeiro and used unobtrusively in popular public areas during the tournament to identify potential threats in one of the world’s most dangerous countries. More than 50,000 people were victims of homicide in 2012 in Brazil which has the third-highest murder rate in South America, behind Venezuela and Colombia, according to the United Nations.

The Brazilian authorities have ramped up their use of CCTV and other security measures in the run-up to the first of two global sporting events from this summer, with the Rio Olympics following in 2016. Preparations for the World Cup have been dogged by protests over corruption and the huge costs, and threats by organised criminals last year to disrupt the tournament because of complaints about prison conditions.

Read more
Printed guns ‘bigger danger to user’  

Senior police said the device was the first effective system to spot plastic guns made using a 3D printer which have been identified as an emerging threat to the long-term decline in violent crime in Britain. The number of gun crimes has fallen 66 per cent since a peak in violence a decade ago, with 30 people killed in 2012/13.

A US group last year released a free blueprint for a downloadable gun known as the Liberator; it can be used to create 16 components to make a gun that is all-plastic apart from a metal firing pin. The plastic guns can avoid detection when passed through metal detectors and conventional scanners.

The scanner device is being flown for rigorous testing by the US military this week to assess if it can be used to spot explosive devices carried by potential suicide bombers. Pakistan and Venezuela have also shown interest in taking the technology, according to the marketers of the scanner.

Scientists say it has an 80 percent success rate of identifying weapons. “It measures the shape, size and depth and can tell how symmetrical the object is,” said Dr Stuart Harmer, one of the developers at Manchester Metropolitan University. “Handguns and bombs don’t look like much else that’s carried.”

In a demonstration for The Independent this week, researchers showed how the system used high-frequency radio waves to scan a target and translate the radar result through a complex algorithm to assess whether it is a weapon. The user focuses on-screen cross-hairs to run over the target’s body and bleeps if it identifies a weapon, including a plastic gun. Scientists say the scanner works best if the target is moving.

During testing at the National Ballistics Intelligence Service, it could differentiate a nail-packed tub from objects such as a mobile phone, a metal scourer and a cigarette case. There are no privacy issues, as the user only sees on the screen what is visible to the naked eye, say the makers.

The developers say it has longer-term potential use as “smart” CCTV, able to scan large numbers of crowds, and suggest its use at London Underground stations to prevent killings like that of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian, who was shot and killed by officers amid erroneous suspicions that he was a suicide bomber.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions