By Neil Cotiaux | Photo by Don Bensman
After nearly 3,000 lives were lost on 9/11, Hummer, who also founded two healthcare companies, mobilized his time, money, and energies into finding a way to thwart new attacks on the country’s infrastructure.
When the Department of Homeland Security rolled out a program mandating the inspection of all maritime cargo containers before they reach U.S. shores, Hummer set out to develop a 21st century mousetrap that would meet with government approval and be marketable to the world’s shipping fleets.
Working on his private project at Case Western’s nanoparticle lab with Liu, a professor of sensor technology, the two developed a four-by-six-inch, commercially reproducible device that can be placed inside a shipping container to detect chemical, biological, and radiological weapons – even human cargo – at 100 parts per million. The new micro-technology can withstand humidity, extreme temperatures, and the disruptive conditions often found in commercial transport.
Protected by five patents, the IdentifySensor is being honed to reach the parts-per-billion or even trillion level over the next year, after which it can be tested at Homeland Security’s simulation seaport before being mass-produced. Hummer pegs the retail cost at about $30 per unit.
Hummer says his invention will detect a variety of explosives and other weapons targeted for neutralization. “There’s a chemical signature, just about, for everything,” he notes.
At present, Customs and Border Protection agents work with foreign counterparts at 58 overseas ports to prescreen containers, but due to costs and scope, only contents considered high-risk are inspected – a far cry from the 100-percent coverage mandated post-9/11.
With maritime companies facing overcapacity and weak demand, Hummer believes they will want to invest in the IdentifySensor to avoid loss of cargo, legal claims, and reputation risk.
That is possible with his device, Hummer says, because encrypted data pinpointing any threat would be sent via wireless to a receiving station on each vessel. Authorities would be notified via satellite link before a dangerous container reached a U.S. port. They could then either interdict the ship at sea or order it back to its home port.
“The onus of these laws is on the shipper,” Hummer says, giving them incentive to adopt state-of-the-art technology versus the outdated technology he says is used by customs.
At the same time, terrorist organizations and lone wolves have probed for weaknesses in other infrastructure: air cargo, ground shipping, subway tunnels and bridges. Hummer says the IdentifySensor is useful in these environments as well.
With a $5 million project cost, Hummer is dipping into his own pocket as fundraising continues.
“The idea is the U.S. leads the way,” the Shaker Heights entrepreneur says. “I would be the happiest guy in the world if we never detected a thing in 20 years.”
For more information: identifysensor.com
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