London, Mar 9 : Surveillance at railway stations, shopping centres and other public spaces in the UK could soon become more high-tech, with the development of cameras that can see through people's clothing at distances of up to 80ft, to help detect weapons, drugs and explosives.
However, the designers of this camera, ThruVision, an Oxfordshire-based company spun out from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, one of the government's leading physics research centres, maintain that although it can see objects under clothes, the images would not reveal any anatomical details.
This new technology, namely T5000 system, is catching the eye of police forces, train companies and airport operators as well as government agencies.
Though it was initially meant for use in spacecraft and astronomy but it was soon believed that these cameras that can see through clouds of cosmic dust are also capable to see through clothing.
T5000 system involves detecting and measuring terahertz waves, or T-waves, which are a form of electromagnetic radiation, emitted by all people and objects lying between the infrared and microwave parts of the spectrum.
In fact, the waves from any material have a distinctive signature, and may even differentiate Semtex from modelling clay and cocaine from sugar.
Already a smaller system designed for office foyers that can scan through clothing at a range of 30ft-40ft is being offered by ThruVision.
Currently this is being used at the Canary Wharf complex in east London, which is home to several global banks and is seen as a potential target for terrorists. The Dubai Mercantile Exchange also employs a similar installation.
It is possible to link this system to a computer enabling it to automatically scan anyone passing and report its human operator to anything suspicious.
"Acts of terrorism have shaken the world in recent years and security precautions have been tightened globally. The T5000 dramatically extends the range over which we can scan people," Times Online quoted Clive Beattie, ThruVision's chief executive, as saying.
One of the customers, Bill Foster, the president of Thermal Matrix, an American defence contractor specialising in imaging systems for the US military, said : "This could be deployed at major sporting events, concerts and rail stations as well as for military use."
The camera will be displayed this week at the Home Office scientific development branch's annual exhibition, Britain's premier showcase for security equipment, to be held on an RAF airbase in Buckinghamshire.