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A laser backpack for 3D mapping

settembre 18, 2010 Technology No Commenti

During military operations in urban warfare environments, soldiers may often have to find themselves breaking into a closed environment such as a home or a building, and they know too well that a deadly threat might be hiding behind any closed door. Therefore, the opportunity to have information about characteristics of the environment may literally save their lives.

Thanks to a research project on which scientists from Berkeley University are working, this information might come in a three-dimension format, thanks to a backpack which can obtain a quick mapping of the environment around it within just a few seconds.

The backpack is in fact equipped with an array of laser scanning devices, which can provide a quick scan of the surrounding environment.

Along with laser systems, it also features a wide range of video equipment and inertial measurement devices. By joining together the information received by the different elements which make up the scanner, it creates a three dimension model of the area around it, thanks to a particular type of fusion algorithms, which calibrate precisely the information received by cameras and sensors.

The result of this project, funded by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research, might be used by military personnel to plan their actions at best, especially in environments which might conceal a serious threat. Currently, Berkeley scientists have tested the laser backpack to obtain a precise map of two floors of a building inside the university complex.

In the future, this backpack could be teamed up with a hardware system which can display the environment in question in a 3D fashion, to view it before entering. Along with the military, this backpack could also provide a valuable support to firefighters and rescuers, for engineering applications and much more.

Solar Eagle, five years in the sky without landing

settembre 18, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Lately, it looks as if all producers of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are busy with a contest at breaking flight endurance records, making test runs on aircraft capable of flying for weeks in a row without touching the ground, thanks to the solar power harnessed during the day and that keeps them flying also during the dark hours of night.

In this direction goes also the latest project just presented by DARPA, in cooperation with Boeing, which could overcome, and by far, any record that has been set lately. In fact, the US Department of Defense agency has contracted the aerospace giant to develop an unmanned aircraft, powered by solar energy, capable of flying continuously for up to five years at a time!

The possible applications of Solar Eagle, as the project was christened, are naturally in the telecommunication and aerial observation fields, to be used for surveillance missions both civilian and military, or for scientific reasons by using the proper devices and systems for video and image gathering and transmission.

Thanks to its extremely long flight endurance, Solar Eagle might, in the near future, revolutionize the systems currently used for telecommunications, operating at a fraction of the cost of geostationary satellites which are now the backbone of telephone and telecommunications networks.

The project should be operational as of 2014, with aerial vehicles capable of flying at altitudes around 20000 meters. For the moment, the first endurance milestone is to make it float in the air for one month with no interruption, once that milestone is passed, the hardest part will be a continuous improvement of its features in order to enable it to fly with no interruption for years.

Seeing through the keyhole is easy with a small tube

settembre 14, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Those among us who have passed the forty year mark may nostalgically remember those times when we could innocently spy from the key hole, to discover new worlds and untold secrets, or even just to take a look at the lady next door while she was in the bathroom!

Nowadays, the keys used to lock the doors of our homes and offices have dramatically changes, and therefore it is impossible to put your eyes close to the keyhole to take a look at what’s on the other side… unless you have a fiberscope.

Fiberscopes are devices which, thanks to a long and thin tube, allow us to inspect into otherwise closed environments. This tube, with its diameter below 2 millimeters, can be inserted into a pipe to look for any possible leak or imperfection, or in a small hole on a door to spy what happens in the room behind it, and so on and so forth.

Thanks to optical fibers contained inside the flexible tube, and to the needle-type viewer at the end of it, the fiberscope is capable of picking up images where a normal video or photo camera would not be able to reach. It can also be connected to an external camera or video recorder, to save the images it picks up.

There are several possible applications for fiberscopes, not only to inspect environments normally difficult to reach, for example for a mechanic who could take a look at the conditions of a car’s ducts without having to get dirty, but also for video surveillance, for law enforcement trying to gather evidence against dangerous criminals.

For more details on how fiberscopes are working, we recommend that you visit the Endoacustica website, and ask for advice from our specialists who will certainly recommend the suitable option for your professional or surveillance needs.

A water blade against improvised bombs

settembre 14, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For US soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, the number one threat is represented by homemade bombs or IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) hidden by the side of the road or under the ground, waiting to exact their toll. To counter this threat, the Sandia research laboratory has developed a new defense system, capable of neutralizing improvised bombs thanks to water.

This device can produce some sort of “blade” made of water, shot at high speed and precision on the explosive menace, and which can easily penetrate a steel coating and destroy its contents. It is basically a small tank, which along with the water contains an explosive material which can generate a shockwave in the water contained inside the tank.

By using a special kind of explosive, researchers have been able to create a limited explosion, which, instead of spreading in all directions, is targeted towards a specific direction, that is, the tank exit. At this point the water is funneled towards the opening, and it is “shot” at high speed to the outside; when it reaches its target, the water blade would destroy and neutralize it. In the words of one of the researchers, it is like using a knife, but much stronger and much sharper.

