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A robot sentry for active defense. Maybe too active?

agosto 18, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Just while we are talking about domestic surveillance, for those who think that using an electronic protection system, advanced and efficient, but still a passive defense, may not always be enough, there are also active protection systems capable of attacking and being the ones who give the first blow to any potential offenders, making them harmless, without having to use closed circuit television, without having to call the police or wake up the neighbors with a loud siren.

For example, this is the case with SentryBot which, as the name goes, is a robotic sentry, that is, some sort of micro helicopter which can monitor your house and protect it against any unwanted attacks or intrusion.

As soon as it detects the presence of uninvited guests within its range, SentryBot would activate its rotors and start floating in the air, approaching the potential threat and observing it with its camera. At this point, its Intruder Recognition software can determine whether the person in question is a real threat, or maybe it is just the old lady living next door, back from the market after shopping.

In this latter case nothing would happen, but instead, if SentryBot detects a real threat, it would activate its weapon equipped with Solid-Plasma ammunition, capable of rendering the intruder harmless, of course without causing permanent damage, in order to chase him away and make sure that, next time that he wakes up with the insane idea of visiting someone’s home without being invited, he thinks at least twice.

Certainly, it makes you wonder if it’s REALLY the case of delegating defense of our assets to an electronic device which, software or not, has a finger on the trigger. Maybe good old cops can still play their part in such cases.

Want free WiFi? Use a drone!

agosto 18, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Seeing people, toting their laptop computers or smartphones, and walking or driving around while looking for a free wireless Internet connection has become a common sight in our cities (and your humble blogger has to admit to having done it more than once with his mobile phone…). For those who do not want to waste too much time looking for the right airwaves, two American hackers have created WASP.

WASP stands for Wi-Fi Aerial Surveillance Platform, and is nothing else than an UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), no longer in use with the US Army and that our friends have rigged to turn it into a Wi-Fi detector. On the inside, it features am Arduino motherboard, connected with a WiFi card pointed downward, which turns it into a flying hotspot capable of coverina approximately 100 square meters from a height of 120 meters.

Basicall, from that height WASP can pick up several wireless network signals, process them and send them to the ground with its hotspot, providing free coverage within its range, This is achieved by mounting on the drone, along with a WiFi card, also a 3G phone and a camera, in order to see any interesting spot and guide WASP towards is thanks to the phone’s GPS receiver programmed remotely from the ground.

Alternatively, this drone can float in the air above a certain area as soon as it picks up a wireless network, happily “sucking” connections from those who have inadvertently left it open or without security protection.
The only question that might come to mind is: how long would a trick like this last before it catches attention either from nosy neighbors or, worse, from suspicious air traffic control authorities?

Global Observer completed its maiden flight

agosto 17, 2010 Technology No Commenti

A few days ago we had the chance to report about Global Observer, the UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) developed by AeroVironment in cooperation with NASA, and about how its wing load test, last step before finally taking the air, was successfully passed.

The first test flight has been successfully completed just a few days later, and Global Observer has taken off from the Edwards Base in California, which has seen several landings of space vehicles such as Space Shuttle. After approximately one hour of flight in the California skies, including a sequence of basic maneuvers, and after reaching a maximum altitude of approximately 1300 meters, the vehicle has smoothly landed in the same place where he had taken off.

During the test, Global Observer was controlled from the ground by a real Air Force pilot, thanks to the remote controlling module called LRE (Launch and Recovery Element). This first flight is obviously a simple stem towards a series of tests which will get increasingly difficult, aimed at demonstrating its endurance characteristics, and reaching its maximum flying time.

As already explained, Global Observer is capable of flying at altitudes between 17000 and 2000 meters, above the heights reached by conventional commercial airliners, and above any disturbance caused by weather. Thanks to its high altitude flight capabilities, it can cover a surface of 280 thousand square kilometers, and by alternating two such aircrafts in continuous flights, it is possible to cover any point on the Earth once a week.

Once its video, communication and surveillance systems are integrated, and flight tests at longer ranges are completed, Global Observer will finally be able to live up to its name and monitor our planet from above.

Take your doctor with you: wear it!

agosto 17, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For health fanatics, who would like to know their conditions at any time during the day, but also for patients in need of a constant and continuous monitoring, for example after going through a surgery, but would like to try and live a normal life without having to spend their days waiting outside the doctor’s door, a solution might come from Germany, where designer Olga Epikhina has created HealthPals.

