Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20040016271 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/201,542
Publication dateJan 29, 2004
Filing dateJul 23, 2002
Priority dateJul 23, 2002
Publication number10201542, 201542, US 2004/0016271 A1, US 2004/016271 A1, US 20040016271 A1, US 20040016271A1, US 2004016271 A1, US 2004016271A1, US-A1-20040016271, US-A1-2004016271, US2004/0016271A1, US2004/016271A1, US20040016271 A1, US20040016271A1, US2004016271 A1, US2004016271A1
InventorsKirti Shah, Andreas Kotowski
Original AssigneeKirti Shah, Kotowski Andreas F.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Portable inspection containers
US 20040016271 A1
Abstract
The present invention provides improved methods and systems of the X-ray scanning of personal items. The present invention subjects personal items to a securable container that is controlled and amenable to X-ray screening. A portable container transparent to X-ray radiation is used for scanning personal items such as wallets, cameras, and keys which are normally not a part of a passenger's baggage. Personal items are placed in the container, which is then locked. The locked container is allowed to go through the X-ray device that generates images of the enclosed items. After being scanned the container is unlocked and the items can be removed. Preferably, the container lock has a cam, which is engaged with the groove when it is in the closed state. The key of the lock cannot be withdrawn when the lock is in the open state, thereby preventing passengers from accidentally leaving with the key in hand. The key can be removed from the lock only when it is in the closed state. It is further preferred for each lock to have a uniquely shaped key to lower the risk that a single key can be used to unlock multiple containers. For production purposes, the keys can be formed into a variety of geometric shapes, each of said shapes uniquely defining a lock structure.
Images(13)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(20)
What is claimed is:
1. A portable security container for storing articles for passage through a scanning device wherein the articles are carried by persons intending to enter into an area secured by said scanning device, comprising:
a container floor and plurality of container walls integrally formed with said floor wherein the floor and plurality of walls together form a lower compartment region;
a lid connected to the lower compartment region and movable between an open and a closed state with respect to said lower compartment region;
a locking device for securing the lid to the lower compartment region; and
a key for moving said locking device into a lock position to secure the lid in the closed state and for moving said locking device into an unlocked position to permit the lid to be in the open state, wherein the key is not removable from the locking device when the locking device is in the unlocked position.
2. The container of claim 1 wherein the lid is connected to the lower compartment region by a plurality of pivot posts formed on the lower compartment region fitted into a plurality of holes formed in the lid.
3. The container of claim 1 wherein the lower compartment region is divided into regions by a plurality of dividing walls.
4. The container of claim 3 wherein at least one of the regions is rectangular.
5. The container of claim 1 wherein said key comprises a head and body having a cross-section and the locking device comprises a keyway having a shape complementary to said body cross-section.
6. The container of claim 5 wherein the body cross-section is round.
7. The container of claim 5 wherein the body cross-section is square.
8. The container of claim 5 wherein the body cross-section is oval.
9. A locking device for use in a portable security container wherein said container stores articles for passage through a scanning device and wherein said articles are carried by persons intending to enter into an area secured by said scanning device, comprising:
a key having a head and a body wherein the body has a geometrically shaped cross-section;
a housing defining an enclosure; and
a lock mounted inside the said housing, the said lock having a keyway accessible from the exterior of said housing;
wherein the lock is adapted to operably receive the body of said key in the keyway and to move between a locked state, wherein the key is insertable into and removable from the keyway, and an open state, wherein the key is not removable from the keyway.
10. The container of claim 9 wherein the body cross-section is round.
11. The container of claim 9 wherein the body cross-section is square.
12. The container of claim 9 wherein the body cross-section is oval.
13. The locking device of claim 9, wherein the lock comprises a cam that is movable with the movement of the keyway.
14. The locking device of claim 13 further comprising a slot to engage the cam when the lock is in the locked state.
15. The locking device of claim 9 wherein a plurality of grooves are present on an inner surface of the lock, said grooves engage the key when the lock is in the open state.
16. A method for x-ray scanning a plurality of articles by storing them in at least one securable container, said container having a lid, a base, a lock, a keyway formed integrally with said lock, and a key lodged within the keyway, comprising:
providing a plurality of containers proximate to an x-ray device;
inserting said articles in at least one of said containers;
closing the container by positioning the lid over, and in contact with, the base;
moving the key in the keyway of the lock so that the lock comes to a closed state and the key can be withdrawn from the lock;
placing the container on a conveyor belt leading into and through the x-ray device;
removing the container from the conveyor belt after the container passes through the x-ray device;
inserting the key in the keyway of the lock and moving the key so that the lock comes to an open state; and
opening the container by moving the lid away from the base.
17. The container of claim 16 wherein the lid is connected to the base by a plurality of pivot posts formed on the base fitted into a plurality of holes formed in the lid.
18. The container of claim 16 wherein the base is divided into regions by a plurality of dividing walls.
19. The container of claim 16 wherein said key comprises a head and body having a cross-section and the keyway has a shape complementary to said body cross-section.
20. The container of claim 19 wherein the body cross-section is round.
Description
FIELD OF INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates generally to the field of security and, more specifically, to a portable container capable of securing personal items when submitted for inspection by devices or personnel. The present invention is also directed to methods of using such containers to improve airport security and preventing the theft of personal items during an airport check-in process.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The dangers posed by explosives, weapons, contraband, or other illegal substances require numerous locations to impose screening procedures on all visitors, passengers, luggage, and parcels entering the location. In high-profile locations, such as government buildings or high-rises, such security procedures require visitors to be scanned with metal detectors, in order to detect dangerous, concealed objects such as weapons, while baggage, such as briefcases and purses, are placed on a conveyor belt leading to and through an X-ray screening device. Once screened, the visitor may re-acquire his or her baggage on the other side of the X-ray device, as it passes through the device on the conveyor belt. A similar procedure is used in transportation facilities, such as airports. Conventionally, passengers are required to submit to metal detectors in order to insure they are not carrying items that could be used as weapons and are required to submit their baggage, such as briefcases, purses, bags, and the like, to an X-ray screening procedure.

