Georgia Tech Research Horizons
Winter/Spring 2007

New Shipping Container Device Provides Secure Monitoring
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by Jane M. Sanders

A NEW shipping container security device in development by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) could make U.S. ports less vulnerable to terrorist activities.
photo by Gary Meek

Researchers, left to right, Chris James, Tom Michaels, Terence Haran, Gisele Bennett and Jennifer Michaels are part of the original team developing an improved security device for shipping containers that could make U.S. ports less vulnerable to terrorist activities.

Containers equipped with the new devices will be continuously monitored for unauthorized attempts to open the container doors. The devices use a novel sensing technique. The system will communicate container information remotely to port authorities, providing a log of door activity and an alarm if an event occurs that requires immediate attention.

“The system is intended to improve port security by monitoring improper access to the container,” says lead researcher Gisele Bennett, director of the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory. “We need the ability to automatically detect unauthorized openings of container doors to prevent the potential introduction of illicit materials.”

In the research project, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the function of the device is to automatically detect the opening, closing and/or removal of container doors.

A key feature of the sensing technique is a design that prevents tampering with or removal of the device from the container without an alarm being generated. This will provide a significant upgrade over current door security methods that rely on seals, which can easily be defeated, and will fix a major vulnerability in existing port security protocols.

Engineers are designing the system to monitor 20- and 40-foot “dry box” (nonrefrigerated) containers. They are drawing upon GTRI's expertise in integrated sensor systems development, including another DHS-sponsored project to develop concepts for an Advanced Container Security Device that was completed in October 2005.

Working with Bennett on this phase of the project are Terence Haran, Chris James, Tim Strike, Dave Fentem, Ben Brackett and Jeff Jo.

Work on the security device is expected to be completed by summer 2007.


Gisele Bennett at 404-407-6155 or

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Last updated: March 6, 2007