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A micro camera hidden in a button

gennaio 16, 2010 Technology No Commenti


One of the latest novelties in the miniature video camera field comes, needless to say, from Japan, where Thanko, a manufacturer specialized in miniature gadgets, has just released an improved and upgraded version of its micro camera concealed inside a button, which allows for recording of sound as well as images.

In fact, if the previous Camera Button version was capable of filming high definition videos and shooting image stills, this newer version has been improved by adding a microphone which makes it possible to add sounds to your footage, thus enabling you to use it for shooting of covert videos that can be used as evidence before a court of law.

This micro recorder is approximately 7 centimeters long, and a lens that looks like a common jacket button, and can therefore be easily concealed inside clothes without raising attention. The footage is then saved on a Micro SD type memory card, with a capacity of up to 16 Gb. Power is supplied by a Lithium-ion battery, which allows for continuous recording up to 70 minutes.

Recording is started by simply pressing a button, while the previous version was equipped with a remote control which made operations slightly easier. In any case, given its price range around 55 US dollars, we are talking about a quite reliable product.

Of course, if it is a professional micro camera we are after, or a real digital micro video recorder to be used in surveillance field, it is recommended to spend a bit more to provide yourselves with a product that guarantees a flawless performance; in order to do so, our advice is to visit the Endoacustica website.

Controlling a drone from your iPhone

gennaio 14, 2010 Technology No Commenti

AR Drone

There are iPhone applications to do basically anything that can come to your mind, and it was an easy bet that one day, the Apple phone could step into the radio controlled unmanned helicopters field. In fact, manufacturer Parrot has just introduced its AR.Drone, a small helicopter equipped with two digital video cameras, which can be controlled through your iPhone or iPod Touch.

The system is still in its early stages. And it should be available for retail sales in the second half of 2010. The helicopter sports 4 rotors, which can be covered by a hull to allow for indoor usage, and a flight stabilization system to guarantee high quality imaging, while controlling its route remotely thanks to the iPhone motion sensors.

Designed for a non-professional usage, but suitable both for leisure and for aerial surveillance operations, the AR.Drone miniature helicopter has a weight of approximately 400 grams, and a carbon fiber shell, and is powered by a built-in Lithium-ion battery, which can provide enough energy for 15 minutes of flight time.

Parrot, the manufacturer of this system, has designed it for usage within augmented reality video gaming systems, where AR.Drone can detect targets or other drones, and fire rockets (not real ones, of course!) while fighting a virtual battle.

Images captured by the front camera are displayed on your iPhone, while its motion sensors will transmit motion information from your phone to the drone, thus guiding it in a realistic way. When you take your fingers off the screen, an autopilot system will keep the drone hovering at approximately 1 meter height, and in case of lost connection, AR.Drone is automatically and softly landed.

At the moment, no information has been disclosed concerning the device’s price range, but sure enough some info will be given before launch.

Energy harvesting piezoelectric sensors

gennaio 14, 2010 Technology No Commenti


During the past month of December, at International Electron Devices Meeting which was held in Baltimore, Belgian researchers from IMEC, the largest European research centre in the fields of nanotechnologies and nanoelectronics, have presented a small piezoelectric sensor which can harvest power from vibrations caused by pressure or motion.

Thanks to its characteristics, this sensor is capable of generating enough power to gather various types of data, and transmit it to a receiving station every 15 seconds.
The data type can vary depending on the equipment used in connection: for example, by teaming up this system with a sensor for air pollution detection, it is possible to obtain information about the quality of the air; alternatively, using it to power a GSM transmitter installed inside a car, one can obtain power supply from the vibrations caused by the vehicle’s motion, and use the power to transmit the intelligence gathered.

The sensor presented by IMEC researchers has provided up to 85 microwatts, a record figure for its small size, by using a MEMS technology, which helps keeping costs to a minimum by using aluminum nitrate, a material which allows for a performance three times higher than normal piezoelectric materials such as lead zirconate.

Furthermore, MEMS technology allows for a boosting of integrated circuits, thus giving the possibility of creating autonomous systems on a single chip. During first tests, the energy gathering system has been connected to a small wireless temperature sensor and subjected to vibrations. The sensor has successfully been able to gather its data, sending it to a receiving station at 15-second intervals.