[0003] Common to all security procedures is the need to have individuals, namely the visitors or passengers, enter the metal detector without certain personal belongings that, although typically carried on the person and not part of the individual's hand-carried luggage, purse or briefcase, need to be subjected to an X-ray screening. Personal belongings such as cameras, keys, wallets, watches, cellular phones, and lipsticks often contain too much metal and can trigger the metal detector if an individual carries them through the device. Because security personnel are required to perform supplementary searches whenever such a trigger occurs, either by having the individual pass through the detector again, conducting a physical search or passing another hand-held detector about and around the individual's body, triggers can unnecessarily slow down throughput and create bottlenecks at security checkpoints. Additionally, once the item causing the metal detector to trigger is identified, the item needs to be inspected by a security official and the individual needs to be subjected, again, to a search, thereby creating even greater delays.

[0004] More importantly, because conventional items, such as phones and cameras, may conceal dangerous or illegal items in a manner that is not detectable by visual inspection, it is important for those items to be subjected to X-ray screening, even though they may not be part of the individual's baggage. X-ray screening can detect the presence of unusual structures, such as gun barrels or out of place metal shards that indicate the presence of a dangerous weapon in a conventional item. Typically, the need to subject personal items to X-ray screening has been addressed by having individuals place those items in an open tray. This tray is placed on the conveyor belt. The conveyor belt transports the tray through the X-ray scanning system where an X-ray beam scans the article causing an X-ray image, indicative of the material constituency of the item, to be generated. Using a computer processing and display system, the X-ray image is presented to a security official and stored for later inspection, if necessary.

[0005] Referring to FIG. 1, a typical X-ray system is shown having personal items positioned on its conveyor belt. The system 100 includes entrance opening 101, longitudinal slot 102, exit opening 103, conveyor belt 104, open tray 105, personal items 106, and cabinet 107. The personal items 106 are placed on the open tray 105 by the user. The conveyor belt 104 runs across the longitudinal slot 102 carrying the open tray 105 from the entrance opening 101 to the exit opening 103. In the course of moving the open tray 105 from the opening 101 to the exit 103, the personal items 106 are subjected to an X-ray radiation source [not shown] from which X-rays, either scattered or attenuated depending upon the system used, are then detected by a detector array [not shown].

