Home Office explores using crowds as sensors to thwart terrorist attacks

The Home Office has launched a £2m competition to support the development of technologies that would use crowds as sensors to reduce the threat of a terrorist attack or explosion in locations such as shopping centres, sports stadia and entertainment venues.

The competition is being run by a partnership between the Home Office and the Defence and Security Accelerator, with support from the Royal Society. It seeks proposals for technologies, systems and behavioural sciences, as part of a “whole systems approach to improve the detection of explosives and weapons within crowded spaces”.

Lucy Mason, head of the Defence and Security Accelerator, said: “The terrible terrorist attacks in London and Manchester shocked and appalled all of us. Protecting people from terrorism is something we can all do, industry and academics and public servants.

“We don’t have all the answers. So we must bring together the brightest minds from the private sector, and academia to help find solutions to help keep our country and people safe and secure.

“The Defence and Security Accelerator exists to help government find and exploit game-changing ideas to help the security services and police stay one step ahead of those who threaten our safety. By funding and fast tracking the development of real solutions, we help to bring the innovation community together, rapidly.

“So today I reach out to our innovation community to be part of something bigger and show their support for their country. I’d encourage anyone who feels they have a great idea that can help keep our crowded areas safe to visit our website for more information on this competition.”

Vice-president of the Royal Society, Professor Alex Halliday, added: “Research and innovation are key to improving lives in so many ways. That includes finding new ways to fight terrorist threats. I am sure the ingenuity of the UK’s innovators will deliver new technologies that will help make us all safer.”

In a speech later today, Security Minister Ben Wallace is expected to say: “Society must come together to defeat terrorism which is why I am delighted to see representatives here from businesses from across the country who take seriously the need to protect the public.

“In light of the horrific attacks in London and Manchester, the Government has committed to review its counter-terror strategy and further to this I am announcing today that we are making up to £2 million available to fund research into cutting edge technology and behavioural science projects designed to keep people safe in crowds.

“The threat from terror does not stand still so neither will we, which is why we are calling on the best and the brightest from the science and technology sector to come forward with their ideas and proposals to support our ongoing work to keep people safe.”