Micro video recorders for the holidays, and not only

gennaio 5, 2010 Technology No Commenti


It may be a bit too late for a Christmas present for a relative or a friend, but it’s never too late to make yourselves ready in case you have to take video footage on the go.

If during your New Year party with friends, or your Christmas lunch with your family, you thought even for a second that you wished you had a video camera on hand to save memories of a particularly funny or special moment, you really might have used a miniature digital video recorder.

Thanks to their extremely small size, they are perfectly suitable for being comfortably placed in the front pocket of your jacket, and can be concealed inside key holders, cigarette lighters, pens and so on, in order not to arise suspicion and take candid or covert recordings.

Generally, the high definition video footage is captured by a microscopic high sensitivity viewer, and stored on an embedded memory card which, depending on the model, can have a capacity of up to 8 Gb, that is, several hours of recordings in the most common video formats, which can easily be downloaded on your computer thanks to a USB cable.

Besides leisurely use, some models of micro video recorders hidden inside everyday objects, are suitable for covert gathering of images and evidence during surveillance operations or corporate counterespionage, and are therefore recommended for use by law enforcement agencies or professionals in the surveillance field.

Not only to shoot quick videos from your holidays or parties, but also to gather evidence of marital infidelity or of any crime that you may be witnessing, usage of a pocket video recorder can help you solve a wide range of problems, at home or at work, and even help keep our cities secure!

Solar energy can provide eyesight to the blind

gennaio 5, 2010 Technology No Commenti


For many patients suffering from almost total blindness, the lack of hope is often as hard as their illness, since there are no medical solutions which can provide them with an almost normal eyesight, and an almost normal everyday life.

A solution might be coming from California, and more specifically from Stanford University, where a group of researchers is working on an artificial prosthetic retina of extremely small size (only 3 millimeters wide and 0.03 millimeters thick), which is capable of transmitting the images gathered towards an external videocamera.

The receiving camera, in turn, sends images towards a pocket PC, on which an image management software is installed; the images are finally sent towards an LCD display mounted on the inside of a pair of special glasses.
The transfer of data towards the sensor, as well as the supply of power to make it work, is carried out via the very light that enters the eye; in fact, the chip is literally covered with microscopic solar cells, which provide the necessary amount of power once the implant has been placed on the back of the patient’s retina. For each pixel, the sensor has three miniature photovoltaic cells.

In short, this prosthetic eye is effectively powered by solar energy. At the current stage, since we are talking about a project still in its inception phase, it is capable of providing eyesight of 1/10, a level which, technically, still qualifies the patient as legally blind.

Once the development reaches further steps, researchers can foresee that a level of at least 2710 will be reached, enough to carry out basic functions such as recognizing faces, and slightly improve the quality of life the almost blind patients.

GSM encryption unveiled: is our privacy at risk?

gennaio 4, 2010 Technology No Commenti


Many sites worldwide are reporting today the news about a young German hacker who published the algorithm used by GSM cellphone networks to encrypt their phone calls. It is a 64-bit encryption key called A5/1.

This encryption has been used for well over 20 years to manage the phone calls placed by over 4 billion mobile phones worldwide. Making its key available to the general public might put the privacy of our conversations at risk, and Karsten Nohl, the hacker who recently announced his discovery during a convention, has stated that his move is aimed at pushing GSM operators towards implementation of more advanced systems to provide a higher security.

Operators are actually already planning to boost their technology to switch to 128-bit A5/3 encoding, which will provide protection from attacks that, according to Nohl, can be carried out simply with a computer and some radio equipment valued at around 2000 euros. For operators, another way to guarantee that their communications are interception-proof is to switch to the UMTS network which so far can not be intercepted.

For end users while waiting for operators to implement the necessary security measures to guarantee security on their networks the best option is certainly adding one further layer of security by encoding their calls through the usage of an encrypted mobile phone.

Encrypted cellphones are normal handsets on which a piece of software is installed that generated a 256-bit encryption key dramatically more secure than the normal GSM network 128-bit encryption. Thanks to the installation of the encoding software you can be sure that your conversations are secure, because even if a third party listener should get hold of the GSM access keys, he will never be able to have your own additional key.