[0006] Shown in FIG. 2 is a partially sectioned topside view of the system 100. The system 200 includes a cabinet 201, open tray 202, conveyor belt 203, personal items 204, X-ray source 205, detection system 206, and X-ray chamber 208. The conveyor belt 203 transports the open tray 202 through the X-ray chamber 208. The X-ray tube 205 produces pulsed, low scattered X-rays which penetrate the article in the mid-position of the X-ray chamber 208 and are then scattered and/or attenuated. The attenuated X-rays are detected by the detection system 206 which may be any detection system known to those of ordinary skill in the art. The detection system 206 may also be placed in other positions to effectuate other types of detection processes, including scatter detection. The internal walls of this structure may be shielded for prevention of X-ray exposure outside the cabinet 201.

[0007] The abovementioned arrangement has substantial disadvantages, however. Because valuable personal items, including wallets, phones and laptops, are being placed in an open, unsecured tray, there is a substantial risk of items being stolen from the open tray out of the other side of X-ray scanning device before an individual passes through the metal detector and is authorized to pick up the items. More specifically, in airport security applications, passengers may often place personal belongings on the conveyor belt, leading into and through an X-ray device, prior to being allowed to walk through a metal detector. As such, the individual may have submitted his or her belongings for X-ray screening before being able to clear the metal detector, thereby forcing the individual to leave his or her belongings unattended once they pass through the X-ray screening device. This provides ample opportunity for thieves to steal personal belongings, such as wallets, phones, and laptops, from an open tray. Additionally, because they are loose, uncontained, and small, the personal belongings may spill over or fall out of the tray in the course of being scanned. In light of the above described disadvantages, there is a need for a system that can provide effective scanning of personal items while delivering increased security over the individual's personal belongings. Additionally, there is a need for a system that does not increase the delays at security checkpoints. Further, there is a need for a system that does not compromise the quality of the X-ray screening or otherwise weaken the security process by, for example, inserting loopholes into the process.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The present invention provides improved methods and systems of the X-ray scanning of personal items. The present invention subjects personal items to a securable container that is controlled and amenable to X-ray screening.

[0009] In an embodiment, a portable container transparent to X-ray radiation is used for scanning personal items such as wallets, cameras, and keys which are normally not a part of the baggage. Personal items are placed in the container, which is then locked. The locked container is allowed to go through the X-ray device that generates images of the enclosed items. After being scanned the container is unlocked and the items can be removed.

[0010] Another aspect of the present invention is a locking device integrated with the container for the security of the contained items. The lock has a cam, which is engaged with the groove when it is in the closed state. The key of the lock cannot be withdrawn when the lock is in the open state, thereby preventing passengers from accidentally leaving with the key in hand. The key can be removed from the lock only when it is in the closed state.

[0011] The present invention is designed to be used in concert with the aforementioned security process. Operationally, when an individual arrives at the security checkpoint, he picks up the securable container from the container storage area, preferably located close to the security checkpoint. The containers are stacked one above another in the storage location. A container is issued to an individual upon production of the boarding pass. The passenger removes his personal belongings and inserts them into the container, where the lid is in the open position, by inserting such items into the interior compartment defined by the base. The key is present in the keyway of the lock in the open state. To close the container, the passenger brings the lid into contact with the base of the container and moves the key in the keyway, thereby engaging the cam into the groove and shifting the lock from the open state to the closed state. The passenger places the container on a conveyor belt, leading into and through an X-ray screening system, and retrieves the container after having passed through a metal detector. The passenger then opens the container, removes his items, and leaves the container in a stack for future use.

[0012] It is further preferred for each lock to have a uniquely shaped key to lower the risk that a single key can be used to unlock multiple containers. For production purposes, the keys can be formed into a variety of geometric shapes, each of said shapes uniquely defining a lock structure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be appreciated, as they become better understood by reference to the following Detailed Description when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings:

[0014]FIG. 1 is diagram showing an X-ray system scanning personal items placed in an open tray;

[0015]FIG. 2 is a partially sectioned topside view of the abovementioned X-ray system;

[0016]FIG. 3 depicts an embodiment of securable container of the present invention;

[0017]FIG. 4 shows the plan view of another embodiment of the securable container with three internal compartments;

[0018]FIG. 5 depicts one embodiment of a locking device;

[0019]FIG. 6 is a schematic view of the locking device mounted on the container of the present invention;

[0020]FIG. 7 is a cross sectional view of the locking device of the present invention;

[0021]FIG. 8 depicts an embodiment of a container in the closed position with the lockable device in the locked state;

[0022]FIG. 9 shows the side view of the X-ray scanning system in accordance with the present invention;

[0023]FIG. 10 shows an inside perspective view of the scanner apparatus of the present invention;

[0024]FIG. 11 shows the lockable container placed on the X-ray scanning system; and

[0025]FIG. 12 shows the cross sectional view of the X-ray scanning system with the securable container being scanned.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0026] The present invention improves the X-ray scanning of personal items by subjecting those personal items to a securable container that is controlled and amenable to X-ray screening. The present invention will be described with reference to the aforementioned drawings. One of ordinary skill in the art would appreciate that the applications described herein are examples of how the broader concept can be applied.

