A heat-sensing camera developed by astrophysicists at Cardiff University is being used to spot people and animals in the back of moving trucks and lorries.
The technology, which is being brought to market by Sequestim Ltd, works by using extremely accurate sensors - originally designed to map distant stars - to detect minute changes in radiation and heat.
The scanner’s camera uses ‘kinetic inductance detectors’ that can help it detect the equivalent of the heat of a 100-watt lightbulb at a distance of half a million miles - twice the distance of the moon from Earth.
An image taken by the Sequestim device of a truck moving past a sensor at speeds up to 100mph clearly identifies the shapes of figures concealed in the rear of the vehicle.
The technology, pioneered by School of Physics and Astronomy researchers, could be installed at ferry ports globally, speeding up checks.
Sequestim Ltd is also developing airport scanners that enable travellers to walk through security without pausing or requiring the removal of clothing or metal objects. A widely publicised trial took place at Cardiff Airport last December.
The Cardiff technology is projected to enable at least four times the throughput of travellers through security checks, delivering vast improvements in airport efficiency, cost savings and higher levels of traveller satisfaction. There are more than 40,000 airports worldwide.
Sequestim technology could also be used in business receptions, banks, public transport hubs, sports stadia and at festivals.
Paul Simmons, CEO, Sequestim, said: “The market for this technology is enormous and there are hundreds of potential applications. We are in talks with customers and potential investors at the moment. Now that we have working and proven prototypes, we’re aiming to start shipping the first units to customers in 2020.”
Professor Peter Smowton, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “The success of the camera demonstrates Cardiff University’s commitment to innovation - turning research ideas into industries, spin-outs and start-ups that can help to drive industry and bring jobs and wider societal prosperity to Wales.”
The technology is compliant with procedures and protocols around identity protection.