More cars vulnerable to computer hackers

SAN DIEGO (UPI) — Increasingly sophisticated cars need to be protected from hackers who could tamper with computerized systems, U.S. scientists said.

As more cars become connected to the Internet through wireless systems, hackers could remotely sabotage the vehicles, The New York Times reported Friday.

In tests, computer security experts at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego, said they were able to remotely control braking, stop the engine and activate dozens of other functions, almost all of them while a car was in motion.

The researchers tested two versions of a late-model car in laboratory and field settings. The researchers did not publicly identify the manufacturer or model, but said they believed the cars were representative of the computer network systems found in many late-model cars today.

“You should expect that various entry points in the automotive environment are no more secure in the automotive environment than they are in your PC,” said Stefan Savage, a computer scientist in San Diego.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

Detecting Deadly Chemicals

Computer Scientists Develop

Portable Evidence-Gathering Tool

December 1, 2006 — Investigators on a crime scene can now use a new tool for collecting chemical or biological samples. The sampler gun collects samples on a cotton pad — eliminating direct contact with anything harmful, as well as risk of contaminating evidence — a GPS system to record the samples’ location, a camera that snaps pictures for evidence, and a digital voice recorder and writing pad for taking notes.

Whether it’s a murder, a break-in, or an anthrax scare, investigators trying to solve a crime are burdened with collecting delicate, sometimes toxic evidence.

Mention white powder and mail, and who can forget the deadly anthrax scare that swept America? Jennifer Greenamoyer remembers it well. “This is the building where they sort the mail, and this building was contaminated and was the first building to be closed,” she says.

Greenamoyer was a congressional staffer during anthrax scare. “Even though I didn’t necessarily feel like I was exposed or I was kind-of at risk — you knew that other people in the building had been.”

She was safe, but there’s still danger to investigators going back inside to collect samples for analysis. A new device, called the Hands-Off Sampler Gun, eliminates the risk of collecting toxic materials.

“You don’t get exposed yourself to the potential agent, anthrax, and you’re also not contaminating the sample media,” computer scientist Torsten Staab, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, tells DBIS.

Traditional ways of gathering harmful chemicals use many gadgets. This device puts several technologies into one, easy-to-use gun.

Developed by computer scientists, the Hands-Off Sampler Gun has a cotton pad that grabs chemicals to eliminate direct contact with anything harmful. A GPS system tracks the location of a chemical and the investigator. It also includes a camera that snaps pictures for evidence and a voice recorder and writing pad to take digital notes. The all-in-one device is important to identify a chemical and its risk factor and make sure everything is safe for everyone.

The Sampler Gun could also be made useful for collecting evidence, like bloodstains at crimes scenes. “We have all the information at the end, electronically. It could be wirelessly transmitted from the field to the laboratory,” Staab says.

The FBI plans on field testing the device with its Hazardous Response Unit early next year.

BACKGROUND: Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are developing a Hands-Off Sampler Gun that would automate the otherwise expensive and time-consuming process of maintaining a proper chain of custody for forensic evidence collected at crime scenes. This will help keep evidence from being mishandled and ensure more credible evidence for jurors. The gun is being marketed initially for forensic biology applications, but could also prove valuable to counter-terrorism efforts.

HOW IT WORKS: When a crime scene investigator locates evidence such as a blood stain, the Hands-Off Sampler Gun collects the sample with its universal sample-media adaptor. Thee investigator never has to touch the sample directly, and thereby avoids the potential for contaminating that sample. Once the sample has been collected, the investigator can testify in court that it was collected properly.

PROVING IT: The investigator will have proof to back up his or her testimony, because an onboard, 3D accelerometer — a type of sensor that detects force — records the sampling pattern, which proves that the sample was blotted, wiped or scraped properly. The gun’s force detector measures and records the pressure the investigator applies and compares it to the force necessary for proper collection of, for example, certain biological (DNA) samples. The gun also automatically records the sample’s location with internal Global Positioning System (GPS), measures the ambient temperature and takes a digital picture of the sample being collected. And here is an incorporated barcode reader and audio recorder to further establish proper chain of custody. All this information can be easily downloaded to a desktop computer through standard interfaces.