[0027]FIG. 3 depicts an embodiment of securable container of the present invention. The container 300 comprises base 301, lid 302, storage compartment 303, and handle 304. One of ordinary skill in the art would appreciate that the container 300, while depicted as rectangular with a base 301, lid 302, internal compartment 303, and handle 304, can be of any shape or configuration, provided that the shape permits the container to be stable when positioned on a conveyor belt and to be able to move through the heavy shielding material present at the entrance and exit of the X-ray device.

[0028] Base 301 has a rectangular configuration and forms an integral storage compartment 303. The compartment 303 is defined by parallel spaced first and second end walls 305 and 306, a pair of spaced parallel side walls 307 and 308, and a bottom wall indicated at 309. The bottom wall 309 has generally a U-shaped configuration formed by spaced parallel ledges 310 and 311, which extend along and are formed integrally with the bottom edges of sidewalls 307 and 308, respectively. A third ledge (not visible) is formed integrally with first end wall 305 and extends along the bottom edge thereof. Thus, the third ledge in combination with ledges 310 and 311, form a U-shaped bottom wall. A locking device 320 is fixed on the end wall 306 of the base 301 with a keyway at one end and a cam at the other end. In an alternate embodiment the spaced ledges 310 and 311 may not be parallel but may be slanted towards each other. By providing an inwardly slanted base, a plurality of these containers could be stacked atop each other, assuming the lids are not attached to the base, thereby enabling compact storage and distribution. One of ordinary skill in the art would appreciate that there are multiple designs that would yield a container that could effectively hold items, have an attached lid, and be stackable. The present invention is not limited to the design choices expressed herein but extend to cover various containers that could be used for security purposes in accordance with the present invention.

[0029] The wall 315 of the lid 302 is such that it is positioned over the wall 305 of the base 301 when the container is closed. The depth of the container 300 is the addition of the inner depth of the base 301 and lid 302. The total height of the container 300 is designed in such a way that it does not exceed the allowable height of the items that can enter the X-ray device.

[0030] The lid 302 has a U-shaped configuration formed by wall 313 and spaced parallel sidewalls 314 and 315. A top wall 316 extends the entire length of wall 313 and between the sidewalls 314 and 315. Optionally, pairs of reinforcing ribs [not shown] may be formed on the inside surface of lid wall 313 to increase the rigidity. A pair of slots 318 is formed in the outer ends of sidewalls 314 and 315 of the lid 302. A pair of pivot posts 319 is snap fitted into the slots 318, which are formed integrally with and extend perpendicularly outwardly from base sidewalls 307 and 308. Pivot posts 319 have outer disc shaped ends, which attach into slots 318, thereby firmly connecting lid sidewalls 314 and 315 to the base 301. This pivot-slot structure permits the base 301 and lid 302 to be separately molded and then to attach the lid 302 to the base 301, by engaging pivot posts 319 within slots 318. This enables the base and lid components to be molded in less complicated dies, and therefore less expensively, than single piece containers having irregular shapes. A handle 304 may be formed integrally on wall 313 of the lid 302 and may be used by individuals for carrying the container 300 to the X-ray conveyor belt. Alternatively, there may be two handles [not shown] positioned on sidewalls 314 and 315, permitting individuals to carry the container 300 with two hands. A block 321 containing a groove is fixed to the inner wall of the front part 313 of the lid. The block 321 is positioned corresponding to the locking device 320 secured to the base 301, so that its groove can engage the cam of the locking device.

[0031] The securable container can be designed to have multiple compartments with different shapes and sizes as per the requirements, so that articles of both smaller as well as bigger dimensions can fit into them. For example, separate compartments in a container can be structured to hold keys, personal data assistants, wallets, laptops, etc.

