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Security minister praises counter-terrorism research at University – University of Reading

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Security minister praises counter-terrorism research at University

Release Date 11 March 2010

Dr James Ferryman, left, and Lord West

Innovative research at the University of Reading will help combat terrorism says the Government's Security Minister.

Lord West of Spithead yesterday praised the work of Dr James Ferryman, who leads the Computational Vision Group (CVG) in the School of Systems Engineering, during a visit to learn more about the ground-breaking technology.

The group's work in behavioural science was hailed as an incredibly useful tool by Lord West. Work highlighting unusual behaviour in crowds would be ideal for events such as the 2012 Olympics.

CVG has developed computer systems which emulate human vision. It is currently working on improving the effectiveness of CCTV for safety, security and threat assessment.

This work includes crowd image analysis, spotting unattended luggage and threats to aviation both on the ground and in the air. The research is included in the Government's Innovative Science and Technology (INSTINCT) programme that seeks solutions to address the objectives of the UK's counter-terrorism strategy, known as CONTEST.

Lord West was shown several areas of work that could have a real impact on the fight against terrorism.

The SUBITO project is developing an automated system to spot unattended luggage in public spaces, such as airports and train stations, and to alert operators immediately. The operators will then be able to identify and determine who placed the luggage and where they have gone to.

A separate project, Co-Friend, which is deployed at Toulouse-Blagnac airport, is developing an artificial intelligence system for understanding activities on airport aprons. Both people and vehicles moving around aircraft are tracked and the information used for checking service scheduling as well as potential security infringements.

A further strand of work looks at detecting suspicious behaviour onboard aircraft.

CVG is also developing an automated CCTV surveillance system for monitoring land and maritime checkpoints, improving the efficiency and security of the transit of pedestrians and vehicles. The work, involving 16 European partners, is working closely with Border Guards thoughout the EU.

The focus of the research is on real world scenes and the team has worked closely with other partners, including the Home Office, British Transport Police and Network Rail.

Lord West said: "The use of behavioural science offers us a lot of opportunities in countering terrorism and the work going on at Reading will help with this. This sort of technology is an incredibly valuable tool.

"We are encouraging the world of social and behavioural science to share their ideas and expertise with us to do this. Academia and industry may be able to provide invaluable assistance and advice in helping to prevent terrorist attacks."

Dr James Ferryman said: "It was a marvellous opportunity to show the Government the breadth of research work we are engaged in at the University of Reading. The projects developed here have a real application for countering terrorism and we are looking forward to working with the Home Office and Industry to progress them further."

Lord West announced today the publication of the second in a series of brochures which set out objectives for using science and technology within CONTEST. Many of its themes incorporate the work of Dr James Ferryman and his research team.

This second brochure is targeted at experts in social and behavioural science in particular, asking them to think about how they can play a role in helping the counter-terrorism community tackle the security challenges we face.


For more information please contact Rona Cheeseman, Press Officer, on 0118 378 7388 or email

Notes to editors

The Computational Vision Group at the University of Reading can be found at

The Counter-terrorism Science and Technology Strategy can be found at:

The Government's Counter-terrorism strategy "CONTEST" can be found at:

University of Reading is rated as one of the top 200 universities in the world (THE-QS World Rankings 2009).

• The University of Reading is one of the UK's top research-intensive universities. The University is ranked in the top 20 UK higher education institutions in securing research council grants worth nearly £10 million from EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, AHRC and BBSRC. In the RAE 2008, over 87% of the university's research was deemed to be of international standing. Areas of particular research strength recognised include meteorology and climate change, typography and graphic design, archaeology, philosophy, food biosciences, construction management, real estate and planning, as well as law.

• Standards of teaching are excellent - the University scored highly in the National Student Survey 2009. 87% of Reading students responding to the survey stated they were satisfied with the quality of their course.

• The University is estimated to contribute £600 million to the local economy annually.

• University of Reading is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

• More information at

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