The Horizon Europe project PARSEC, “Parcel and Letter Security for Postal and Express Courier Flows”, runs from October 2022 until September 2025. It is one of the two selected submissions from the 2021 call on “Advanced detection of threats and illicit goods in postal and express courier flows” (Topic id: HORIZON-CL3-2021-BM-01-04 & Project type: Research and Innovation Action).
- Setting the scene -
Well aligned with the topic description at the EC Funding and tender opportunities -Portal, PARSEC research and innovation activities will contribute to build capabilities for more effective detection of threats and of dangerous and illicit goods within postal and express courier flows, without impeding those flows or disproportionate intrusion into privacy. Currently there is a lack of technology that allows screening the volumes and at the speed of processing the parcels, making manual intervention necessary. At the same time, organised crime groups think they run a relatively low risk in exploiting postal and parcels supply chains to move a range of illicit and dangerous goods. Successful innovation could hence also have a deterrent effect on criminal organisations to use such channels. Detection capabilities will be built for post and parcels crossing the external borders of the Union, but also for internal shipping, without introducing additional controls that may disrupt free movement of goods. Cooperation with operators of postal services lies at the heart of the PARSEC-project, and solutions that could improve data quality, availability, integration among different steps in the flow, and interpretability, fall also within the project´s scope. (note: paragraph slightly modified from the topic description at the EC Portal).
-Scope for threat materials & illicit goods types-
The HORIZON-CL3-2021-BM-01-04 call text pointed to following examples of threats and dangerous and illicit goods that the project could focus on: …explosives and explosive precursors, CBRN material, drugs, cash, contraband or counterfeit items, including counterfeit identity documents, and fake medicines. Discussed and explored between PARSEC consortium partners during the proposal preparation stage (April-November 2021), following three “threat material centric -use cases” were agreed to be in the heart of the research and innovation activities in PARSEC:
Multi-threat risk assessment: De-risking of parcels and letters with data to reduce load on subsequent technical detection and manual inspection activities.
Illicit drugs detection: Delivery of capability which enables fast and predictable postal and express courier operations without burdening inspection resources with high rates of false positives.
People safety to counter explosives, CBRN threats, and other hazardous materials: Contribution to such detection capabilities to deny misuse of the postal supply chain and protect postal employees, law enforcement officers and wider public from harm.
All in all, the three use cases will strengthen risk analysis, threat detection and resilience capability in the postal and express courier networks.
-PARSEC concept & Innovation areas-
PARSEC R&D agenda consists of four innovation areas that deliver tools and techniques for customs and law enforcement agencies, as well as parcel service providers, to fight criminal and terrorist abuse of postal and express courier networks.
Combined data science for next-generation risk assessment
Multi-energy photon counting detector for quick and accurate first line inspection
X-ray diffraction screening solution for enhanced second line inspection
Neutron-induced gamma-ray spectroscopy for improved third line inspection
The new innovations are developed and tested in the frame of end-to-end parcel delivery chains, as illustrated in the diagram below.
-Vision for system-of-systems & PARSEC architecture-
By the end of the project, PARSEC will deliver blueprints for a comprehensive detection architecture that builds on all four PARSEC innovation areas. This “system of systems” will combine the data-driven risk assessment with the three stages of non-intrusive inspection technologies, namely the: multi-energy photon counting detector, X-ray diffraction screening, and neutron induced gamma-ray spectroscopy.
The proposed architecture will be chosen based on simulations and real-life tests of alternative control set-ups across the parcel delivery chain. The vision is to fully integrate control operations and detection technologies into the flow of parcel delivery process at sorting centres, airport exchange offices, and customs facilities. Ultimately, this collaborative design and customization of the PARSEC architecture will contribute to seamless process integration, and a functional multi-actor ecosystem, that is a key requirement for high service quality and security excellence.
Next to the PARSEC Flow-simulation tool, which will provide important support for the architectural design and blueprint production, PARSEC consortium is also developing a Total-optimization model, which considers cost trade-offs for example between “increased security preventing trafficking incidents versus decreased socio-economic costs due to less incidents”.