[0032]FIG. 4 shows the plan view of another embodiment of the securable container 400 with three internal compartments. The internal compartments 401, 402, and 403 are separated by internal partitions 404. The internal partitions 404 are attached perpendicularly to the inside surface of the base of the container. The internal partitions 404 are composed of the same material as the container. The dimensions of the compartment 401 are preferably such that electronic devices, such as laptops or personal data assistants, can appropriately fit into it without much relocation while the movement of the container on the conveyor belt. Similarly, the dimensions of the compartment 402 are such that beverage containers can fit appropriately into it and do not tilt during the movement of the container. The compartment 403 can be used for storing items such as keys, lipsticks, and wallets etc., which do not have a fixed size. An additional inner lid 406 is used to cover the compartment 403 to prevent spilling over of these items. The compartment 403 has channels on its sides and it is closed by pressing the lid 406 over it.

[0033] The advantage of having multiple compartments is that various articles having different shapes and constituents can be separated into independent zones. Also, the articles are prevented from dislocation while the container moves over the conveyor belt in the X-ray device. The present invention is not limited to the abovementioned arrangement of compartments but includes any other design pattern, which can suitably store personal items of various dimensions. The number, shape, and size of the compartments may vary depending of the kind of articles to be inspected and the requirements of the location.

[0034] The dimensions of the securable container should be suitably fixed such that it can conveniently pass through the X-ray device without making contact with the sidewalls or the top wall. Also, the material used for constructing the container should be such that it is adequately heavy to move past the heavy shielding material located at the entrance and exit openings of the inspection chamber of the X-ray device.

[0035] It is preferred that the material used for manufacturing the container is an organic material, such as plastic, which is transparent to X-ray radiation and not indicative of, or similar to, from an X-ray imaging standpoint, any harmful substances, contraband, or explosives. Exemplary plastic materials include ABS or PET. Also, it would be further preferred that the material suffer no effect, physical or chemical, from the exposure to X-ray radiation.

[0036] The container needs to be securable in order to prevent the theft of personal items. As such, it is preferred that all containers, irrespective of their structures, include a locking device. Referring to FIG. 5, one embodiment of a locking device is shown. The locking device 500 includes a lock 501, keyway 502, cam 503, and housing enclosure 505. Key 506 is compatible with the keyway 502 of locking device 500. The key has a body 507 and a holding head 508. The keyway 502 is at one end of the lock 501 and the cam 503 is at the other end, formed as an extension of the lock. The cam 503 is curved at the end. The lock 501 and housing enclosure 505 is positioned on one portion of the container, i.e. the base, while the block with a groove is positioned on a second portion of the container, i.e. the lid. When the key 506 is inserted into the keyway 502 and rotated, the cam 503 moves along with the rotation of the key 506. The curved portion 504 of the cam 503 gets engaged in the groove, thereby closing the lock and securing the lid to the base.

[0037] It is preferred that the lock of each securable container has a unique key so that a person acquiring a key and opening one container can be prevented from opening any further containers. The cross-section of the body of the key can be any geometric shape such as circular, rectangular, triangular, oval, among other shapes, with a correspondingly complementary keyway shape to accept and permit the key to rotate the cam. By using varying geometric shapes, keys can be easily formed and paired with containers. The possibility of keys being confused with each other, or with which container it may be open, is reduced when the key bodies have different shapes. Beyond having the key plug of the lock suitably designed to accommodate the particular structure of the body of the key, the teeth of each key are preferably shaped in a manner that is unique and is distinct from the other keys. Thus, a key does not fit properly into the key plug if its teeth do not match with the grooves in the key plug. This prevents the movement of key inside the lock thereby preventing illegal access.

[0038] Referring to FIG. 6, the locking device mounted on the container of the present invention is shown. As shown, the lock 601 is in the open state. The housing enclosure 602 comprising the lock 601 is fixed on the inner wall 609 of the front part of the base 603 of the container. The lock 601 is mounted to the dual walled common support structure of the housing enclosure 602. The block 611 containing the groove 604, which engages the cam 605, is fixed to the inner wall 610 of the front part of the lid 606. The groove 604 extends till the point 612 inside the block 611. The cam 605 is positioned in the interior of the housing enclosure 602. When the key 607 is inserted into the keyway 608 and turned counterclockwise, the lock 601 comes to the closed state, by action of the cam 605 engaging the groove 604, and the base 603 is secured to the lid 606. The present invention can be effectively practiced by a key-lock design in which the key operates to lock the container through clockwise, as opposed to counterclockwise, motion.

