Buying a bug transmitter on Amazon without knowing where it is from? Actually it is not a good idea!

“You know what? I bought this spy bug on Amazon, but now I am not able to make it work!” This is a typical comment submitted on Amazon or Ebay after having recklessly purchased the product in question. Actually we have been saying that for long time: before buying any …

KA-101: a full audio monitoring kit fitted with spy bug, receiver and micro recorder

Are you on the fence about the audio monitoring device to be used in your investigation? Well, KA-101 is just the device you need! Not only because it makes a combined use of bug transmitter, RF receiver and mini recorder, but also because it is more affordable than other devices …

Which video bugs are better to use in investigation?

Do you think audio bugs are the only surveillance devices to be used for monitoring rooms or any other environment? If so you’re barking up the wrong tree, because over time investigative technology has increasingly developed UMTS or WiFI video bugs, proved to be very effective in undercovered or remote …

Economic dependence and cheating: a study reveals a possible correlation

A few years ago, on the site of ASA (American Sociological Association) was written up an article concerning a possible correlation between economic dependence on one’s partner and a large number of cheating cases. In the article, the US sociologist Christin L. Munsch, a researcher who spent a long time …

Microregistratori digitali

Telephone interception on the rise in the US. And in Italy?

giugno 10, 2010 Technology No Commenti

In the States, the public opinion is extremely sensitive when it comes to financial crimes, especially when Wall Street is involved, where huge sums of money are constantly moving; these huge sums are often made up of normal people’s lifetime savings, and thanks to reckless financial operations carried out by so-called “wizards”, these savings may end up disappearing within a short time.

To fight such crimes, certainly one of the most efficient methods is using telephone eavesdropping, which can prove very useful in gathering intelligence to fight tax evasion, scams and financial offences of several kinds.

In fact, if thanks to the usage of miniature bugs, the US law enforcement has been able to uncover scams as big as the one perpetrated by the Ponzi-scheme master Bernie Madoff, who embezzled something like 15 billion dollars over the course of several years, recourse to interception, both for phone calls and for conversations that take place inside a room or a conference hall, can also be a great tool to fight terror, which is often tightly connected to the world of finance.

In the US territory, during the year 2009, interception of phone calls and environmental conversations has increased 26% in comparison with the previous year. Obviously, the US justice places a great deal of trust in the technicians specialized in this kind of war against crime, in the analysts who work on the intelligence gathered, and in detectives who place all this information into the right context to fight crime and defeat terrorist cells or scammers’ gangs of any kind and at any level.

Without including in the count investigations for crimes connected to terrorism and national security, whose data is not published, last year the installation of bugs, listening devices and hidden microphones in the US has been authorized for more than 280 thousand people.

In Italy instead, by hiding behind the excuse that “honest people are afraid that their conversations might be eavesdropped” or that “trials happen first on the media and then before a court”, the Berlusconi administration is doing everything to pass a bill which, by limiting recourse to interception of phone calls and conversations, and reducing the lifespan of eavesdropping operations, would in the end make life much easier for criminals, scammers, pedophiles or mobsters, while tying the detectives’ hands, or at least, making their job much harder than now.

According to this bill, telephone interception will be possible only for criminal offences which can be punished with more than 5 years in prison, and for a maximum of 75 days, which can be prolonged by 3 days at the time after a specific court order (one every 3 days). For mafia crimes, the time limit is 40 days and can be extended of 20 days at a time. Environmental eavesdropping will be done via bugs which can be installed only for a maximum of 3 days (plus a 3-day extension).

Furthermore, it will no longer be possible to publish the intercepted conversations on newspapers or magazines, otherwise journalists might be sent to jail, and their editors dearly fined.

All this goes in a direction which is exactly the opposite of the world trend (as we can see from US statistics) of using the services of the much-feared, ever present and almighty technological “Big Brother” which can potentially listen to our every breath, by taking advantage of possibilities offered by technological advancement to defend honest people and fight crimes, not only of a financial nature but also connected with terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime.

Only a few weeks ago, with an unprecedented move, even the US Administration showed a polite, albeit clear, criticism of this new Italian bill. What we all hope for, not only those who work in the surveillance or law enforcement field, is that the Italian government takes a step back and rethinks its position.

