Surveillance without video

The US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed the Laser-Based Item Monitoring System, a high-resolution surveillance system that does not use video


The US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has developed the Laser-Based Item Monitoring System (LBIMS), a high-resolution surveillance system that does not use video.


Using low-cost reflective tags placed on objects, LBIMS maps the precise location of high-value items. The laser can scan many points per second and can detect small changes of less than 10mm in the reflected signal, meaning tampering can be immediately detected.


The precision of the system is made possible by a high-resolution two-axis laser scanner capable of looking at a 60 degree field of view in 0.0005 degree increments, dividing the field of view into more than 10 billion individual pointing locations. A camera with comparable resolution over the same field of view would require a 10,000 megapixel detector.


Tests performed at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, and at the Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, showed LBIMS to be resistant to most attacks designed to foil the system. The Joint Research Centre is involved in the development and testing of sophisticated laser scanning systems for a variety of applications. Even tests in a highly reflective room stainless steel walls proved no challenge for LBIMS.


Video with comparable resolution to LBIMS would be prohibitively expensive and impractical. Existing light detection and ranging (lidar) systems, which use scattered light, are optimised for detecting human-sized objects and offer angular resolution of only about 0.15 degree compared to the 0.0005 degree angular resolution of LBIMS.


Another competing technology is bar codes and radio frequency identification. However, in addition to being susceptible to jamming, the bar code reader or RFID antenna must typically be within a few centimetres of the tagged object. In addition, radio frequency transmissions necessary with RFID systems are subject to being intercepted.