[0039]FIG. 7 depicts the cross sectional view of the lock. In the preferred embodiment, when the lock 701 is in the open state, the key 702 cannot be withdrawn from the keyway 703. A key plug 704 encasing the keyway 703 is formed inside the lock 701. When the key 702 is moved inside the keyway 703, the key plug 704 moves with it. There are grooves 705 on the surface of the key plug 704, which extend up to the tooth of the key 702. The grooves 705 are in conformity with the tooth of the key. The inner surface of the lock housing 706 has protrusions 707 that fit into the grooves 705 in the key plug 704. When the key is moved clockwise, the grooves 705 in the key plug 704 fit into the protrusions 707 in the lock housing 706. As a result, the key 702 and key plug 704 are engaged with the lock housing 706 and the key cannot be withdrawn from the lock. This security mechanism prevents passengers from walking off with the key after retrieving his or her items. It also insures the integrity of each box by avoiding having to create duplicate keys for boxes with lost keys. Other mechanisms for securing a key to a container are also covered by the present invention, including physically fastening the key to the container using a cable and other key-locking configurations, such as having only one or two grooves, or more than three grooves, and/or having a key cross-sectional structure that is of a different geometric shape, such as round, rectangular, square, oval, among other shapes.

[0040]FIG. 8 depicts the container in the closed position with the lockable device in the locked state. In the locked state the curved portion 806 of the cam 803 is hooked onto the groove 805 in the block 804, which is fixed to the lid 801. Thus, the cam 803 locks the lid 801 with the base 802 and the container comes to the closed position.

[0041] At the security checkpoint the luggage, other than personal items, is placed on the conveyor belt by an individual for scanning. When the luggage passes through the X-ray device, images of the objects inside the bags are captured and transmitted to an image processing system. These images can be viewed by the inspectors. Individuals are usually examined with metal detectors which is independent of the X-ray examination of luggage. An alarm is raised when a metal object is detected on an individual, such as by way of something in his pocket. The metal detection structure typically utilizes electromagnetic radiation.

[0042] The present invention is designed to be used in concert with the above described security process. The securable containers are stacked one above another in the storage location. Also, the containers may be colored or labeled to indicate that they belong to a particular security checkpoint. For example, in an airport with five security checkpoints, there can be five container sets, each set labeled with a sticker of different color. A specific color is associated with each security checkpoint to distinguish the containers belonging to each checkpoint. Additionally, the logo of an airline can be tagged to the containers of a particular security checkpoint if it scans the containers of that specific airline.

[0043] Operationally, a container is issued to an individual upon production of the boarding pass at the security checkpoint. Having received a container, the passenger removes his personal belongings and inserts them into the container, where the lid is in the open position, by inserting such items into the interior compartment defined by the base. The key is present in the keyway of the lock in the open state. To close the container, the passenger brings the lid into contact with the base of the container and moves the key in the keyway in a counterclockwise direction from the open state to the closed state, thereby engaging the cam into the groove. When in the locked state, the key is removable from the keyway.

[0044] In such an operation, the security checkpoint may have a plurality of containers, such as 200, available for distribution where each container has a common color, logo, label, or other marking, and the plurality of containers have at least 25 unique key-lock combinations where the lock is not removable from the keyway when in the open state. By having 25 unique combinations, each key-lock combination may be repeated as few as 8 times, providing an additional level of security by insuring that it is less likely for a thief to successfully steal a key by locking it and then using that key to open other containers.

[0045] Referring to FIG. 9, a side view of another embodiment of an X-ray scanning system in accordance with the present invention is shown. It includes detector assembly 901, X-ray tube section 903, and tunnel housing 904. The X-ray tube section 903 comprises an X-ray tube 905 mounted in such a way that its radiation collimation orifice 906 is centered with respect to the central opening 907 in the shielded focal member 908. Member 908, which may be comprised of lead shielded plywood, prevents any X-rays from leaving section 903 except through the port of opening 907. The automatic conveyor belt 909 is provided at the bottom of the tunnel housing 904, which moves the container to be inspected into and out of the tunnel housing at controllable speeds. A photoelectric eye switch 910 is provided at the entrance end of the tunnel housing 904 to activate an X-ray emission tube 905 to emit continuous low intensity X-rays for a period of time, which extends beyond the time when the article being inspected passes the photoelectric eye switch 910. The X-ray tube section comprises an X-ray control box 911, which is associated with the photoelectric eye switch 910 for activating the X-ray tube for a predetermined period of time after the photoelectric eye beam is restored by passage of article being inspected.