How not to lose a single detail out of your CCTV footage

giugno 9, 2010 Technology No Commenti

When you are using a closed circuit TV system, in case of particular events it may happen to have to sit and closely watch hours and hours of footage that always looks the same, to find those few seconds in which something important is happening, and try to extract clues or information out of those scarce, and sometimes blurred images, while the risk of losing important details because of an understandable lapse of attention is always present.

In order to avoid losing details which might be of vital importance for any kind of investigation, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed a software to analyze video surveillance footage.

This software quickly scans and analyzes the footage shot by a surveillance camera, for example during a night when something happened to the area under control, squeezing everything into a few minutes of footage which will contain only images showing events of relevance; all this is achieved thanks to an algorithm which can tell a still image from one which contains moving parts or objects.

In practice, what the software does is getting rid of all those hours in which absolutely nothing happens inside the camera’s visual range, saving only the moments in which cameras detect a motion. In this way, those who later analyze the footage can, in case they notice something important, return to the original video and view it normally to place the images in a context.

This kind of software might find a field of application for video surveillance of areas where nothing is supposed to happen during the night, for example like the dark halls of a museum, while it may not be very useful if used, for example, to monitor areas with a lot of traffic, for example transportation companies with cargo trucks moving around.

360-degree video surveillance for a complete visual coverage

giugno 9, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Surveillance cameras, which nowadays can be seen at any street corner in our cities, use “fish-eye” lenses to cover an angle as wide as possible. Of course though, a fish-eye lens would end up providing a distorted image, especially on the outer edges, offering a wide view but a lack of clarity or of proportions.

In order to sort out the issue, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working on the development of a video surveillance system which would provide clear images at a very high resolution without losing a single detail.

This result can be achieved by using several single cameras, all mounted together on some sort of dome, which can shoot videos of the same area from different angles, providing a 360 degree image. The footage shot by the eyes of each single camera is then “stitched” together by a software which would eliminate the overlapping electronically, thus creating a single 360-degree video image.

Furthermore, each single camera is capable of zooming into a specific area of interest, to have a better specific view without losing visual contact with the rest of the environment under surveillance, and all this while maintaining the clarity of detail provided by a resolution of approximately 100 megapixel.

It is also possible to create an “exclusion zone”, like for example the vault of a bank: as soon as an intruder enters the area, the alarm would immediately go off.
The core of the system is a software which can stitch images together, just like you can do with photographs, with the difference that in this case we are talking about moving images, and that the stitching is done in real time while the image is being filmed, in order to guarantee a complete coverage of the entire area, and to be able to observe closely any potentially dangerous situation.

Do you have a vehicles fleet? Track them by GPS

giugno 8, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For companies that have a fleet of company vehicles, either cars entrusted to agents, sales representatives or managers, or trucks for cargo transportation, it is important to keep their movements under control, not only to make sure that it is used according to company guidelines instead of personal use, but also to intervene promptly in case of an inconvenience or an accident, which can always happen to those who travel a lot for work.

For example, to make sure that agents do not overdo with personal use of company cars, or that they do not use it to run a business of their own or with competitors, it can be useful to equip the car with a GPS tracker which, once mounted inside the car in an invisible way thanks to its tiny size, allows you to remotely receive its position at any time, and make sure that everything is under control.

Since it has a SIM card just like the one you have on your mobile phone, you can just send a simple SMS at any time, to receive immediately a message containing information regarding the car’s or truck’s whereabouts, even for more than one vehicle at the time (up to 40).

This GPS system is connected to a monitoring software which, installed on the monitoring computer at your office, can keep track of all cars. Thanks to this software, you can track the movements of any vehicle during the day and have them displayed with a graphic animation, with all data saved on a history file that you can retrieve at any time.

For more information concerning this GPS tracking system, along with a wide range of products for monitoring, surveillance and protection of your safety, we recommend that you visit the Endoacustica website, where you can contact our online experts for a specific consulting service.