By making sure that our counterpart’s cellphone is equipped with the same key, our phone calls will be safe from any kind of eavesdropping, since a hidden listener can only hear an unintelligible noise, absolutely impossible to translate to sounds and words for those who do not have the appropriate decoding key.
Furthermore, this software is password-protected, to prevent unauthorized access by anyone who might put their hands on our phone.

Thanks to this two-tier security cloak, you will then be able to make sure that your conversations stay absolutely confidential. Security and privacy of phone conversations is absolutely vital in fields where confidentiality of communication plays an important role, such as for example politics or public administration, especially for those working with public tenders.

Those who run a business may certainly take advantage from encrypted cell phones, to keep their information safe from competitors, who might be interested in obtaining clients’ names and conditions of sale, in order to gain new business. Police forces can also benefit from it, being able to establish a secure communications channel when carrying out operations against crime.

Even if the GSM network should no longer be bulletproof, the average user still has the possibility to protect himself from unwanted listeners, and law enforcement are still able to keep fighting criminals. For more information on encryption software to protect your phone calls, you can visit the Endoacustica website.


dicembre 28, 2009 Technology No Commenti


GSM bugs are covert listening devices which, in order to transmit their intelligence, use the mobile phone network, thanks to a SIM card installed on them.

Among the endless possibilities offered by the eavesdropping devices market, the usage of a GSM bug has become more and more widespread, especially in the last few years, thanks to the possibility of carrying out surveillance operations without distance limits or radio coverage problems, this safeguarding the listener’s security and privacy, as he will no longer need to be hidden nearby but will be able to be sitting literally anywhere.

The increasing popularity of GSM bugs is due to the fact that they only come with advantages, such as the clarity of their signal (thanks to the digital network), the possibility of sending said signal worldwide just like you would do with a normal phone call, and all this without having to use any particular receiving device other than a normal mobile phone.

Our GSM-001 listening device is made up of a small shell with two cables, used to power the device and to connect it to a microphone with high sensitivity features. On the inside, along with the housing where the SIM card is placed, you can find a processor which manages all of the bug
‘s functionalities.

Generally, for all other covert listening devices based on GSM technology, one has to call the SIM card’s phone number to start listening in. In this case, the device is equipped with a high-sensitivity automatic activation sensor, which makes it possible to have the bug place a call towards a preset number. This happens when its built-in sensor detects a movement, a sound or, if planted inside a car, when the vehicle is started.

Furthermore, programming the settings can be done without being physically near the bug, as you just need to send a simple text message in a particular format, to make sure that the processor reads it as an operating command, enabling or disabling the relevant functions, or setting the sensitivity level of either the microphone or the sensor.

By sending an SMS it will be possible not only to change settings of the various functions, but also to reset the bug, in order to prevent it from being intercepted by any bug sweeping devices nearby. We will also be able to set up the telephone numbers enabled to control the bug, those towards which it will send a text notification, or those to be automatically called as soon as the sensor detects a motion.

You can also send a simple SMS to receive directly on your phone a report, where you will see the status of all functionalities installed on your GSM listening device.

Once you get hold of your bug, you also have to get to know the characteristics of the place where you intend to plant it, as well as the duration of the surveillance operation, in order to choose the most suitable power option for our needs. In fact, if the bug will have to stay away from us for a long time, or if we need a continuous monitoring, we will have to power it through the mains, in order to avoid performance gaps caused by a low or exhausted battery.

We will not have this kind of problem if our surveillance operation is a short-term one (up to one week), and non continuous, as in this case a normal 9V battery will be more than enough. Once the location and the power option of your bug have been set up, we will have to set up the usage mode.

At this point we will have to choose whether we will be calling our bug, or it will be calling us. Also, if installed inside a vehicle, we will have to choose whether we want or not to receive an SMS notification as soon as the car’s engine is started or stopped.

In order to make all this possible, we will have to choose the phone numbers that are enabled to call our bug to listen to the conversations around it, or those towards which the bug will call directly as soon as its sensor picks up a motion or a voice. For bugs planted inside a vehicle, we will have to set up the number towards which a notification must be sent in this case.

At the same time, you can set the sensitivity level of the activation sensor, in order to minimize the possibility of false alarms, caused by some noise coming from outside. For each of these functions, a maximum of three numbers enabled to control the device can be set.

Along with all the functions highlighted above, by sending a simple SMS you can run several utilities, such as restarting the bug, resetting it to factory settings, switching it off to prevent it from being detected by bug sweepers, enabling or disabling the flashing LED light, or setting up callback options in case of line failure.

