Innovation For the New Front Line: Security & Defense Technology Research

By Mark Dwortzen

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A hacker accesses personal information on millions of smartphones. A terrorist gets plastic explosives past an airport screener. A foreign country threatens to use weapons of mass destruction. As today’s news headlines make all too clear, attacks on life and property can come from any place at any time. Keeping citizens and soldiers out of harm’s way in a world where the front line can be anywhere depends increasingly on advanced technologies designed to counter a diverse range of new and fast-changing threats.

Toward that end, 30 faculty members at Boston University’s College of Engineering are pursuing research that could lead to significant improvements in personal and homeland security, and enhanced capabilities for our armed forces overseas. Funded by major federal agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation, these efforts promise to produce more robust defenses for smartphone users against cyber attacks; faster and more thorough airport screening devices; more effective detection of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; and many other mission-critical applications.

Energized by collaborations among multiple College departments and divisions, BU colleges and schools—and international alliances with partners in academia, government and industry—this research aims to boost security at home and abroad in five key areas: cyber security; threat detection; soldier technology; robotics; and military medicine. College of Engineering-based innovations in these domains may not only make us safer, but also bring significant improvements to our quality of life in energy, communications, computation and healthcare.

Whether empowering UAVs to patrol the eastern seaboard, soldiers to detect signs of enemy troop movements at night, medical personnel to aid blast victims, airports to provide more effective screening of passengers and luggage, or smartphone users to safeguard personal data, College of Engineering researchers are making strides in packing greater functionality and performance in security and defense technologies while minimizing their size, cost and energy consumption. BU faculty may work in labs and offices far from any conflict, but when it comes to advancing methods and systems to make the world a safer place to live, they are truly on the vanguard.