New high-tech weapons detection system to be tested at Metro Toronto Convention Centre

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre has agreed to test new scanning gates using radar technology that can detect concealed weapons. They're hailed as a "smarter" and less intrusive way to keep thousands of people safe in spaces like sports arenas and schools.

HEXWAVE security gates to be tested in Vancouver and Munich, as well

A screenshot of a video from Liberty Defense, detailing how the HEXWAVE security gates would be deployed to scan for weapons. (Liberty Defense)

Providing security for a two-million-square-foot building is no easy feat, according to the vice president of operations at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

By Vince Quattrociocchi's estimation, the centre is a hub in downtown Toronto, sitting right on Front Street West with multiple access points from the Rogers Centre and Union Station for thousands of people to get in and out. If just one of those people is carrying a concealed weapon, that can spell disaster, so for Quattrociocchi, technology that's able to detect that weapon is essential.

"Annually, we have upwards of one million-plus people that come visit us. And to have a system that is seamless and easy to walk past ... is intriguing to me."

Quattrochiocci says that's one of the major reasons the convention centre signed a deal with U.S. security company Liberty Defense to test their new HEXWAVE security gates. 

Liberty describes the HEXWAVE system as a series of radar imaging security gates that can be installed at the perimeter of any building. The system can detect metallic and non-metallic weapons concealed on a person, the company says.

Unlike metal detectors, Liberty Defense says its gate can be placed in locations where it can't be seen, such as inside signage or pillars, and can use radar technology to scan for the shape of the weapon. 

Liberty Defense CEO Bill Riker says HEXWAVE portals can flag any possible dangers before armed intruders can reach the interior of a building. 

"With the uniqueness of the design, each [gate] is a standalone sensing and analysis communication device. That gives you a lot of flexibility in how they deploy it to their most high-traffic areas," Riker said. 

The technology used in the gates was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and still requires more testing before they can go on the market. 

Other venues built for large crowds, such as Rogers Arena in Vancouver and FC Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, have also signed on to help test the gates beginning in early 2020. 

Riker says Liberty Defense's ultimate goal for the detection system is to process "about a thousand people per hour, to pass through the screen zones."

Privacy concerns over radar technology

Riker says he is well-aware of concerns about personal data and privacy. He says the HEXWAVE gates do not have the technology to identify or photograph faces or bodies. 

"We're only focused on the actual weapon or article of interest itself. But most significantly, the only thing that is seeing these images, is artificial intelligence ... It's not being sent out to a human to make a decision," he said.

Major stadiums, including FC Bayern Munich's 75,000 seater Allianz Arena, have signed on to help test the scanning technology. (Lukas Barth/Getty Images)

Quattrochiocci says the gates at the convention centre will be tested with security staff over a one-week period, not with the public.

He also says the current agreement does not include finalized plans for permanent HEXWAVE systems in the building. 

"As a responsible building operator of a large public assembly facility, it's our responsibility to look at all the options and technology and systems that we can deploy for the safety of our guests and employees."


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