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New ticket gate that checks for explosives tested at Akihabara station

49 Comments

A new version of ticket gate that is capable of detecting explosives in three seconds is being given a two-day trial at JR Akihabara station, a representative from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said on Tuesday.

The new machine, developed by Hitachi Ltd, is similar in design to existing ticket gates but blows air from one side of the gate to the other, where gases collected are analyzed for traces of explosive materials. Materials used in the making of hand grenades and other explosives, such as those used in the 2005 London bombings, evaporate easily and adhere to clothes or skin.

A Hitachi employee said they hoped to collect data on 2,000 people by the end of Wednesday and were analyzing if the machine would make incorrect detections due to various kinds of cosmetics and body odors.

Hitachi's latest machine is said to be 99.9% accurate however, and the U.S government is rumored to have expressed interest, with a possible installation at airports or at public events in the future.

© News reports

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49 Comments
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Need to remind myself to use a car next time I want to blow up something Akihabara.

Can they waste tax payers money on something more ridiculous?

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I'm still confused as to why they still don't open up the main road in Akihabara to pedestrians on the weekend. Is this some kind of Japanese logic?

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Knowing how prevelant fireworks are in Japan I'll bet the bells and whistles will go off constantly in the summertime.

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Train and bus travel is the weak link in terrorism. If it works and isn't a hassle then it's worth the price.

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Those things were used at airports in the USA and proven to be inaccurate in a real world environment.

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I wonder if somebody passed gas while passing through...

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what about the backpack??

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Too bad these machines do not detect sarin gas.

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Thank god then that the doctor fitted me with an IUD and not an IED as I originally mistakenly requested! Got a bit confused! THAT would`ve set the alarms off!!!

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Can it check for gropers as well?

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Train and bus travel is the weak link in terrorism. If it works and isn't a hassle then it's worth the price.

I don't think it's your tax money that's (potentially) being spent on something this pointless.

A) As a poster above mentioned fireworks are very common in summer, many people carry them B) I don't know how many ticket gates there are in Tokyo metro area alone, but it must be above 10,000. C) Surely this is extremely expensive, and this government is supposed to be reducing budget, not wasting it D) All you have to do to circumvent this 'security' is walk or take a taxi to your destination.

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All you have to do to circumvent this 'security' is walk or take a taxi to your destination.

Not if your intention is to do damage on/in the subway.

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so tall people with bags on their shoulders will get through?

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if the machine would make incorrect detections due to various kinds of cosmetics and body odors.

Akihabara + body odors... check.

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"Hitachi’s latest machine is said to be 99.9% accurate however, and the U.S government is rumored to have expressed interest, with a possible installation at airports or at public events in the future."

BS! Until they've tested it in real situations they can't say how accurate it is, much like the 99% accurate 'new flu' detectors the government spent hundreds of billions on and were actually ZERO per cent successful.

I can just see Taro the salary-man exuding some methane gas when he 'passes' through the gate and it going off.

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Fireworks is based on gunpowder... or mixture of sulfur and potassium nitrate, and is very stable... High Explosives such as DNT, TNT or RX is a lot more volatile compound usually of nitrotoluene family... Totally different chemical composition. Oh, and if you've been handling high-ex, it evaporates and sticks to your skin and clothing, so you will get detected even if you were very tall and held it above your head.

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What happens if it detects explosives and doesn't let the person through? JR staff are then supposed to subdue the person before they blow themselves up?

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What if somebody with these trace chemicals on them rub into you...won't you pick them up?

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So 99.9% accurate. I they have 50,000 people go to Akihabara on a Saturday is the 50 false alarms (with evacuation?) or 50 terrorists getting through?

It takes 3 seconds so by the time the alarm goes off the person is already through and in amongst the crowd.

That is 2 extra problems above the previously mentioned issues.

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I like thepros comment, will JR staff detain the mad jihadist?

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A further invasion of rights of private citizens. Is this the next false "security" blanket too to be forced on us to the benefit of.. Hitachi in this case, along with all politicians, contractors and middlemen? With Aum all the warning sings were there and police were impotent. That was Sarin, not an explosive, but my bet is these things will be able to pick up and analyze your pheromones in their next reincarnation.

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kirakira: LOL!

Are they serious? Well, I am sure glad they announced it so that terrorists can plan to go through other stations.

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I'm doomed, I'm a chemist, I won't be able to use the train anymore to come back from work... seriously now, I hope this is just a test for the detector, I can't believe that anybody really thinks about installing it to all the ticket gates in Tokyo

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Terrorists are so poor they have to use the trains now? Well, it is good to see them economising too ;)

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How ridiculous. How many people walk through a ticket barrier in, say, Shibuya or Ueno during rush hour? Three seconds to register the explosives (working on the assumption the devoces work at all, which is a very big assumption to make), and then you've got to get the fifty-five year-old station manager to call an emergency meeting about what to do.

Then the legendary keystones hotfoot it to the scene, by which time the alleged terrorist is long gone, one of them leaves his gun in the gents and two get nabbed taking pictures up a 14-year-old's skirt.

But in the meantime, a nice juicy contract to install these devices nationwide goes to a company owned by a former university chum of Ishihara. So everything's all right then, and the ovine populace recite on cue:

"Japan is very safety".

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Wonderful, real security theater! Worse, waste of tax payers money that could be spent on getting the Japanese investigators trained and better equiped so that they catch terrorist before these are ready to strike.

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Knowing how prevelant fireworks are in Japan I'll bet the bells and whistles will go off constantly in the summertime.

So true! I don't believe there has been an attack in/on Japan using explosives since 1945. I could be wrong, but I can't find any information about it. Does anyone know?

