People will become human radiation detectors under a new Department of Homeland Security project called “Human Portable Tripwire.”

DHS's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office put out a request for information on FedBizOpps last month, asking industry how they would create a Human Portable Tripwire (HPT) system.

“HPTs are intended to be worn by operators as standard equipment providing a passive or ‘tripwire’ capability for constant, non-deliberate scans to increase the operator’s ability to detect and/or identify radiological and nuclear (rad/nuc) material,” the DHS announcement stated.

The system must be capable of transmitting information on radiation levels and must also perform a protective role—warning the wearer of dangerous radiation. There will be a standard version and a maritime version that will also include neutron detection.

An accompanying white paper shows three configurations for Human Portable Tripwire: a wired connection to a PC or Iridium 9505A satellite phone—which is the standard phone for the U.S. Coast Guard, the paper notes—plus a wireless connection to a PC, cell phone or Iridium 9505A and finally a voice-only connection where the user reads off the data.

Other than the rather chilling notion of referring to human beings as portable tripwires, the project seems aimed at creating hands-free radiation detectors that will leave users free to conduct other tasks like neutralizing radioactive threats.

But the more interesting aspect is that Human Portable Tripwire will perform “non-deliberative scans,” which sounds as if the human tripwires won’t deliberately performing radiation scans, but rather will walk around wearing detectors that will function automatically.

This might be useful for security personnel patrolling an installation like a port or a large event like a major league football game. It could also mean that human tripwires could be detecting radiation as they walk the dog or take the train to work. It’s not clear if the system would be only for DHS personnel or available to the public.

Human Portable Tripwire sounds a bit like Cell-All, DHS's project to turn the average citizen’s cell phone into a chemical weapons detector. Rather than relying on someone to smell a dangerous odor, or call 911 instead of just fleeing when people start dropping like flies, “Cell-All will alert the authorities automatically. Detection, identification and notification all take place in less than 60 seconds,” according to a DHS news release.

Now we can all be tripwires.

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