WHAT ARE MEMS: Accelerometers are an example of microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS), devices that integrate electronic and moving parts onto a microscopic silicon chip. This integration makes such devices ideal for sensor technology. The term MEMS was coined in the 1980s. A MEMS device is usually only a few micrometers wide; for comparison, a human hair is 50 micrometers wide. Among other everyday applications, MEMS-based sensors are used in cars to detect the sudden motion of a collision and trigger release of the airbag. They are also found in ink-jet printers, blood pressure monitors, and projection display systems.

For more information, please contact:

Juli Gandasatria, Sr. Technology Program Manager
Office of Technology Transfer and Commercialization
Phone: 909-537-7758 / Fax: 909-537-7450

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th April 2010

Engineers Develop Technique for

Recognizing Gun Owner’s Grip

May 1, 2005 — Researchers have designed, built and tested a handgun that will fire only when its component circuitry and software recognize the grip of an authorized shooter. The technology measures not only the size, strength and structure of a person’s hand, but also the reflexive way in which the person acts. For the smart gun, the observed actions are how the person squeezes something to produce a unique and measurable pattern. Embedded sensors in the experimental gun then can read and record the size and force of the user’s hand during the first second when the trigger is squeezed.

NEWARK, N.J.–Many Americans keep a gun in the house for safety, but the National Safety Council reports nine children are killed every day from gun violence. Now, a new smart gun technology may help keep guns from going off in the wrong hands. Nancy Vazquez does what she can to keep her kids safe from guns in her home, but she still feels uneasy. “I do have concerns even though the guns are locked up, and the children don’t have them. There’s always the big what if they get a hold of the key.”

Vazquez has a right to be concerned — guns and kids are a bad mix. But now, engineers have developed a new smart gun. It can’t be fired unless it recognizes the owner’s hand size and grip.

“The idea is to use the science of biometrics, the ability to identify the individual by some unique attribute in this case literally by the way that you squeeze the gun when you pull the trigger,” says engineer Donald Sebastian of New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

Unlike other gun safety mechanisms, the smart gun’s grip recognition makes it impossible for another adult or more importantly — a child — to duplicate the gun owner’s one-of-a-kind hold on a gun.

Sebastian says, “Underneath the different elements of your finger and under your palm there are different amounts of pressure that indicate how hard you are squeezing. Right at the very point-by-point, where you touch the gun, we put sensors.”

The ergonomically designed gun has 16 computerized sensors embedded in the handle. The sensors capture the unique pattern and pressure of your grip, plus the size of your hand. If someone else tries to use the gun, the information will not match the stored pattern of the owner’s — and the gun won’t fire.

“We need smart gun technology, frankly, because we still have too many incidences of unauthorized access to weapons in the home,” Sebastian says.

Experts say smart gun technology might someday help prevent tragedy but can’t replace talking to your kids.

Vazquez says, “My hope is that by educating my children they’ll know to either walk away from the situation or go get an adult.” Which may be the smartest gun lesson of all.

Researchers expect the smart gun grip recognition technology to be available in about three years.

Many people assume that grip strength is primarily determined by the size of a person’s forearm, particularly the wrists. But many other factors inside the hand really make a difference. The size, strength and structure of the hand — including the palm and fingers — all contribute to grip strength, and can vary widely.

Reflexes can also vary. For instance, how someone squeezes something can produce a unique pattern. The pattern can be detected by sensors, which read and record the size and force of a user’s hand during the first second of squeezing.

There are several kinds of grip strength. A firm handshake, for example, is a form of crushing strength, while the ability to exert crushing strength on something and sustain it over time is an example of supporting grip strength. Pinch grip strength is the ability to grasp and lift an object between your thumb and fingers, and relies very heavily on the strength of the thumb.

Scientific studies disagree about what grip strength shows about a person’s health. One study conducted by the Boston University Arthritis Center found that men with a strong grip were more likely to develop arthritis in certain joints of their hands and fingers. Another study conducted by the Honolulu Heart Program found that low grip strength could be an indicator for disability later in life.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th April 2010

Electromagnetic Rail Motor
Tim Cormier
Beavercreek, OH


altThe Electromagnetic Rail Motor (ERM) can power anything from aircraft and cars, to artificial human limbs. The ERM is based on the modern rail gun. By taking the two rails and forming a ring, a continuous rotational force is created that is easily managed and controlled. The speed of rotation can be directly controlled by adjusting the voltage, similar to a gas pedal. Once the ERM powers up, the motor rotation will accelerate to its terminal speed. The blades act as both rotational shafts and as propeller blades to help cool the motor during extremely high speeds. The rail housing holds the assembly together and keeps the rails in place to counter the immense separation force.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th Sept 2009


Imaging System Identifies Concealed Weapons Using RF Chips

The UC San Diego RFIC chip could lead to less expensive imagers for detecting concealed weapons.

