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A 32000 dollar pocket-sized chemicals detector

ottobre 3, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The Massachusetts-based Thermo Scientific has just launched its RMX, a portable device that, with a weight just over 900 grams, can save lives and limit the damage connected to a terrorist attack carried out with chemical weapons.

In fact, First Defender RMX, as it is called, is a substance detector, which can indicate the presence, in the air around him, not only of harmful chemicals, such as nerve gas, anthrax and other substances generally associated with terrorist threats, but also explosives and narcotics.

Equipped with a flexible tube hose connected to a sort of handheld computer, First Defender works by pointing the end of the tube (with its sensors) on the object to be analyzed. No need to destroy or alter the sample, First Defender will determine in a few seconds if the material is hazardous.

Designed for use by armed forces, security services, military personnel or for forensic investigations, First Defender displays the results of its work directly on its screen, and with its intuitive interface it is very easy to use, so the person who runs it will not need any particular training.

Operating at temperatures between minus 20 degrees to 40 above zero, it can then be used in a wide variety of environments (even though in the Iraqi desert in summer, 40 degrees means that you are having a cool day). According to its manufacturer, First Defender is also suitable for use by private citizens, even though it is not clear how useful it can really be. Moreover, we are talking about individuals with large financial resources, since the cost of $ 32,000 does not make it exactly affordable for all budgets.

A flying Humvee? Look up, soon you might see one

ottobre 3, 2010 Technology No Commenti

… Or at least, if you happen to live in Iraq or Afghanistan, one day, over your head, you might really see a vehicle that is something between an armored car, a helicopter and a small plane. In fact, the DARPA (who else?), a few months ago, has launched a tender among several manufacturers of military equipment for a project called Transformer.

The idea stems from the need to provide a defense homemade bombs (or IEDs, Improvised Explosive Devices) and from roadside ambushes, which represent the greatest threat to troops stationed in these troubled areas of the world. If the protection provided by armor plating is not sufficient to save soldiers and vehicles from such attacks, the solution could to fly over the threat.

The Transformer should be able to spread its wings and its rotor blades, similar to those of an helicopter and take off vertically within a maximum of 60 seconds, enough to escape ambushes, reaching an altitude of approximately 3000 meters. The driver of a Transformer need not have a flight patent because the flight is almost completely automated, and on a screen inside the vehicle he would see some sort of “virtual road“, so that whoever is sitting at the Transformer’s wheel should simply follow this path, just like a video game, to reach the destination safely.

A few days ago, DARPA announced that the contract for development of this technology has been entrusted to AAI Corporation, a Maryland based manufacturer, which has won a contract of over $ 3 million to create the first flying tank.

Protection from wiretapping: for everyone, and for everyone’s needs

ottobre 3, 2010 Technology No Commenti

In the 21st century society, where knowledge and information are available to everyone and are just a simple click or a Google search away, it seems that there is nothing that can not become of public domain within hours or minutes after it is said or done.

So, when for personal or work reasons, you need certain information to remain as confidential as possible, you have to take adequate measures. For example, are we 100% sure that our home phone, or our office lines, are duly protected against any outside intrusion?

Nowadays, intercepting a telephone call, either from a landline or cellular phone, has become much easier, and more affordable for all, than anyone could have possibly imagined just a few decades ago, thanks to technologies that were once only available for secret agents or international spies.

As our phone calls and conversations, even in areas normally considered safe, can be heard almost at any time, the best thing to do is certainly to adopt the proper countermeasures in order to achieve the right defense against eavesdropping.

If you have doubts that, someone may have planted bugging or recording devices in your office, for example because you learn that someone outside the circle of your staff and partners is aware of issues discussed in private meetings, or because a competitor constantly manages to beat your offers to customers with a lower price, modern technology comes to rescue you with a wide array of options.

Equipment for protection from wiretapping is now available almost anywhere on the Internet; these devices can work in several ways to ensure your privacy: for example, by using bug detectors, devices that emit radio waves over a wide frequency range, you can detect any bugs placed in your environment (and identify its location); you can also place a bug detection system directly on the telephone line. This detector, not only is capable to determine whether a listening device has been placed on your phone line cables, but it would also send a small low voltage spike over the cable, enough to defuse and disable listening bugs, and allow you to speak freely again.

Another aspect not to be underestimated is the presence of GSM bugs that can be used to listen to your conversations or private meetings in real time, using the cellular network to relay their content to a distant listener. To protect yourselves from this modern day wiretapping, for example, you can use a jammer, that is, a device that, again thanks to the emission of radio waves, is able to “confuse” the phones present within its range, making it impossible to access to the network, and subsequently to transmit any intelligence.

The jammer not only prevents any unauthorized listener from hearing what’s going on, but there are also models capable of preventing any digital audio recorder from working. Furthermore, using a jammer or scrambler is useful not only to prevent leaks, but also provides a regular and smooth flow of the meeting, without any interruptions due to unwanted or unexpected phone calls. In short, working time is optimized, while keeping everything private.