In a few words, as you can see, by using a GSM bug you have at your disposal a faithful friend for your surveillance operations, with a high degree of flexibility that allows you to tailor its usage to best suit your needs, to make sure that success is achieved without any risk!

CyberQuad, a micro helicopter for city surveillance

dicembre 23, 2009 Technology No Commenti


Cyber Technology, an Australian manufacturer of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) has just introduced its latest creation, a radio controlled mini helicopter equipped with four rotors for a higher maneuverability, which make it suitable for being used in urban environments where space is tight.

This micro helicopter goes by the name of CyberQuad, and it sports four ducted rotors, with the duct acting as a protection which allows usage even indoors, without danger that the rotors might hurt someone. This kind of rotors generally requires a higher focus on stabilization equipment, and generally has a shorter operating range and a lower payload capacity when compared to a helicopter.

CyberQuad’s peculiar structure brings together the small size and the safety of ducted rotors, with agility and ease of use of a normal mini helicopter. It can carry a payload of up to 1.5 Kg of video and photo cameras, or sensors for detection of harmful gases or polluting agents, and its rotors are not generating any sparkles, allowing for use even in presence of flammable gases, for example as a support to fire squads on rescue operations or while fighting a fire.

Just like a normal helicopter, CyberQuad has vertical takeoff and landing, and its limited size (53x53x16 cm) and weight allow for easy transportation and operation. Its peak speed is approximately 65 kilometers per hour, and it can fly for a period between 25 and 40 minutes.

The low noise generated by its ducted rotors makes it suitable for short range aerial video surveillance operations.

A flexible photo camera, to reach everywhere

dicembre 23, 2009 Technology No Commenti


The Russian designer Art Lebedev is famous for his extravagant but useful concepts, such as for example Transparentius, a large screen mounted on the back of a transport truck and connected to a camera placed on the front, which allows car drivers behind the truck to see what’s beyond the truck, minimizing the risk of accidents when overtaking.

Lebedev’s latest gadget is a concept called Fleximus, a flexible camera equipped with a tube that can be used either stand-alone or connected to a module sporting an LCD display.
At the current stage, Fleximus is merely a project, so no technical specifications of any kind have been made public, but on the ingenious designer’s website you can see the development steps.

Once a toy like this should enter mass production, it may not be just a gadget to surprise your friends, but a useful tool to take snapshots or to examine points which are normally hard to reach; for example, a mechanic might find it extremely useful to inspect corners of an engine under maintenance, and a plumber might use it to look into a leaking pipe.

In our specific field of surveillance, it might be a useful tool to gather evidence and take pictures without being noticed or arising suspicion: who could think that that strange tube is actually a camera?

Of course, since the flexible camera is still in the conceptual phase, and we do not know if it will ever be released, along with specifications the manufacturer has not released any information on retail price, but something tells me that it would not come cheap…

Take Up Thy Stethoscope…. and Listen, in secret

dicembre 21, 2009 Technology No Commenti


How many times did we find ourselves wishing we could listen to what our colleagues in the next room are saying, to find out what they really think about us? Or that we could spy on our annoying neighbor to expose his strange (or even illegal) habits?

In many cases, having the chance to listen to what is said behind a wall can be useful not only to protect yourself in cases of office power struggle, or to make sure that your spouse is really faithful, but also to prevent or expose corporate espionage, or even to frame dangerous criminals.

To do it securely, modern technology lends us a hand, thanks to wall microphones, the digitally enhanced version of our doctor’s stethoscope; in fact, in most cases, this kind of microphone is made up of a stethoscope, connected to a small but powerful amplifier which augments its sensitivity and allows the stethoscope, by analyzing the vibrations caused by human voice against any wall, to listen to what is being said in the next room.

For an even more accurate listening operation, you can use a window microphone, that is, a transmitting device which, when placed on the outer glass of a window, uses the same principle to read vibrations of glass and intercept conversations behind it, transmitting them towards a receiver placed up to a few hundred meters away.

As you can imagine, this particular kind of devices is more suitable for professional users, such as detective agencies or law enforcement, or in any case, for people who want to get the best out of their eavesdropping operation, while minimizing any possible risk connected with planting hidden bugs.


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