Electrical engineers from the University of California, San Diego are using W-Band silicon-germanium (SiGe) radio frequency integrated circuits (RFICs) for passive millimeter-wave imaging. The resulting imaging systems would identify concealed weapons, help helicopters land during dust storms, and enable high-frequency data communications.

The new millimeter-wave amplifier system works at the same frequency and follows the same principles as security imaging systems now in use in airports. The new circuit is unique in that it uses standard silicon semiconductor technology, while today’s security imaging systems often rely on expensive gallium arsenide or indium phosphide amplifiers.

The circuit includes an antenna that can be used to capture radiation in the millimeter-wave frequency emitted from the human body and from objects under a person’s clothing. This radiation passes through clothing largely or completely unaffected. Imagers operating at millimeter waves are particularly useful because they can resolve images down to a millimeter scale, fine enough detail to identify small objects and separate items on a person’s body. Using signal processing, these kinds of scanners can put together a temperature map of a person’s body that includes any objects underneath the clothing.

Click here for the full story.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st July 2009


Nanao to Release LCD Monitor

with Human Presence Sensor

Eizo Nanao Corp will release a color wide LCD monitor equipped with a presence sensor.

Designed for use in offices,

the monitor detects the presence of a person with an infrared sensor.

And it shifts to the power saving mode when it finds the user leaving his or her desk and automatically resumes normal operation when the user returns.

The product comes in two types, the FlexScan EV2023W-H and the FlexScan EV2303W-T. The former is a 20-inch model with a resolution of 1,600 x 900, and the latter is a 23-inch model with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution.

The typical power consumption of the former model is 25W, and that of the latter model is 18W. In the power saving mode, the power consumption of the both models is 0.7W or lower.

The “EcoView Sense,” a power saving function based on the presence sensor, detects objects within a 120cm range from the sensor unit by using an infrared sensor installed on the lower part of the front face of the monitor. The monitor shifts to the power saving mode when it determines that nobody is in the detection range for 40 seconds.

In order to avoid malfunction in small offices or in similar situations, the monitor checks the fluctuations in the detected values. And the monitor judges that the user has left the desk when the fluctuation in the detected value is lower than the predetermined level. To discriminate a person from a chair, etc, an object that does not move for one minute or longer is determined to be a still object even if it is in the 120cm range.

From the perspective of environmental friendliness, the product has an improved recycling efficiency and is compliant with “TCO Displays 5.0,” the latest version of an international environmental standard, according to Nanao.

Also, the new product features a thin and light monitor unit. Each model has a monitor unit that is approximately 40% lighter than that of the existing model. Nanao reduced the number of sheet metal parts and increased the number of ribs in the resin parts to maintain the strength.

Furthermore, the company adopted new stand mechanisms called the “FlexStand” and the “TriStand.” The FlexStand mechanism adopted for the EV2023W-H has the “world’s largest class” height adjustment range of 225mm, according to Nanao. The mechanism has a tilt angle of 30° and a horizontal rotation angle of up to 172°. It can be vertically rotated as well.

The TriStand mechanism adopted for the EV2303W-T has a height adjustment range of 60mm, a tilt angle of 25° and a horizontal rotation angle of up to 172°. The EV2023W and the EV2303W respectively employs the vertical alignment (VA) and twisted nematic (TN) driving methods for the LCD panel.

Although there are no manufacturer’s suggested retail prices, the direct sales prices of the EV2023W-H and the EV2303W-T are ¥37,800 (approx US$385) and ¥44,800 (both including tax). They will be released May 21, 2009.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st July 209


Flesh eating robot on wheels

Chew Chew

Chew Chew the gastrobot (Pic: New Scientist)

At last, a robot that is powered by food – but watch out, this gastrobot’s ideal food is flesh!

According to this week’s New Scientist, a researcher at the University of South Florida has developed a 12-wheeled monster called Chew Chew, with a microbial fuel cell stomach that uses E. coli bacteria to break down food and convert chemical energy into electricity.

“Turning food into electricity isn’t unique,” says Wilkinson. “What I’ve done is make it small enough to fit into a robot”.

The microbes produce enzymes that break down carbohydrates, releasing electrons which are harnessed to charge a battery by a reduction and oxidation reaction.