So if due to the increasing availability of secret listening technology, intercepting a phone call is now possible for almost everyone, the same can be said for the defense against such external attacks; one just needs to find the right way, according to their needs, to ensure that their private conversations, at home or in the office, remain private.

In any case, it is always advisable to rely on an expert when it comes to privacy defense; for example, at Endoacustica you can find answers to all your questions in this particular field.

An amateurish spy microphone with just 20 dollars?

settembre 29, 2010 Technology 1 Commento

Nowadays, on the Net you can find instructions for everything, ranging from the recipe for a pasta dish all the way to details for making a homemade bomb.
Therefore, it does not come as a surprise if you happen to find the instructions for making a amateur spy microphone.

At a cost of about $ 20, virtually anyone can be able to build a small laser light spy microphone. This microphone is able, through an invisible infrared laser beam, to detect the slightest vibrations of a door or window, caused by sounds produced by the human voice beyond the wood, metal or glass.

The laser beam is collected by a transistor, and thanks to a small amplifier it is then converted into an audio signal. The process of building up the whole thing is relatively easy and would not take too long.

Obviously though, this is amateur equipment, which at most can be used to spy on your neighbor (possibly with harmless intentions and just for fun!). For professional use, it is definitely advisable to use a completely different kind of equipment, such as a directional microphone.

Based on the same concept, laser directional microphones are capable, if their invisible beam is pointed at the glass of a window, to read vibrations and pick up conversations behind it, up to a distance of over a mile. This kind of equipment for remote listening is recommended for use in completely different situations, for example for police forces gathering evidence, or for private detectives during an investigation.

Obviously, compared to this amateurish spy microphone, these devices have a much higher cost, but the result you can achieve are in a class of their own, and can also be used as evidence during trials.

Swarms of flying robots for post-earthquake relief

settembre 29, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The idea of a swarm of flying robots might bring to mind old science fiction movies and alien invasion threats, but scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, believe that these flying robots could be very helpful to the community.

In fact, the Swiss Institute is working on a project called Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network, abbreviated as SMAVNET, that is, precisely, a swarm of miniature robots that fly over an area where there a natural disaster just occurred, and that are able to re-establish communications, giving rescuers the opportunity to optimize relief operations.

In case of disaster or calamity, what is often not possible is to exactly assess the damage, as it is impossible to establish a telephone contact with the affected areas.
SMAVNET is based on a number of MAV (Micro Aerial Vehicles) built out of lightweight material, weighing only 400 grams each, with an electric motor powered by a battery which provides power for approximately 30 minutes of flying time.

Equipped with an array of sensors and navigation equipment, SMAVNET robots are guided over the affected area, and at that point, thanks to the wireless network that keeps them in constant communication with each other, forming a sort of node that acts as a flying antenna, and allows to maintain communications between the rescuers’ operational base, and rescue workers directly located in the area.

The robots are able to operate autonomously, but can also be controlled via a user interface installed on a computer connected wirelessly, which can control the entire swarm at once.
Although the flight time of 30 minutes is rather low, the EPFL team has demonstrated, however, the reliability of the system. The next step will be to extend the batteries life to provide a longer operating time.

A new faster helicopter with fixed wing rotors

settembre 29, 2010 Technology No Commenti

A few days ago we talked about the Sikorsky X2 project, a coaxial helicopter that can fly at a top speed of 250 knots, well above the current world record of about 216 knots.

Now comes the prompt response from the Eurocopter consortium, part of the EADS family that includes Airbus, which launched its high-speed helicopter, which was given the name, who knows whether by coincidence or as a challenge, of X3.
Despite the claimed top speed (220 knots) is less than the 250 knots achieved by its rival, what is interesting in this helicopter is the technological innovation content, especially regarding propulsion.

Although the model produced by Sikorsky uses a pair of coaxial blades, that is, mounted on the same axis and rotating parallel one above another, Eurocopter chose, in addition to the classic 5-blade main rotor with horizontal rotation, two small rotors, mounted on two fixed wings attached to the chopper’s body, which spin vertically to provide forward thrust and reach a higher speed in a shorter time.

The X3 concept is designed for use in applications where the maximum operating speed is a vital factor, such as fast raids (especially at night) behind enemy lines to strike sensitive targets, or to recover and evacuate wounded soldiers.
Everything is also achieved without an additional cost, as opposed to Sikorsky, whose coaxial rotor is significantly more expensive than the traditional one, or even than the combination between traditional and fixed-wing rotors.

In a few words, the race for the fastest helicopter on Earth has just started, and the winners may be, for once, users and purchasers of these fast toys.

A new exoskeleton version from Raytheon

settembre 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Raytheon has just announced that it has completed the final test runs on a new version of its exoskeleton Sarcos XOS , previously supplied to the U.S. military to allow soldiers who wear it to carry heavy loads without trouble or fatigue.

In its previous release, whose development lasted over 10 years, the Sarcos XOS, thanks to a series of servo motors, made it possible for its wearer to double his strength and carry out the work of two men, all without breaking a sweat.

