Editor’s Note: We sympathise with all the victims and families of the Brussels bombings that took place today. Our whole team’s thoughts are with them and we apologise for the unfortunate timing of this article. We hope that startups that develop technologies such as Argon could prevent these unfortunate and disastrous events in the future.
Asqella’s Argon, a walk-by screening machine, is a combination of sensor equipment, which identifies objects people carry under layers of clothes. It fills the purpose of any security check – finding dangerous and harmful items on people who are up for no good deeds.
So yes, the time-consuming bottlenecks of any airport could be part of history if Asqella really makes it — it’s a walk-by system, not walk-through like currently in use across the globe. Before frequent travellers get too excited I have to say that the machine isn’t targeted for over-crowded and over-regulated airport checks. A more likely sales target would be a football stadium. The system reveals no anatomical details of the subject and is aimed for mass transit hubs, venues and other crowded places.
Argon processes many people simultaneously so there will be considerably less pat-downs and individual processes which in turn enhances the customer experience for the football fans who wait in queues to get though the security checkpoint. The whole system is around 2.5 meter high and a meter in width, and looks like a beacon or a lighthouse. It scans people in a radius of 3.5 meters and screens them in real-time up to 8 frames per second. In the future even longer, perhaps up to 10 meters and with better speed.
Let me go just a little technical here, the Argon operates on Terahertz wavelengths. One of the first practical solutions going this small in sensing, in the world. As with state of the art computers which needs cooling systems, so does the Argon. The Argon cooling unit is constantly set on close to absolute zero, at -260° celsius!
The team of several Ph.Ds in technology, lead by the CEO Arttu Luukanen with background in VTT, has developed the Argon for 2,5 years and are now ready to start selling the product. The first market is in the US where they are going in April. When I asked about the price the answer was off-record, but I was allowed to put it like this: “Either an Argon or a Ferrari” which didn’t come as a huge surprize.
The Argon system
I took this Ferrari for a test drive in a spacious room and I needed no interaction than be present. I felt a strong presence of George Orwells 1984 – but Asqella had taken the privacy and intimacy of such data well into consideration and made it into a product that doesn’t dig into any integrity issues.
With the Glock, dynamite and cocaine I had gone all Escobar, but I stopped short of trying the prison smuggling routine though – if you know what I mean.
The gun against my back felt real, I have done some shooting, I was ready to climb the ladder of the criminal underworld. The fun didn’t last too long though.
Looking at the screen I decided it was better to leave my criminal career and go back to journalism. The Argon had identified my shenanigans and security personnel was already alerted.