Android device can detect types and levels of radiation

Current radiation detection technology often only provides gross results in the field, requiring outside experts to conduct analysis and supporting assessments. This means that results can often be delayed, especially in post-disaster scenarios that could require immediate assessments.

SE International and Chesapeake Nuclear Services have one way to address the problem, with GammaSight, a ruggedized radionuclide identifier designed to work in conjunction with an Android tablet or smartphone. They demonstrated the device this week at GovSec in Washington, D.C.

The sensor, which is about the size of a 1980’s-era cellphone, connects directly via Bluetooth with an Android mobile device and app that provides the visual display of data storage, measurement results, map overlays and test messaging. The system can also use the computing power of the mobile device to conduct assessments — the app can analyze, store, and transmit the data.

For instance, the system can automatically upload data to the RadResponder network, which is sponsored by Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies and is designed to collect and integrate environmental radiation monitoring and consequence management.

Combining a sensor with a mobile device provides the system with several advantages over older approaches, company representatives said.

The GammaSight is able to provide on-site quantitative analysis rather than only gross results, and is capable of detecting when levels are too high for preset situations, reducing the need to rely on outside experts. There is also no need to integrate computational capabilities with the sensor — analysis is conducted through the processing power of the mobile device. The system is also able to leverage the GPS capabilities of the device, or use external devices to map measurements and provide location data.

The device could be useful for military users, as the Defense Department increasingly moves toward mobile devices and networks. The Army, in fact, has developed a smartphone system to detect chemical and biological threats

“In consideration of what are the military aspects of an instrument like the GammaSight, it gives you into a very small package something that is easily backpack-able, that interfaces with the standard protocol Android-type applications,” said J. Stewart Bland, principal at Chesapeake Nuclear Services. “That gives you an enhanced analytical capability of radio nucleide identification in the field and be able to distinguish if this radiation is of concern, what are the radio nucleides associated with it, and automatically analyze the data to show you what hazards are associated with it.”

GammaSight’s makers expect it to play role in both homeland security and disaster response, as well as defense applications.

“In terms of military applications we see it as a great enhancement to the naval program for enhanced radionuclide identification for their ships,” Bland said. “We see it in terms of the Coast Guard... for their border patrol type capabilities as well.” 

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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