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How about spending the development money on suicide prevention programs, and save some of the 30,000 people that kill themselves every year in Japan. That number is far higher than the number of people who've died in bomb attacks on Japanese trains, which is zero.

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This is such a waste of money. seriously, how many terrorist bombings have occured in japan? if this was iran or somewhere in the middle east, that's one thing, but come on, people!! this is boring old japan.

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majimeaussie, Good point. IF it takes the machine 3 seconds to issue an alarm, how long will it take the cop from the koban outside to rush in and ... and... stand around wondering where the culprit went. Or will they include a camera so the culprit can be caught on video. (So the news programs can have nifty video of the pre-explosion scenario?)

I believe this is testing in a real-world situation; I wouldn't be surprised if Hitachi is paying for it (and taking it off their taxes as research), and then they'll tweak it before selling gobs of these to the Americans for a huge profit.

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Man, what a tough crowd! As I said, see if it works. It's only a test. I can't critcize them for trying to improve safety.

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All you need to fool this is a classic switch-off. Clean guy goes in with clean bag, chemical bag guy goes in right after, then chemical bag guy immediately switches with clean bag guy "Ooops, excuse me". Clean bag guy with chemical bag proceeds into station, original chemical bag guy is detained...but he has a clean bag....or something to this effect.

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Will they install this nationwide? Otherwise all the potential bombers have to do, now they know the security is in place, is get an out of town train that links into the subway without the need for a ticket, like the Tobu line into Hibiya, Denentoshi into Hanzomon or Keikyu/Keisei into Asakusa among countless others, rendering these gates an expensive PR excerise and a certain annoyance to commuters who are false-flagged

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Akihabara...right, because we all know that the biggest group of bomber in the great nation of Japan are...otaku.

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No doubt it will be at the 'Electric Town' exit, right?

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I don´t get this. Does the article suggest that with these new machines every single commuter will have to wait for 3 seconds at the gate? Have they done the math about what that means for rush hour? Good luck with that!

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I can't critcize them for trying to improve safety.

You are correct but I still believe there is no risk of a terrorist attack in Japan using explosives.

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ivancoughalot...that is hilarious! Mainly because it just might be true!!! lol

3 seconds is a long time the way people move through the gates. And I cannot imagine they would go and install gates that would have you wait 3 seconds before letting you through! Can you imagine the queues at rush hour???

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3 seconds is a long time the way people move through the gates.

The system won't stop you from entering the platform. For that it is too slow and the station staff has no legislation to arrest you.

What the system likely does is linking your SUICA card you use to enter with the bomb alarm plus footage of the video surveilance. Hence they want to catch people who are in the progress of building a bomb, not the ones that carry one.

I guess some people will get unwelcome visits from the police and with an error rate of 0.1 % that will be quite a number.

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Some people here don't get that this is only an attempt to gather some "real-world" data with their prototype. Nobody said anything about deploying the gates in a large scale or even "nationwide".

What about installing these only in airport exits or other sensitive areas? Doesn't sound like a bad idea to me if they actually reach the advertised accuracy.

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I don't believe there has been an attack in/on Japan using explosives since 1945. I could be wrong, but I can't find any information about it. Does anyone know?

You're off by about 30 years. A radical student group set off a deadly explosion outside Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in August 1974. Also the wife of the head of Tokyo MPD was killed by a bomb delivered to her house. There were quite a few home-grown terrorist incidents back in the 70s.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

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Moderator: Sorry, but a bit of history is important. Also, there were bomb terrorists back in the early 20th c ready to blow up the emperor. Still, I agree, this sounds like a boom for Ishikawa and Hitachi...and a boomdoggle for the USA if they are nuts enough to buy it. Terrorists: take a taxi.

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It would be far more efficient if the explosive detecting machine just automatically detonated any explosive it detected! Save us all a lot of trouble.

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IvanCoughalot (and a whole bunch of others)

The story has absolutely nothing to do with preventing terrorist attacks in Tokyo. Read the last couple of lines of the story.

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So, if I'm 7ft tall and wearing a backpack that stays above the gate - will it still work?

I'm all for the x-ray machines (a la total recall) which are currently being tested in US airports.

I don't care of people can see my love handles or my Wii-Wii...if it keeps a bomb from blowing me up, or blowing something up that then causes the stock market to crash, or cause an entire nation to come to a hault for weeks...then I'm OK with it.

Plus, in Japan oba-chans could look at my private parts every day as they clean bathroom stalls in my office. What about onsen?

Also, the x-ray results are not on display for all to see, just the person behind the PC...so, again, who cares!

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It is not there to stop bombers, it is there so that IT can be tested.

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hokkaidoguy...you are correct. It is not about stopping terrorist threats in Tokyo. It is being tested in Tokyo (of course, if works well enough, there is potential to launch it in Tokyo.) It is about other countries' interest in buying this technology and using as they see fit in their countries. I think it could be useful to stop would-be bomb makers, yes. And what better way to test it than by putting it through the rigours of possibly the world's busiest train stations? I just hope that there isn't really intention for it to become ubiquitous. What a logistical headache that could be. But at airports or events, sure. Makes total sense.

And no matter what, you have to admit, ivancoughalot's scenario was funny... all too likely! lol

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The machine is 99.9% accurate? That means a thousand false positives <i>every day</i> if the station sees 1,000,000 passengers pass through, and big stations like Shinjuku see even more.

It means that <i>you</i>, Mr. and Mrs. Daily Commuter, will be falsely flagged roughly once every five working years -- more often if you use the station on the weekends.

As Ranger Miffy says, terrorists will just take taxis.

And we, the public, will be left paying for, and being hassled by, this garbage.

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Can you just imagine the chaos if they rolled out this contraption in Shinjuku station.

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