[0046] The detector assembly 901 is preferably one leaded piece of thinner bent steel. A variety of detector systems could be employed in the present invention. The detector assembly 901 could comprise a shielded scintillator screen 912 as its ceiling. It may also comprise a linear sensor array 913 of photodiodes coupled to the scintillator screen 912 by the light coupling means 914.

[0047]FIG. 10 shows an inside perspective view of the scanner apparatus. It includes rollers 1001 and 1002, conveyor belt 1003, isolating device portions 1004 and 1005, entrance curtain 1006, exit curtain 1007, and tunnel housing 1008. The conveyor belt 1003 is controllable by through operator controls [not shown] and moves products to be inspected into and out of the tunnel housing 1008 at controllable speeds. Rollers 1001 and 1002 enable the movement of the conveyor belt 1003. The isolating device portions 1004 and 1005 are located at entrance and exit openings, respectively of the scanner apparatus. The entrance curtain 1006 is mounted on top at the beginning of tunnel housing 1008 by mounting pieces 1009 and 1010. The mounting pieces may be clamp like instruments. Similarly, the exit curtain 1007 is mounted on top portion at the end of tunnel housing by mounting pieces 1011 and 1012. The entrance curtain 1006 and exit curtain 1007 are provided to permit articles to be conveyed to and from tunnel housing 1008 while not permitting any of the low intensity X-rays to escape. The low intensity of the radiation and the distance between the exposure region and outermost curtains 1006 and 1007 precludes any danger of harmful exposure of the inspector to radiation. The curtains are typically made of lead filled vinyl/fabric laminate. The tunnel housing 1008 and the isolating device portions 1004 and 1005 generally provide completely enclosed area inside the scanner apparatus. However, it is not necessary, and in fact may be desirable that portions of the conveyor belt 1003 lie outside the enclosed area. In addition, the rollers 1001 and 1002 may also be outside the enclosed area.

[0048] Referring to FIG. 11, a lockable container is placed on the X-ray scanning system. It includes lockable container 1101, articles 1102, conveyor belt 1103, lead shielded housing 1104, support housings 1105 and 1106, and table 1107. Articles 1102 are carried by a person and introduced into the base of the container 1101. To close the container 1101, the lid is brought in contact with the base of the container. The container 1101 is then locked and allowed to go through the lead shielded housing 1104 on the conveyor belt 1103. The continuous conveyor belt 1103 moves over the table 1107 as it carries articles 1102 into tunnel housing 1104 through the entrance opening and comes out of the exit opening of the inspection station. The articles 1102 can now be removed from the container 1101.

[0049] Referring to FIG. 12, cross sectional view of the X-ray scanning system is shown on which the lockable container is being scanned. It includes lockable container 1201, objects 1202, X-ray source 1203, conveyor belt 1204, scintillator screen 1205, and table 1206. X-ray beams from a radiation source 1203 are passed through the lockable container 1201 as it moves on the conveyor belt 1204.

[0050] In a preferred embodiment, the speed of the conveyor belt 1204 can be varied, its motion can be stopped, or the direction of motion of the conveyor belt can be changed. The objects 1202 to be scanned are exposed to this X-ray radiation source 1203. A light emitting scintillator screen 1205 receives the beam after it has passed through the objects 1202. When the beam interacts with the scintillator, electrons are raised to an excited energy level. These electrons fall back to a lower energy state, with the emission of visible or ultraviolet light. The emitted light forms a pattern proportional to the amount of radiation impinging on it and attenuated by the material structures of the objects 1202. A linear sensor array of photodiodes 1207 is in communication with the scintillator screen 1205 by a light coupling means 1208, such as optical fibers. The light output of the screen 1205 is received by the linear sensor array of photodiodes 1207 which convert the light into electrical signals. The individual electric signals output by the photodiodes 1207 are appropriately integrated and fed to a sampling circuit [not shown].