A GPS navigator for the visually impaired

giugno 8, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Those who have lost, or never had, their sight, are always forced to resort to an external aid, such as a support person or a guiding dog, as soon as they set foot outside their home. To make life a bit easier for them, at least during their journeys on foot, Na:Vi, the first GPS navigator for the visually impaired has just been created.

This GPS guidance system helps them not to lose their orientation in any situation, without having to use a dog or other people to find their way, and even without having to use the worldwide recognized white cane which identifies a blind person.
Na:Vi was developed by a group of Austrian designers, and at a first glance it looks like a comfortable and elegant bracelet, which beneath its modern look is packed with technology, like gyroscopes and laser sensors which enable the user to get oriented in the space close to him by spotting any obstacles on the way.

It is also equipped with a GPS navigation system, with a three-dimensional user interface. Thanks to this interface, it will be possible to “display” the directions in Braille, so that the user will easily be able to find his way home simply by running his fingers on the bracelet.

Therefore, this system, apart from being a valuable support under a practical point of view, is a huge step forward for the visually impaired on the way towards regaining self-sufficiency, with an undeniable benefit also from the point of view of morale; in fact, it helps to alleviate the sense of being dependent from others, that can often come along with suffering from diseases that make it impossible for their patients to live a completely free and self-sufficient life.

Police is after you… with a robot car!

giugno 8, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Those with the unhealthy habit of pushing a bit too hard on the gas, and maybe even willing to challenge the cops by breaking through a checkpoint or trying to escape the police chasing them, might calm down a little bit if the agents were assisted by Scarab, the prototype of an electric vehicle, completely automated, designed to help police forces during a car chase.

Designed by Carl Archambeault, Scarab is an electric vehicle unmanned prototype, which in normal conditions would just be side by side with the police cars during a routine patrol operation.

If during one of these operations, a car is seen speeding, the police officer inside the patrol car would send a signal via a radar gun to “mark” the vehicle, just like fighter jets do with their enemies during a battle in the air.

At this point, a signal is sent to the Scarab, and it immediately starts the chase, driving close enough to the offender until he decides to stop. Scarab is powered by an electric engine which makes it completely emission-free, and does not carry any kind of weaponry.

In order to make sure that the fugitive does stop, he might be equipped with an array of technological devices such as jammers, who would transmit interference signals which cause damage to the electronic systems in the car, forcing it to stop and wait for the cops to come on the scene.

For now, Scarab is just a prototype, real only in its designer’s ideas, but in the future, either it or the solutions that could be installed on it might really be used by police forces, much to the chagrin of heavy-footed drivers…

Your eyes can guide a camera in your glasses

giugno 7, 2010 Technology No Commenti

For now, it is only a prototype. But in the future, we might all have a microcamera embedded in our glasses, to record whatever we see and use it in a thousand different ways: to tape work meetings, to make a video out of the most important moments of our day, or to post movies of our everyday life on the Internet, with a real “point of view” flavor.

End in order to meet the needs of the “lifelogging” phenomenon, that is, of sharing one’s life on the Internet, Sony is running tests on a prototype of eye camera, that is, a simple pair of glasses, which on top of one of the lenses have a miniature video camera, equipped with an infrared LED pointed at the user’s eye.

The infrared light (which can not be seen by the human eye and will not disturb its user) is pointed towards the eyeball, to follow its black part and measure the eye movement, then moving the micro camera in the direction where the eyes are looking, thus recording whatever the glasses’ wearer is seeing or looking at in that moment.

Of course, for now this camera is only in its early stages as a prototype, which would not be very comfortable as it is in the photos, but for the future, they are of course working to make everything smaller in order to mount the camera directly into the frame of your glasses, and on top of that, to add a few features.

For example, the miniature camera might be equipped with a text recognition software, in order to copy the text you are reading (a function that could be very useful for university or college students as well as for spies on the lookout for compromising evidence), or with a GPS location device which would be able to record the exact geographical coordinates of what you are seeing, and these coordinated might be used in covert operations as well as by lifeloggers eager to share their current exact position at any time.

