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Business Observer Friday, May 27, 2011 11 years ago

Less Revealing

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Brijot Imaging Systems has an alternative to the 'virtual strip searches.' The federal government hasn't approved its use at airports, but the company is finding plenty of corporate business.
by: Dan Ping Editor/Central Florida

REVIEW SUMMARY
Issue. Less-invasive security screening
Industry. Security
Key. Brijot Imaging Systems has developed a new scanning technology that could alleviate current airport screening issues.

Mitchel Laskey believes he can make air travel safer without the invasiveness of pat-downs and the current crop of full-body scanners.

Laskey is president and CEO of Brijot Imaging Systems Inc., a Lake Mary-based company that builds a new generation of body scanners that can be used in airports, courthouses, schools, prisons and events like the Super Bowl.

“If you need to screen people, you are a potential customer,” Laskey says.

Full-body scanners are big business. To combat would-be “underwear bombers,” the Transportation Security Administration is spending $214.7 million this year to purchase and install 500 new body scanners. By the end of 2012, the total number of scanners in U.S. airports is projected to be 1,275.

But the scanners come with concerns about the health risks of the machines, as well as privacy issues. Body scanners installed at U.S. airports use either backscatter systems or active millimeter wave technology. In both systems, people are scanned by shooting low-level radiation through their bodies.

Both backscatter and active millimeter systems also render images that show anatomical details. Some have referred to the full-body scans as “virtual strip searches.”

Brijot's scanners use passive millimeter wave technology. Instead of emitting radiation, the scanners work by detecting naturally occurring forms of electromagnetic energy waves generated by bodies and objects. If a person has concealed a gun inside his shirt, the scanners detect the contrast in the amount of energy waves.

Because the scanners only detect energy waves, the images produced are grainy outlines of a person's body with no anatomical details.

“There are no health issues and there are no privacy issues,” Laskey says.

Passive millimeter wave technology can be used to detect metal objects, liquids, solids, explosives, powders, currency, ceramics and drugs.

But you won't find Brijot scanners at any U.S. airports. The company submitted its scanners and technology to the TSA for review in 2008 and is still waiting for approval from the government agency.

“It's a process, we understand that,” says Laskey. He adds that the scanners currently in use at airports went through a four-and-a-half year review process.

“We think we measure up, it's just a matter of getting all the reviews done,” says Laskey.

Brijot is not without business, however. Laskey declined to disclose annual revenues, but the company provides airport scanners at 10 airports outside the U.S. in countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and China.

In addition, the company has an impressive list of corporate clients that includes Best Buy, AT&T, Microsoft and DreamWorks, the Hollywood movie studio. Brijot's corporate clients typically use the company's scanners for asset protection.

For instance, Brijot announced in April that it inked a deal with DreamWorks and Samsung Electronics to install scanners in a Korean fulfillment center to prevent employee theft of discs and DVDs that are repackaged at the center.

Laskey says the asset protection business has been the fastest growing part of the company during the last two years.

The company targets its U.S. customers through direct marketing by its on-staff sales force. Overseas, Brijot prefers to partner with local companies who understand foreign markets.

“We train and certify them in all of our equipment so that they can leverage their contacts,” Laskey says. “We realize we don't understand every market, so it makes sense for us to partner with others.”

Laskey says Brijot has few competitors in the passive millimeter technology space, primarily because the company has an exclusive license from Lockheed Martin to use the technology for commercial applications.

Still, Brijot faces stiff competition from the large corporations like L3 Communications and GE Security and their proprietary systems.

“They're spending billions of dollars developing and marketing their systems,” says Laskey, who estimates Brijot has spent “tens of millions of dollars” developing its passive millimeter technology.

Brijot's advantage, Laskey believes, is the company's noninvasive technology. “That really sets us apart,” Laskey says.

The company is also continuing to innovate. Last week Brijot introduced the AllClear, a hand-held, battery powered scanner that can perform like its large, walk-through scanners.

“It is easy to use and requires minimal training,” says Laskey.

The AllClear also does away with the need for an image. If the scanner detects a foreign object, a red light flashes.

Laskey says the idea for the AllClear came from an engineer who simply wondered if it was possible to build a hand-held device.

“The questions was 'What happens if someone fails the walk-through screen,' ” Laskey says. “We needed a hand-held device for that situation.

The company funded research for the device, built a prototype and began share information with a few trusted clients to gather feedback.

Brijot scanners are made in the U.S. Laskey says most of the individual components are built by subcontractors, and Brijot employees perform the final assembly at an undisclosed location in Seminole County.

Brijot was founded in 2004 by Brian Andrew, who originally acquired the passive millimeter wave license from Lockheed. The company received a $10 million investment that same year from the Exxel Group, an Argentina-based private investment company.

Laskey replaced Andrew as CEO in 2007.

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