Wilkinson says this is analogous to blood supply and respiration in a mammal – but delivering electrons instead of oxygen.

Gastrobot consists of three 1-metre long wheeled wagons complete with pumps for redox solution, battery bank, oesophagus, ultrasonic eyes, mouth, DC motor and E.coli powered stomach.

Unfortunately, the microbial fuel cell doesn’t produce enough power to actually move Chew Chew. Instead, the electricity is used to charge the batteries and only when these are fully charged does can the robot move. When the batteries are drained, the cycle must then be repeated.

According to New Scientist, early applications for gastrobots are likely to include mowing lawns – grazing on grass clippings for fuel.

The ideal fuel in terms of energy gain is meat, says inventor Stuart Wilkinson, but at the moment Chew Chew lives on sugar cubes.

Catching meat would require the robot to produce more energy and besides Wilkinson isn’t so sure it’s good to give gastrobots a taste for meat.

Conversion to eat carion flesh or decaying corpses is another option.

“Otherwise they’ll notice there’s an awful lot of humans running around and try to eat them,” he warns.

Tags: science-and-technology

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 13th May 2009


Robots clear bombs the

wireless way


Dr Jun Jo controls his robots with his mobile phone (Image: Griffith University)

A robot controlled by wireless technology could be used to control bomb disposal and security reconnaissance vehicles, its Australian creator says.

Dr Jun Jo, a senior lecturer at Griffith University, created the prototype of a ‘bomb removal car’ with postgraduate students.

The robotic car is controlled by Bluetooth wireless networking technology, which potentially allows an operator to stay at a safe distance while sending the vehicle into a hazardous situation.

A video camera mounted onto the front of the robot streams images back to the operator.

The operator can then direct the robot to a particular location, identify a suspicious package and scoop it up with an in-built shovel.

“Through a camera I can see what the robot sees and with Bluetooth I can control it within 100 metres,” says Jo.

At 20 centimetres long, the robotic vehicle is about the size of a child’s model car.

“It looks like a toy at this stage, but I want to build a larger one,” he says.

Linking technology

Bluetooth networking is commonly used to link computers and mobiles to peripheral devices. But Jo says there are also many potential applications for Bluetooth and robotics, not just in dangerous situations.

“I am looking at applications in both the security industry and in entertainment,” says Jo, who also runs the university’s robotics and games research laboratory.

“Robotics and games share many qualities in their control methods and algorithms,” he says. “I feel in the near future there will be more
applications for robots in the games industry.”

Robotic football, for example, is a concept that enthusiasts already explore using teams of four-legged players: Sony Aibo robot dogs.

Meanwhile, mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson is exploring using Bluetooth applications for fun, such as a tiny toy car that can be controlled easily by mobile phone.

Recently the company also unveiled a remote-controlled digital camera on wheels called ROB-1. The camera can be steered from a mobile and sends a video stream back to handset, so the owner can decide what pictures to shoot.

Problems with video


There are limitations to the quality of video people can expect from Bluetooth, says Jo.

“One of the drawbacks of Bluetooth is that it is a medium transmission speed. It’s not bad for five frames per second, which would allow you to work out where an object is.”

Jo’s prototype is based on Bluetooth for now, but could be adapted to other current or future networking standards.

“At the moment Bluetooth is one of the most advanced mobile networking technologies, but others will come in time and they could be easily added to such a system,” he says.


The robotic car could be expanded to work with Australia’s 3G or GPRS mobile data networks, which he says could make control possible from distant locations.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 13th May 2009


Flying robots may be the new


Flying robot

Flying robots, like this fictional robotic dragonfly, could bypass radar to deliver explosives or bioweapons, experts say (Image: iStockphoto)

It may sound like science fiction, but flying robots could make suicide bombers and hijackers redundant, experts say.

The technology for remote-controlled light aircraft is now highly advanced, widely available, and experts say virtually unstoppable.

Models with a wingspan of 5 metres, capable of carrying up to 50 kilograms, remain undetectable by radar.

And thanks to satellite positioning systems, they can now be programmed to hit targets some distance away within a few metres of their target.

Security services the world over have been considering the problem for several years, but no one has yet come up with a solution.

“We are observing an increasing threat from such things as remote-controlled aircraft used as small flying bombs against soft targets,” the head of the Canadian secret services, Michel Gauthier, said at a conference in Calgary recently.

