Photo: Per Borrud / Pelles Photo AB SCANPIX/TT

Smart sensors synchronise securely


Critically important facilities are today guarded by ever-smarter sensor systems. FOI is a world leader in developing such systems, which build on synergies between civil and military technology.

FOI is engaged in research and development of security systems based on sensor technology, for both civil society and the Swedish Armed Forces. Civil systems include those that are created for protecting such critical facilities as nuclear power stations, server halls, embassies and hospitals. The military equivalents are the Armed Forces’ bases. Technical development in one advances technical development in the other. As ever more powerful sensors are developed for the military, the civil sector pushes for increased hardware miniaturization.


FOI is developing systems that are increasingly better at detecting threats earlier and at greater distance. This can involve the detection of individuals or suspicious activity in prohibited areas, or of an armed intruder in an otherwise weapons-free zone. The trend is towards smart systems, where many sensors collaborate to identify threats, for example via deviations in patterns of movement. Systems, in turn, become better at deflecting false alarms, which is a crucial concern for international peacekeeping missions and their associated military camps, often situated in urban settings.


Globally, FOI has a leading role in developing new, more autonomous surveillance systems. Such systems are not only able to observe what is happening in their own immediate area, but are adept at smart communication with other sensors in “reaching agreement” about what is occurring in a specific spot, or area. The operator’s job is simplified, since monitoring an event requires only a small number of screens, rather than a dedicated screen for every single sensor, which is the norm today.


The development of sensor systems is not only about technology. Especially the civil sector requires systems that are ethically sound and accepted by those who are being monitored. Together with external experts in ethics and law, FOI is studying how to ensure that future systems remain acceptable and within the limits of the law, both today and in the future.