A laser gun to bring down enemy unmanned aircraft

giugno 7, 2010 Technology No Commenti

As explained recently, usage of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) by the US Army is so widespread in war zones, that their total mission hours have just reached the one million threshold. Naturally though, the fact that pilotless aircraft do not bear any risk for ground personnel does not keep them safe from being, in turn, exposed to the danger of being brought down, in spite of the fact that their small size and their electric power makes them difficult to identify and strike.

On the other hand, the US Army is certainly not the only one that uses UAVs, and to defend themselves from possible enemy attacks or reconnaissance missions carried out via drones, the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has developed a laser gun, specifically designed to identify and hit this kind of aerial vehicles, especially in scenarios of war at sea.

The gun, called LaWS (Laser Weapon System) shoots a laser beam, controlled by a guidance and location system; so far, during a series of test runs, the laser gun has brought down a total of seven remotely controlled aircraft. In the future, thanks to the integration of even more powerful and accurate laser beams, US Navy researchers hope that they can extend the system’s operating range, and power it up so that it can strike a diverse range of flying targets.

Thanks to these laser systems, it will be possible not only to bring down enemy drones, but most of all, to do it in a much more soet-efficient way when compared to the usage of conventional weapons mounted on rockets. Furthermore, the laser defense system could, in a future that we hope will never come true, be mounted on commercial airliners, as an active defense against potential terrorist threats and attacks with rockets or missiles.

A surveillance camera that writes what it sees

giugno 4, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Just yesterday, we mentioned a research project aimed at the development of surveillance cameras which can recognize what they see and understand the possible interactions thanks to visual intelligence.
Today we will talk to you about I2T, an acronym for “Image To Text”, that is, a computer-based visual system, developed by UCLA researchers in cooperation with Virginia-based ObjectVideo.

The software which constitutes the core of I2T contains visual algorithms which analyze the images and are capable of compile a sort of list of whatever they can see within the image. In practice, the image is broken down into a series of shapes, and the shapes are matched with a name.

The process of matching shapes with their names actually is based on a human factor. In fact, Song-Chun Zhu, the system developer, in 2005 participated in a project which involved cooperation from some art students, who were set to work on a catalog of more than 2 million images, identifying and classifying their contents in over 500 categories.

In practice, once the image is split into several shapes, these shapes are matched against the archive and the corresponding name is assigned to them. Furthermore, Image To Text is also capable of describing movements of objects within the footage and describe them with automatically generated sentences like “Man1 enters car at 23:45, leaves car at 26:14”.

Recurring objects can be stored and recognized, so a car previously seen will still be called Car1 when reentering the scene, instead of Car2.

The I2T system, which could certainly be useful for closed circuit video surveillance systems, needs a lot of improvement before being a real match for human cognitive capabilities, and hitting the market. Our friends working the night surveillance shift can rest safely, they are not losing their jobs!

One million hours of flight, with no pilot

giugno 4, 2010 Technology No Commenti

At the beginning of the war in Iraq, back in 2003, US armed forced were equipped with 13 pilotless aircraft, the so called drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). From that time on, the growth in deployment and usage of these systems has been exponential, until current days, when over 1400 vehicles of this kind are actually deployed in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the middle of April 2010, the drones used in Iraqi territory have “celebrated” a total of one million hours of flight. The overwhelming success of aerial video surveillance systems is mostly do to their efficiency in carrying out their missions automatically or thanks to a remote control, without having to unnecessarily put personnel’s lives in danger.

In fact, whether they are used for reconnaissance or target acquisition operations, thanks to the installation of photo and video equipment (also infrared for night vision), or they carry out real combat missions thanks to the application of warheads and weapons, UAVs (or UAS, Unmanned Aerial Systems) have revolutionized the modern idea of war, making it resemble a videogame, at least from the point of view of the UAV operator.

The first pilotless aircraft was used in Iraq during the first Gulf War after the Kuwait invasion in 1991. Since then, it took 13 years to reach 2004, when a total of 100000 hours of flight was reached, while nowadays, an estimate says that unmanned aircraft are carrying out at least 25000 hours of missions every month.

Recently, the US Army has released its Road Map for applications and usage of unmanned aircraft in military operations for the next 25 years. During this time, officials are planning to increase the usage of this vehicles in fields of applications such as evacuation of wounded troops and transportation of heavy material.

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