HealthPals is a monitoring system that you can take with you by wearing it. It is made up of a few wearable devices, in the form of a bracelet, a cool-looking collar or some sort of headphone. These small devices contain a small energy generator, which would harness body heat and use it to power itself thanks to a thermoelectric generator.

On the inside, they are equipped with microscopic sensors, which would gather data such as respiratory frequency, heartbeat rate, any relevant variations in body temperature and so on. Via a Bluetooth connection, the data is sent to a portable computer or to a smartphone, such as for example an iPhone, which in turn would transmit it via WiFi or Internet directly towards a processing center, where it can be viewed and analyzed by medical personnel.

At that point, doctors will be able to decide whether or not it is the case to call up the patient for a checkup, or determine that the post-surgery process is satisfactory, and the patient can keep living normally, taking his daily activities, seeing friends and so on.

For now, HealthPals is just a concept, but a potentially great aid for doctors and patients alike, who could see their life greatly improved.

Monitoring BlackBerry: What to do and what not

agosto 17, 2010 Technology No Commenti

As we all know, RIM, producers of BlackBerry phones, is in the middle of a struggle against several government willing to have the opportunity to monitor communications taking place on its platform. This battle, in some cases, saw RIM having to settle for a compromise in order to be able to continue its operations on certain markets.

In order to avoid more future cases of this kind, and most of all to clarify what is possible and what is not for countries willing to put their hands (and their ears) on their citizens’ conversations via the BlackBerry platform, RIM has published a series of guidelines, which specify what one is authorized to do when monitoring BlackBerry traffic and services.

In short, those who want to monitor conversations on a BlackBerry will only be able to do it for national security reasons, and monitoring will have to be “carrier neutral”; this means that the telephone network providers in a specific country will have to grant the local authorities an access to the BlackBerry net which is not higher than that to other networks.

Furthermore, and this is the most important part, Rim will not change the security architecture of its servers. Therefore, security keys will still be individually set and owned by single users, and RIM will still not be able to have a copy, which of course they would not be able to give out to anyone; no exceptions of any kind, for any country, are foreseen to this security standard.

The statement issued by RIM is a response to those rumors according to which the BlackBerry manufacturers had “opened the doors” of its sensitive data to the Saudi, Indian and United Arab Emirates governments, against which the struggle is going on between privacy and control advocates.

Biological sensors to detect chemical threats

agosto 15, 2010 Technology No Commenti

General Electric has just announced that it has been awarded a funding from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the agency from the US Department of Defense which carries out researches for new technologies to be used in the military field.

This research project is aimed at developing biosensors which would be manufactured by GE Research and are derived from a nanostructure in the wings of a particular type of butterflies.

Inside their wings, in fact, are contained what could be described as microscopic sensor capable of detecting any threats in the air which may damage the butterflies’ delicate balance.
The color of their wings, in fact, is also due to the very structure of their wings, whose sensitivity to light is used to give these fragile animals some survival tools.

By analyzing their characteristics, within 3 years of work the General Electric researchers have come to the result of a platform of sensors with similar characteristics, which can work either with visible light or near infrared.
Thanks to them it will be possible to monitor, for example, the quality of air near power plants, as well as the quality of water, in order to make sure that the water flowing inside pipes that run all the way to our homes is clean enough.

Furthermore, by analyzing quality of the air it will also be possible to perform a quick check-up via a patient’s breath, to detect any particles that reveal a serious condition. Of course though, what interests the Department of Defense is detection of any possible chemical threats in the air near a possible terrorist target in our cities, or providing armed forces in war zones with such sensors, in order to use Mother nature’s knowledge to provide security to both citizens and soldiers.

An USB stick to recover deleted data from your iPhone

agosto 15, 2010 Technology No Commenti

If your spouse’s or girlfriend’s behavior makes you wonder if she has some dirty secret, you know that quite often, taking a look on their mobile phone can bring interest things to light. But if the person in question uses a bit of caution and deletes text messages, calls history and Internet activity, finding spicy details can get much harder.

For worried husbands, whose wives use an iPhone, the solution comes as a small USB stick, absolutely similar to your ordinary USB portable drive. The iPhone Recovery Stick must be connected to the USB port of your computer, and by connecting your handset to another plug with its USB cable, it will be possible to retrieve all data previously erased from your iPhone.

Depending on the amount of data to be retrieved, the entire procedure might take anywhere between 15 minutes and a few hours. To make the search quicker, it is equipped with a user interface, where you will be able to enter your search terms, in order to go straight to the point if you know the name of your spouse’s suspected secret lover.

