Belfast briefing: Invisible security cloak is making waves

Microsense has developed invisible, ‘intelligent’ security technology

Microsense Solutions’ wireless perimeter fence, which in effect creates an invisible security cloak around any environment,  is being tested in several airports. Photograph: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Microsense Solutions’ wireless perimeter fence, which in effect creates an invisible security cloak around any environment, is being tested in several airports. Photograph: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 01:00

For the majority of travellers airport security is a necessary evil. At this time of year, long queues of holidaymakers at security invariably involve unhappy children and even more unhappy parents.

Unfazed travellers stick out a mile in the queues for security screening. And the chances are if you were to spot Noel McKenna in any airport, in any part of the world, he would be one of those calm travellers.

McKenna does not get stressed about the security queues because his focus is much wider when it comes to airport security requirements.

He is likely to be thinking about the airport’s perimeter defence systems and what he could do to make them better, because that is his latest preoccupation.

McKenna, an established entrepreneur in the North, has recently joined forces with Microsense Solutions, a Co Down-based start-up that is developing high-tech perimeter protection systems.

Wireless perimeter fence

The company has developed a wireless perimeter fence, which in effect creates an invisible security cloak around any environment. McKenna says the product is being tested in several airports and secure locations around the world from Northern Ireland to Hong Kong.

“It creates a microwave barrier that solves some of the long-standing problems associated with perimeter security, which conventionally employ the likes of trip wires, mesh or wireless solutions such as radar or infra-red,” he says.

“On the whole radar is very expensive and infra-red can have issues when it comes to light and heat interference, which can in turn create what is known as false triggers, particularly when it cannot distinguish between animals and people.”

Microsense’s technology was developed at Queen’s University Belfast.

“Our patented modulated backscatter technology is a breakthrough,” McKenna says. “Any breach of the Microsense fence creates a signal at the microwave sensor level, and the system analyses the threat by using unique algorithms, which determine if it is a true threat. It is an intelligent fence that can distinguish intruders from animals and cars.”

McKenna claims the technology is already making waves in the global security community.

“Our product is ready to go to market. We have had really good feedback on it and the next step for us is get it in front of customers and convert this interest into sales.”

He says the technology can be deployed anywhere there is a perimeter security challenge, whether it is an airport, a power plant or even country borders.

“It is estimated the global perimeter security market is worth €14 billion a year – so you can see why we would just like to win a small bit of that.”

Terrorist threats

McKenna says the growth in the industry is being driven by governments’ focus on creating new levels of security protection to thwart terrorist attacks. “People need to feel secure,” he says.

Potentially vulnerable

McKenna is confident that the technology developed by Microsense can create a better defence field around any potentially vulnerable environment, which is why he has not only invested in the company but also recently joined it as its chief executive.

McKenna was previously chief executive of Belfast- based digital audio company AptX.

He led a management buyout of Apt from its parent company, Solid State Logic, and was at the helm of the company through its transformation into two separate businesses and their eventual trade sales to Audemat Group and CSR.

McKenna says he wants Microsense to be even more successful than Apt and AptX, but to do that he needs to get more investors on board.

“We are in the process of closing our latest investment round, which is likely to be a good mix of both private sector and possibly local and external venture capital investors.

We’ve a good team and an aggressive growth plan so we know what we need to raise to make it happen.”

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