This device was designed in cooperation with the Pentagon, which cooperated by sharing experience and tricks from soldiers that have been engaged in neutralizing real homemade bombs. Thanks to their advice and feedback, a satisfying result was achieved.

These neutralizing devices, manufactured by TEAM Technologies in Albuquerque, NM, are ready to be shipped to war zones, and in the future can also be used outside the military, for example in airports, during operations against terrorists, or to force entry into buildings where criminals are hiding, by slamming the doors open.

A helmet for remotely controlled soldiers

settembre 14, 2010 Biotechnology, Technology 1 Commento

The latest technological gizmo which comes out of the DARPA research labs seems to come straight out of a science fiction movie, but it is actually real and military authorities are planning to use it on soldiers in war zones to improve their efficiency.

Stemming from a simple concept, according to which our feelings are ruled by brain activity, researchers came to the conclusion that the human brain can be provided with the “right” stimulations to induce it to reach optimal performance. In this specific case we are obviously talking about battlefield performance.

This performance is achieved thanks to a helmet, which contains several electrical stimulators, connected to a computer placed at safe distance and capable of interacting with its wearer’s brain. The sensors mounted inside the helmet would send electrical pulses to the computer, each impulse corresponding to a sensation, and the computer would respond by sending back micro stimulations which can generate induced feelings.

Thanks to these stimulations it will be possible, for example, to reduce the level of stress, improve cognitive and reactive capabilities, or even increase the level of tolerance to pain, thus inducing a soldier to keep on fighting even if he is not seriously wounded. Basically, all this amounts to a remote control of the soldier’s mind, which turns him into a war machine.

Of course, along with questions on whether this will work or not, this project arises questions from an ethical point of view, as it would completely get rid of the human factor, turning soldiers in real flesh and blood robots, programmed to follow orders verbatim without realizing when they are passing the limit which gets them into a dangerous situation. At this point, it would be better to send REAL robots, thus saving human lives in war.

A compromise reached for BlackBerry in India?

agosto 27, 2010 Technology No Commenti

After reaching an agreement with the Saudi government, for RIM, manufacturer of BlackBerry smartphones, another deadline is approaching, set by the Indian government which has requested to have access to encrypted data, and more specifically to email traffic, being routed via the Blackberry platform.

Such a request, as well as those coming not only from Saudi Arabia, but also from the United Arab Emirates and from Indonesia, is based on not clearly specified criteria of national security, but RIM counters that it is not possible for them to grant access to selected governments, and that in any case this would not be feasible from a technical point of view, since as we know, data is encrypted according to an encoding key created not by the platform operator (that is, RIM), but by each single user, and RIM does not have a copy.

In order to find a compromise in this story, Research In Motion has proposed that it could create and lead a forum among operators in this field, in order to find a generally agreed solution, which can guarantee a government’s legitimate need for maintaining national security, trying not to harm the equally legitimate need that citizens have for their privacy.

At this stage, no details have been disclosed about who might attend this forum and when it may take place, but the BlackBerry manufacturers have expressed their support and will to cooperate with the Indian government in searching a common solution that does not hamper anyone’s needs, while specifying that an interruption of service would create problems not only under the communication point of view, but also of a commercial nature for Indian businesses; furthermore, the fact that RIM may be placing its servers in Indian territory to back local service does not mean that the government has automatic access to the data it is asking for.

Pentagon was under attack by hackers

agosto 27, 2010 Technology No Commenti

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The Deputy Secretary of Defense of the U.S. has recently admitted that it is indeed true, as rumors that circulated within the security community already had it, that in 2008 the Pentagon was subject to an attack that has already been dubbed the most serious intrusion ever suffered by US military computers.

Apparently the incident was discovered, and its consequences put under control, only 14 months later, and this part is maybe even more worrying than the attack itself. According to what Deputy Secretary Lynn stated, the attack was originated by an USB drive connected to a military computer somewhere in the Middle East, by some non specified foreign spy.

Inside the USB drive was a malware that has been able to penetrate the Central Command network, and spread itself through systems which were hosting military secrets and contained sensitive data. Thanks to this code, acting as some sort of beachhead, the perpetrators of the attack have been able to transfer data towards their servers.

Fortunately, consequences of the attack were relatively limited, as the malware code, called “Agent BTZ” needs public Internet access to be fully functional, and the US Defense Intranet is fortunately using its own infrastructure. Had the code been working also via Intranet, consequences could have been disastrous.

According to some media speculation, there might be some Russian agent behind the attack, although this rumor has not been confirmed by any official source. What is sure is that, after this experience, the Pentagon has specifically banned its officials from using non secure USB drives, that is, drives without a specific certification that makes them suitable for military and government use.