Of course though, search gets a bit harder if the information we are looking for has been deleted a long time ago, and the phone has been intensively used in the meantime, with a large amount of flowing data which may have erased what we are looking for.
Recovery Stick works on computers that use Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, and on iPhones with operating system up to iOS 3.x, although a version for iOS 4 is being prepared. Its price, as disclosed by the manufacturer, is around 200 dollars.

Infrared video cameras, to see the invisible

agosto 12, 2010 Technology No Commenti

When we were kids, to write “important” secret messages for our friends, we were using an age-old trick: just use lemon juice instead of normal ink, and the message receiver would only have to run the piece of paper over the flame of a candle to read it.

It was undoubtedly a romantic solution, and causes a sweet tear of tenderness now when looking back. Nowadays, the dear old lemon juice has been replaced by special markers which use invisible ink, while instead of the candle one can use a much more advanced infrared video camera.

The infrared camera, in fact, can pick up light at frequencies below what the human eye can see. Special inks used by this kind of markers can only be seen within that range, and thus can be detected only by devices which can see that light.

So, using an infrared camera to take video footage of a piece of paper with apparently nothing written on, it will be possible to see the invisibly written secret message. The ink, based on alcohol, can be used for a wide range of applications, such as for example marking banknotes, which could become traceable in case of a bank robbery, or maps and papers with a confidential content.

Furthermore, connecting the camera to a normal monitor, the contents of papers written with invisible ink can be viewed in real time, using it as an authentication protocol to access restricted areas.

For more details and advice on all possible applications of infrared cameras in your work or any other way, we recommend that you consult our experts, visiting the Endoacustica website.

Global Observer, one more step towards the skies

agosto 12, 2010 Technology No Commenti

A few days ago, Global Observer, an UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) manufactured by AeroVironment in cooperation with NASA, as just taken a vital step forward during its development phase.

In fact, the drone has just completed a series of wing load tests, at NASA’s research center in Dryden, which have been successfully completed and have certified that its wings, with their 50-meter wingspan, can withstand the dynamic stress that they will encounter when flying at altitudes ranging from 17000 to 2000 meters.

Global Observer is a HALE (High Altitude, Long Endurance) type aerial vehicle, capable of staying in the air for up to a week at the time, thanks to its engine powered by liquid hydrogen, and to monitor a circular area of over 170 thousand square kilometers, with a diameter of approximately 1000 kilometers, thanks to the video, photo and satellite positioning technology mounted on board, which would transmit the result of its monitoring job to a receiving station on the ground.

The data gathered can be used either for military surveillance, or to provide support to people affected by a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake or a flooding. While waiting for ground rescuers, Global Observer can in fact start mapping the place, to prepare an overview of the struck area and optimize the rescuers’ job, as well as functioning as a flying antenna to provide communications coverage.

The Global observer project, funded with more than 120 million dollars coming from the US Department of Defense, should achieve results by the end of year 2011, when the first completed plane should enter service. For now the wings are ready… on with the rest now!

How to remove yourselves from Google Street View

agosto 12, 2010 Technology No Commenti

We often happen to read funny news about people finding out that they have been photographed by the ubiquitous miniature cars that gather photos for Google Street View.
If for most of us, ending up on the search engine might be something to be proud of, or play the cool guy with friends and girls, unfortunately not everyone has the same idea.

For example, in Germany, Google gave owners of buildings in 20 German cities the possibility to opt out and request their building to be hidden from view, to avoid privacy problems which, for government buildings, may become dangerous in case of terrorist threats.

The problem is that the decision of opting out must be made within a time limit of only 4 weeks. Once the deadline is expired, users from these 20 cities will no longer be able to remove themselves from Street View, while people living in other cities will still be.

If building owners could run into trouble to have their properties removed, there is now a software which can remove people who should accidentally find themselves on Street View and find it inconvenient, for example, showing themselves where they are not supposed to be (for example, near their lover’s house…).

For those who don’t want their privacy threatened by Google’s mini cars and their cameras, this software can electronically remove a passer-by’s image. Basically, it identifies any human shape, and replaces it with background images taken from the shots immediately before or after.

Sure enough the resulting image could look strange, as sometimes it leaves a shade in place of a pedestrian, while in other cases, the only sign of a previous human presence before the treatment could as well be… a pair of feet with no body attached!


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