According to Gauthier, “ultra-light aircraft, powered hang gliders or powered paragliders have also been purchased by terrorist groups to circumvent ground-based countermeasures”.

Defence on alert


On 1 May the US website Defensetech published an article by military technology specialist David Hambling, entitled “Terrorists’ unmanned air force”.

“While billions have been spent on ballistic missile defense, little attention has been given to the more imminent threat posed by unmanned air vehicles in the hands of terrorists or rogue states,” writes Hambling.

Armed militant groups have already tried to use unmanned aircraft, according to a number of studies by institutions including the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, and the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies in Moscow.

In August 2002, for example, the Colombian military reported finding nine small remote-controlled planes at a base it had taken from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

On 11 April 2005 the Lebanese Shiite militia group, Hezbollah, flew a pilotless drone over Israeli territory, on what it called a surveillance mission.

The Israeli military confirmed this and responded by flying warplanes over southern Lebanon.

Easy to buy or make

Remote-control planes are not hard to get hold of, according to Jean-Christian Delessert, who runs a specialist model aeroplane shop near Geneva.

“Putting together a large-scale model is not difficult. All you need is a few materials and a decent electronics technician,” he says.

In his view, “if terrorists get hold of that, it will be impossible to do anything about it. We did some tests with a friend who works at a military radar base: they never detected us … If the radar picks anything up, it thinks it is a flock of birds and automatically wipes it.”

Japanese company Yamaha, meanwhile, has produced a 95 kilogram robot helicopter that is 3.6 metres long and has a 256 cc engine.

It flies close to the ground at about 20 kilometres per hour and is already on the market.

Bruce Simpson, an engineer from New Zealand, managed to produce an even more dangerous contraption in his own garage: a mini-cruise missile.

He made it out of readily available materials at a cost of less than US$5000 (about A$6500).

According to Simpson’s website, the New Zealand authorities forced him to shut down the project, though only once he had already finished making the missile, under pressure from the US.

Take them seriously


Dr Eugene Miasnikov, of the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies in Moscow, says these kinds of threats must be taken more seriously.

“To many people UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] may seem too exotic, demanding substantial efforts and cost compared with the methods terrorists frequently use,” he says.

“But science and technology is developing so fast that we often fail to recognise how much the world has changed.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 13th May 2009


Banned toiletries could make



Bomb-making ingredients could be hidden in small bottles and carried on planes. Alternatively, toiletries themselves could be used to make explosives (Image: iStockphoto)

Hair gels and lotions may have been banned from carry-on luggage as they could be assembled on board a plane to make a bomb, a US criminologist says.

Professor Alfred Blumstein from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who helped write a government report on threats to airlines from explosives, was speaking after UK police say they had foiled a plot to blow up aircraft flying to the US.

This prompted authorities to ban liquids, including drinks, hair gels and lotions, from carry-on baggage.

“My hunch is that the reason they are prohibiting this stuff is that it does obviously have the potential of being assembled on board so that it doesn’t look like a bomb going through the x-ray machine,” says Blumstein.

Such mundane items as nail polish remover, disinfectants and hair colouring contain chemicals that can be combined to make an explosion and are not detectable by “sniffing” machines, which detect plastic explosives but are not used with all baggage.

Explosive ingredients can be concealed in bottles or other innocent-looking containers that would pass through x-ray machines.

That does not mean they are easy to make into bombs, cautioned Dr Neal Langerman, a San Diego consultant who is former chair of the American Chemical Society‘s Division of Chemical Health and Safety.

“Many of the ingredients like acetone are household chemicals,” Langerman says.

But some kind of expertise is usually needed to buy peroxide that is concentrated enough to work in an explosive, he says.

Bombers who attacked London Underground trains and a bus in July 2005 used homemade peroxide-based explosives carried in backpacks.

On-board explosives

People have tried several times to use such easily concealed explosives on aircraft.

UK-born Richard Reid was tackled by passengers in December 2001 while trying to detonate explosives stuffed in his shoes in an aircraft lavatory.

In 1994, Islamic fundamentalists set off liquid explosives on a Japan-bound Philippine Airlines plane, killing a Japanese passenger and injuring 10 others.

Dr Mark Ensalaco, an international terrorism expert at the University of Dayton in Ohio, says Thursday’s foiled operation appears to be identical to the Japan attack.

I stress identical with the explosives in liquids

Sourced and published by Henry Sap[iecha 13th MAY 2009