A software to predict criminal behavior

agosto 26, 2010 Technology 1 Commento

The story narrated by Philip K. Dick in his Minority Report, which inspired a successful movie with Tom Cruise, seems to have come true, although a bit different, in Philadelphia and Baltimore. In fact, if in the movie police was employing some clairvoyants to predict murders and intervene a few instants before they could actually happen, in these US cities, police is using a software which can analyze the odds according to which a set of convicted criminals can give in to the temptation of committing new crimes.

This software is currently used to assess the opportunity for a stricter surveillance on detainees released on parole, to try as much as possible and prevent the risk that such detainees commit another violent crime. In the near future, police in Washington DC is hoping to adopt an updated version of this crime prevention software, developed by a research team at University of Pennsylvania, also to try and prevent lesser crimes.

Should this software prove efficient, it could be used not only to evaluate the level of surveillance necessary for a parolee, but also in court to establish the bail amount. So far, parole officers have been responsible for assessing the parolees’ progress during their parole period, and according to their judgment, along with the detainee’s criminal record, the surveillance level is set.

Thanks to this software, it will be a computer to make this decision, based on an algorithm developed by Professor Berk’s research group, which takes into account several variables ranging from criminal record to place of residence, which can expose him to a higher risk of becoming a killer.

A GPS navigator in your favorite supermarket

agosto 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

All those who use a portable GPS navigator, either integrated on a cellphone or a pocket one, know well that, when you find yourself inside a residential building or a complex such as a shopping mall, the navigation system would go mad and loses its accuracy, because naturally it is designed only to provide guidance on the road, not inside our homes or in a supermarket.

But today, thanks to a tool developed by the Washington State-based Point Inside, it is possible to use GPS navigation also indoors, at least if you are a customer of any point of the Meijer supermarket chain, based in the US Midwest.
In fact, from a cooperation between these two companies, an iPhone application is born, which will allow supermarket customers to navigate with extreme precision within the mall, to have an easier time looking for their favorite products and avoiding time wasting while wandering among the shelves.

This GPS application, called Find-It, is linked to a database of over 100 thousand items, and can provide guidance to its users towards the product they are looking for, by using a combination of signals from GPS satellite, mobile phone network and the one from the local WiFi network used inside the shops. Currently, Find-it is only available on 4 supermarkets from the Meijer chain, where it is being tested for any possible future development.

In the future, such an application could make its way out of shopping malls, to land in several other places where an assistance for orientation might be welcomed, for example in airports, especially the large international hubs where the less savvy traveler might easily get lost. Thanks to such an application, it could be much easier for them to find their way to the right boarding gate, with no risk to get lost… and to lose their flight!

GSM Interceptor, to listen to all cellphones around you

agosto 26, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For police and law enforcement forces, the opportunity of intercepting conversations travelling in the air over the cellular network is often vital during an investigation, as it allows them to gather intelligence and evidence that can lead to the capture of dangerous criminals, and most of all, can be used against them before a court of law.

Of course, the best way to pick up conversations is by being able to identify the suspect’s mobile phone, which is not always possible due to obvious security reasons, as coming out of the darkness and trying to provide our target with a spy mobile phone might be too risky and compromise the entire mission.

In such situations, the best way to move is by trying to identify the area where our target is moving, and start the action by using a passive telephone interception system.
For example, GSM Interceptor is a mobile phone eavesdropping device which can pick up every conversation taking place on a cellphone within 500 meters, and its presence can not be detected in any way by the network operator.

Thanks to it, it will be possible to monitor and store up to 200 different numbers, obtaining a recording of every phone call, as well as all information concerning the counterparty’s phone number, date, time and duration of call.
GSM Interceptor works by automatic scanning of all channels, and once it detects a channel where a conversation is going on, it would automatically start listening, displaying all identification numbers of the engaged handsets.

Those numbers are IMEI, that is, the one that uniquely identifies each and every handset, IMSI, the number assigned to the SIM card mounted inside the same handset, and TMSI, which is a number that is assigned by each single “cell” to a phone when it is within its coverage area. Thanks to the first two numbers, it will then be possible to locate and identify the phone belonging to your target, and at a later stage monitor his calls wherever he is.

The passive monitoring system GSM Interceptor is housed inside a comfortable suitcase, and can be taken along with you anywhere to monitor phone calls in the surrounding area, without looking suspicious; it just needs a 12V power to run, so you can even connect it to the cigarette lighter of your car for outdoor operations. It works with GSM networks, both encrypted and non encrypted, on 900 and 1800 MHz band.

For obvious reasons, due to the sensitive nature of this device, only law enforcement or governmental agencies can purchase and use GSM Interceptor. For more information on how this telephone interception system works, we recommend that you visit the Endoacustica website and contact our experts for detailed answers.

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