NATO tests anti-terror technologies in Rome metro

NATO Project Dexter Metro Corridor Security Demonstration, May 23, 2022 in Rome (ANSA / ANSA/AFP)

In Rome’s subway, NATO soldiers are testing technologies capable of detecting weapons or explosives: The Atlantic Alliance, mobilized by the war raging on its borders in Ukraine, is also maneuvering on a more treacherous front: that of domestic terrorism.

Project Dexter is one of the Alliance’s non-military research projects. It is designed to secure subways, train stations and airports through which hundreds of millions of travelers around the world pass daily and are constantly targeted by deadly attacks.

Dexter integrates various sensors and software technologies to provide real-time information to police or security guards monitoring passengers in public areas.

This week, in a subway corridor on the outskirts of the Italian capital, colorful images from radar and laser systems are being broadcast on large screens.

Radar scanning passing travelers produces high-resolution 2D and 3D images that show the presence of weapons in red, and a laser system can detect traces of explosives.

Security demonstration to detect the presence of weapons on passengers in the subway, as part of the project
Security demonstration to detect the presence of weapons on passengers in the subway, as part of the NATO Dexter project, May 23, 2022 in Rome (ANSA / ANSA/AFP)

The results of the two sensors are then combined and analyzed by the software, after which an alert is quickly sent to smart glasses worn by a police officer in the control room.

“We can merge and merge the information from the first and last sensor and send a message to the policeman,” Henri Bouma, a researcher at the Dutch research organization TNO, told AFP.

– “Prototype” –

Over the last month of testing, both systems achieved 100% success in detecting people with weapons or traces of explosives on their bodies.

A man carries explosives during a simulated terrorist attack for a subway security demonstration, part of the project.
A man carries explosives during a simulated terrorist attack for a NATO Project Dexter subway security demonstration on May 23, 2022 in Rome (ANSA/ANSA/AFP)

Tests conducted on even larger crowds achieved “over 99% success rates,” Bauma said.

Less invasive and more accurate than random searches, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges David van Veel said the technology could have a “tangible impact” on civilian lives.

“This will allow you to go to a football match or to the airport in complete safety,” he emphasizes.

The project involves a dozen research institutes from NATO member countries (Italy, France, the Netherlands and Germany), as well as other partner countries (Ukraine, South Korea, Serbia and Finland).

At this stage, “it’s just a prototype,” says Denise Bethen, who heads NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme.

“We hope that within one or two years we can commercialize it for use in subways, airports or other infrastructures chosen by countries,” she adds.

With government funding for civilian research and development shrinking for decades, programs like Dexter are important in filling gaps in the private sector and can spur private sector participation, says Mr. Van Veel.

“Our goal is to stimulate real monitoring, which will be mainly done by the private sector,” he explains, adding that Dexter’s technology can be licensed.