Homeland Security: Old Concept, New Technologies

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  • Author: Thomas O. Perkins Senior Technical
“Homeland Security” has been a priority in this country at least since the Minutemen of Middlesex County, Massachusetts were organized by colonists in the 17th century. These were not the only Minutemen; for example, there were also the Culpeper Minutemen in Virginia, so named as they trained to respond “at a minute’s notice.” Over the years, various terminologies have been employed to describe this important function including Civil Defense, used for many decades during the Cold War. In those days of the 1950s and 60s, electronics’ role was typically in emergency radio communications, CONELRAD (CONtrol of ELectromagnetic RADiation), and Geiger counters. In the wake of 9/11/01 the definition has expanded to include emphasis on making transportation safe from potential terrorist attacks, particularly air travel. As is typically the case in our world of rapidly developing technology, many innovative techniques have coalesced to detect threats and disruptive behavior. Sensor technology has grown significantly and real-time tracking via satellite GPS and smartphones is commonplace. Active and passive tags such as RFID devices have also become commonplace in recent years which also enhances detection of threatening contraband. Even the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance, albeit expensive, has matured significantly.