[0051] The sampling circuit time multiplexes the integrated photo detector outputs into a single output having successive pulses representing each of the photodiode outputs in sequence. These sequential outputs are converted to digital form and stored in memory from where they are fed to video output circuits for display on the video monitor [not shown]. In effect, the inspector obtains a view of the internal structure of the contents of the container 1201 as he views the monitor which images the scintillator screen 1205 as the container passes from entry position to centered position to exit position. Each detectable item 1202 in the container 1201 produces a captured image on the scintillator screen 1205 so that its shape and relative position within the piece of container 1201 are observable on the monitor as the article 1202 is conveyed through the X-ray beam 1203. Spaced superimposed items can be distinguished in a continuous motion exposure. Once the personal belongings have been screened and the passenger subjected to a metal detection screen, the passenger opens the container by inserting the key into the keyway and moving the key in clockwise direction from the locked state to the open state, thereby disengaging the cam from the groove. The lid is lifted upwards and the container is opened. The item, which was stored in the container, can now be removed.

[0052] As discussed previously, the key cannot be removed once the lock is in the open state, thereby preventing passengers from accidentally leaving with the key in hand. Further, although the lock has been described as being locked by a 90 degrees counterclockwise movement and opened by a 90 degrees clockwise movement, it should be appreciated that the opening and closing mechanism of the lock can work in a reverse manner or any other suitable means.

[0053] As various changes could be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all the matter contained in the above description should be interpreted as illustrative and not in the limiting sense. For example, other locking mechanisms, container configurations, and screening processes could be used while still staying within the scope and intent of the present invention. Further, the present invention may be used in other contexts, including the screening of visitors to secure locations, government buildings, or high-rises.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7734102Nov 8, 2005Jun 8, 2010Optosecurity Inc.Method and system for screening cargo containers
US7899232May 11, 2007Mar 1, 2011Optosecurity Inc.Method and apparatus for providing threat image projection (TIP) in a luggage screening system, and luggage screening system implementing same
US7952641 *Dec 8, 2008May 31, 2011International Business Machines CorporationSensor for imaging inside equipment
US8009799Oct 1, 2007Aug 30, 2011Optosecurity Inc.Tray for use in assessing the threat status of an article at a security check point
US8009800Apr 2, 2009Aug 30, 2011Optosecurity Inc.Tray for assessing the threat status of an article at a security check point
US8014493Sep 30, 2008Sep 6, 2011Optosecurity Inc.Method and devices for assessing the threat status of an article at a security check point
US8116428Sep 17, 2007Feb 14, 2012Optosecurity Inc.Method and apparatus for assessing characteristics of liquids
US8781066Dec 7, 2011Jul 15, 2014Optosecurity Inc.Method and apparatus for assessing characteristics of liquids
US8831331Jun 9, 2009Sep 9, 2014Optosecurity Inc.Method and system for performing X-ray inspection of a product at a security checkpoint using simulation
US8867816Mar 27, 2009Oct 21, 2014Optosecurity Inc.Method and system for performing X-ray inspection of a liquid product at a security checkpoint
US8879791Jul 30, 2010Nov 4, 2014Optosecurity Inc.Method, apparatus and system for determining if a piece of luggage contains a liquid product
US9014331Jan 2, 2013Apr 21, 2015Smiths Heimann GmbhRadiation protection curtain
US20050244048 *Aug 5, 2004Nov 3, 2005Ching-Hsiang LiuMicro-image examining apparatus
US20110169941 *Jul 14, 2011International Business Machines CorporationSensor for imaging inside equipment
US20120066158 *May 25, 2010Mar 15, 2012Siemens AktiengesellschaftTheft protection during the security check of carry-on luggage
WO2008034232A1 *Sep 17, 2007Mar 27, 2008Optosecurity IncMethod and apparatus for assessing characteristics of liquids
WO2008040119A1 *Oct 1, 2007Apr 10, 2008Doyle AidanTray for assessing the threat status of an article at a security check point
WO2010136451A1 *May 25, 2010Dec 2, 2010Siemens AktiengesellschaftTheft protection during the security check of carry-on luggage
WO2012000590A1 *May 24, 2011Jan 5, 2012Smiths Heimann GmbhRadiation protection curtain
WO2012122641A1 *Mar 15, 2012Sep 20, 2012Steelhead Security Inc.Method of security screening and security tray for use therewith
Classifications
U.S. Classification70/159
International ClassificationG01V5/00, G01N23/02
Cooperative ClassificationG01V5/0008, G01N23/02, Y10T70/5544
European ClassificationG01N23/02, G01V5/00D
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 22, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: RAPISCAN, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:SHAH, KIRTI;KOTOWSKI, ANDREAS F.;REEL/FRAME:013409/0849
Effective date: 20020926