This is the third interview in our series featuring the eight Opioid Detection Challenge finalists. We’re introducing each finalist and learning more about how their novel detection plans could quickly and accurately detect illicit opioids in parcels, without disrupting the flow of mail. The finalists are currently participating in a 14-week accelerator to develop their plans into testable prototypes. 

We spoke with Simon Godber from the HALO X-ray Technologies team. The company’s solution detects the presence of opioids by measuring how X-rays are diffracted when they pass through a parcel. By emitting the X-rays in a conical structure, this solution generates a stronger signal and improves the accuracy and speed of detection.

What inspired you to enter the Opioid Detection Challenge?
Seeing first-hand the effects of opioid use on young people and realizing that thanks to its novel technology, HALO could significantly improve opioid detection in the mail, prevent dangerous illegal shipments from reaching users, and save thousands of American lives every year.

What sets your opioid detection technology apart from existing solutions?
HALO uses a novel X-ray diffraction (XRD) technology invented by team members Nottingham Trent University Professor Paul Evans and Cranfield University Professor Keith Rogers. While laboratory XRD is recognized as the gold standard for materials identification, it cannot penetrate sufficiently into packages and parcels to provide reliable information. It is also too slow and cumbersome to scan objects in industrial and commercial applications. HALO’s technology is capable of penetrating thick objects to identify hidden substances in real-time.

What is the one thing you wish people knew about the role of your solution in the postal inspection process?
Traditional X-ray solutions require significant manual intervention. The HALO solution is different and can be operated in a completely automated manner to detect opioids in the mail 24/7. It can be easily updated over time as the nature of the threat changes, keeping Americans safe from opioids and other harmful substances now and in the future.

What is your primary focus during the 14-week prototyping accelerator as you advance your solution?
We will focus our efforts on fully understanding the application environment and the current threat materials. We will adapt our systems to respond to these threats consistently and robustly, with the maximum probability of detection and a minimum level of false alarms.

Read about the other finalists’ detection solutions and subscribe to the Challenge newsletter to read more interviews with finalist teams.