In this latest version, which kept its predecessor’s name and was dubbed XOS 2, the designers focused was not so much on increasing strength, but rather on decreasing energy consumption, using hydraulic power more efficiently to enable a lower consumption of electricity. In this way, Raytheon was able to add other functionalities, without affecting the level of power used to run it.

Currently, these exoskeletons are powered by a good old electricity cable, which limits the movement range to the length of the cable itself. The ultimate goal of what might be called XOS 3, is to create exoskeletons powered by rechargeable batteries, which would allow its wearer not only to double or triple his strength, but also to move more freely and carry his loads around.

For example, a battery-powered exoskeleton could be used in combat zones, to rapidly evacuate wounded soldiers and bring them to safety in order to give them first aid; alternatively, it could be used to quickly bring supplies, heavy equipment, or other weapons to the troops engaged in a battle.

Flying Lift, a perfect view from above

settembre 28, 2010 Technology No Commenti

If you want to get the best out of your video camera, and add a vantage point of view from the top, you do not need to risk your life to climb on top of a mountain, you can just just mount your camera on a radio controlled quadrocopter, which will allow you to shoot breathtakig views while hovering in the air.

The Flying Lift model, weighing just 500 grams, easily foldable and transportable in a backpack, is designed to carry conventional digital cameras, and consists of a micro-helicopter with four rotors, a small receiver unit that can be comfortably tucked into your backpack, and a pair of glasses with a small display.

On this display, with one eye, you can see the what the camera on your Flying Lift is seeing at that time, while the other eye can follow the chopper’s route.

The control unit is equipped with two antennas, and the system can automatically switch between one or the other to achieve the best reception, for receiving images from above and to send operation commands to your camera. It is also equipped with a screen that displays the flight data and the battery level, to avoid losing that great view.

Thanks its four propellers, the Flying Lift is able to fly in a stable manner, providing clear images thanks to the simplicity and precision of the control unit, which controls the micro-helicopter just like a videogame console joystick.

The Flying Lift was presented at the recent Photokina, the largest international trade show of photography and video equipment. It is not yet available on the market, but it should be released later this year, with a not-exactly-cheap) 10,000 euro price tag.

Afghan people filed and identified thanks to a scanner

settembre 27, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Since a few months, the Afghan forces, in cooperation with US and NATO troops, are intensively using an eye scanner to identify and store profiles not only of prisoners but also of armed forces and police staff, to grant (or deny) access to certain areas using biometric identification.

The next step of this project is the creation of a database including a large chunk of the civilian population, and the issuance of more than 1.600.000 biometric identity cards (over a total population of about 29 million) by next May. The idea is to control groups of Talibans in the country, not only by verifying the identity of the person under scrutiny, but also their past, any crime history and, most importantly, the possible connections with enemy combatants.

In this way, the Afghan police intend to prevent any infiltration by the Taliban and their sympathizers, especially from abroad. The plan, which also provides some kind of census of the population, has met its share of obstacles and difficulties.

For example, the fact that in Afghanistan there are two similar biometric identification programs, one run by NATO forces (which already contains data from more than 400 thousand people) and one from the Afghan government, and the two systems used are not compatible and therefore not can communicate with each other, limiting their efficiency and reliability.

Therefore, a person who on the Afghan side is recognized as a friend, may not be stored in the NATO forces database, and even run the risk of being arrested for no reason.
The road to complete reliability of biometric identification is still long, and the communication between two different databases is only the first step.

Protecting anti-bomb robots from bombs: a good idea?

settembre 27, 2010 Technology No Commenti

The increasingly intensive use, in war zones, of expensive technological equipment to protect soldiers from possible threats, such as IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), leads to an interesting paradox. In fact, QinetiQ, manufacturer of a series of anti bomb robots used by the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, is planning to equip their Talon robot series with a jammer to prevent the use of any remote detonation systems.

Worldwide, there are over 2800 of these radio-controlled devices, which are used to collect and disable or detonate bombs, while the military personnel who control it are sitting at a safe distance. Many of these robots have been damaged or irretrievably destroyed by the same bombs that they were trying to neutralize, and Iraqi insurgents know well that launching rockets against the robots means depriving U.S. soldiers of a significant part of their technological advantage.

Therefore, protecting these robots certainly makes sense in terms of safety. However, one of the main reasons why “expendable” robots are used is their relatively low cost (approximately 100 thousand dollars) as well as their easy repair them in case of damage, and the fact that they do not carry any kind of secret technology that may be helpful for enemies.

Instead, providing them with additional technology could result in a switch of the rebels’ interest no longer (or not only) in harming enemy soldiers, but also in the capture of valuable technological equipment.
Even in Afghanistan, American soldiers found themselves more than once in situations where they had to fight to reclaim their drones, exposing themselves to danger just to save the technological equipment that was supposed to keep them away from danger.

According to QinetiQ, however, the use of jammers should protect not only their robots, but also the soldiers who follow them to verify that all bombs were neutralized.


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