© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Canadian Company Will Test Weapons Scanner At Tampa’s Port

This illustration shows how the HEXWAVE scanner would detect a concealed weapon. LIBERTY DEFENSE LTD
This illustration shows how the HEXWAVE scanner would detect a concealed weapon. LIBERTY DEFENSE LTD

Starting next year, cruise passengers at Port Tampa Bay will go through a new weapons detection scanner.

HEXWAVE is built by Vancouver-based Liberty Defense, based on technology developed at MIT. The scanners don’t look like airport metal detectors or body scanners. Liberty Defense CEO Bill Riker likens the devices to shoplifting detectors in stores.  

“This system that we're bringing to market has capability to do both metallic as well as non-metallic weapons and enables you to go through the detection space at the same pace that you will be walking into an area,” he said.   

To do that, HEXWAVE uses low-powered radar and artificial intelligence to detect possible weapons. Humans will make the final call about a perceived threat. “Our system either alerts the guard or communicates out to the video management system or to the door lock system or command and control system," Riker said.  

In addition to Port Tampa Bay, the scanners will be rolled out at Toronto Pearson International Airport, the Toronto Convention Centre, the University of Wisconsin, and Camden Yards in Baltimore. 

Liberty Defense is touting HEXWAVE as a less-invasive security technology. Unlike facial recognition cameras, the detectors do not record personally identifiable information. But privacy advocates have raised concerns about a corporation testing security technology in public spaces.   

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the proposed use of HEXWAVE in Utah has raised concerns from the ACLU about unnecessary searches. Pro Second Amendment groups in the state are worried the scanners could infringe on concealed carry rights.

The scanners have also caught the attention of civil liberties advocates in Canada. “Research has shown that when people believe or know they are being surveilled, whether they are or not, that alone can have a chilling effect on, for example, the ability to exercise their right to freedom of expression, and result in self-censorship or lesser participation in public life and political issues,” Cynthia Khoo of Citizen Lab told The Canadian Press earlier this month. 

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.