Airport sniffer dogs safe from


Heathrow Airport

The terrorism alert caused chaos at Heathrow Airport last week. But could new security technology prevent a repeat performance? (Image: Reuters/Toby Melville)

News Analysis No matter how sophisticated airport security technology becomes, it will probably never remove the need for sniffer dogs and bag searches, experts say.

The alleged foiled terrorist plot that affected flights between the UK and US last week has led to calls for newer, smarter security technology.

Devices on the horizon include insect-based sensors, wallpaper that sniffs out explosives as you walk past and smart closed-circuit TV that can pick a suspect out from a crowd or tell if you’ve left a bomb under a seat.

But Martin Cebis, whose company will present its all-in-one chemical sensing and surveillance system at an international military technology conference in the US next week, says would-be terrorists will probably always be one step ahead of technology.

“Ultimately you’re dealing with human ingenuity [and] you’re fighting a moving target and need to be able to adapt,” says Cebis, chief executive officer of Western Australia’s Embedded Technologies.

“I think you’ll still need searching and those kinds of things to occur.”

Cebis is also among a number of speakers who will brief security advisors and researchers in Canberra on the latest developments today.

Chemical sensing

One of the emerging areas of security, particularly in light of the alleged plot to carry liquid explosives onto planes, is in chemical sensing.

Associate Professor Adam McCluskey of the University of Newcastle is an Australian researcher developing chemical sensors based on drug design technology.

The sensors are can be “screen printed” onto fabrics, paper, plastics and even wallpaper.

“It’s basically a synthetic antibody,” he says.

“We’re applying drug design technology to generate polymeric scaffolds that specifically recognise the shape and electronics of the targeted molecule.”

The technique has been used to identify cocaine and heroin and is being developed to pick up chemicals like TNT and triacetone triperoxide, the chemical used in last year’s London Underground bombings.

“Instead of metal detectors we would have a bank of these sensors sucking the vapours off as you walk through,” he says.

He says while sniffer dogs will still be able to go places electronic noses can’t, sensing technology will be better able to detect specific substances.


Dr Michael Borgas, is an atmospheric scientist at CSIRO, which is developing an electronic nose to detect chemicals.

He says the future of airport chemical sensing lies in miniaturised devices.

Researchers at CSIRO are also looking to insects like fruit flies for inspiration.

“If you can understand how insects sense and act upon various volatile chemicals you’d hopefully be able to mimic that with electronic devices,” he says.

“What you want is a hand-held device that can suck in tiny bits of air and detect the molecules that are in that air. In airports you’d just stick it in a [passenger’s] bag.”

Smart surveillance

Cebis says it will take more than high-tech chemical sensors, no matter how sensitive and discriminating they are.

“It’s fine to have sensors all over the place but you’ve got to be able to make intelligent decisions,” he says.

“The research challenge is to make cheap, sensitive, ubiquitous sensors coupled with smart surveillance technology.”

Cebis says closed-circuit TV will eventually be replaced by “smart” digital video technology that uses biometric identification and motion recognition to hone in on specific individuals and behaviour.

“They look at a scene and if there’s no motion they don’t film anything,” he says.

“Or a person may wander into a scene, deposit something and then move away. The fact that something was moving and now isn’t [will be picked up].”

Ting Shan of National ICT Australia (NICTA) will outline advances in face recognition technology at a security technology conference in Canberra next week.

Shan says new face recognition algorithms have been developed by NICTA and University of Queensland that aren’t befuddled by lighting, expression or angle of the face.

“It can synthesise a realistic frontal face image,” he says.

Impact of a new security environment


Borgas says while the events in the UK have highlighted advances in security technology, he doubts they will be implemented overnight.

McCluskey hopes it will give governments an impetus to provide the research and development funds to allow some of the more promising ideas to bear fruit.

“Sometimes it takes an event of this nature to provide a significantly high profile and the government willing to take a chance on the technology,” he says.

Cebis say all the technology in the world will never completely replace the most humble of checks.

“But whether they need to be as intrusive and time consuming as they currently are depends on the technology,” he says.


Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 13th May 2009

Beer helps scientists find



An ingredient of beer, brewer’s yeast, can ‘smell’ explosives (Image: iStockphoto)(Source: iStockphoto)

Biotechnologists have genetically engineered brewer’s yeast to glow green in response to an ingredient found in landmines, a new study shows.

The study, published today online in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, shows the yeast can detect, or smell, airborne particles from explosives.

The scientists engineered the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to sense molecules of the chemical DNT, or dinitrotoluene.

DNT is left over after making the explosive TNT, or trinitroluene. And dogs trained to sniff for explosives are believed in fact to be trained to detect DNT.

The scientists spliced a gene found in rats into the yeast’s genome so that the surface of its cells reacted in response to DNT.

To get a visual cue as to whether this ‘nose’ had detected DNT, the scientists also added a gene to turn the yeast a fluorescent green when contact was made.

The authors, led by Associate Professor Danny Dhanasekaran of Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, believe they have found a useful, if so far experimental, type of biosensor.

These gadgets use organisms to detect environmental chemicals, including biological or chemical weapons.

In the past, scientists have shown that organisms such as moths and bees can detect explosives

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 13th May 2009


Sharp, Pioneer Enable Communication Between Cell Phones, Car Navigation Systems


Apr 14, 2009 19:57
Naoshige Shimizu, Nikkei Electronics

Sharp Corp and Pioneer Corp announced April 13, 2009, that they jointly developed “Photoremo@Navi Ver1.0,” a data standard for communications between mobile phones and car navigation systems.

Using Photoremo@Navi-based mobile phones and car navigation systems, it is possible to easily exchange GPS data, expected arrival time calculated by a car navigation system, notifications of received e-mails and calls, etc via Bluetooth and infrared rays.


The data standard was developed as part of the two companies’ joint development projects that were launched after they formed a capital alliance in 2007 and cover a variety of themes in the TV and car electronics areas. They will promote the standard to other mobile phone and car navigation system manufacturers.

“We are aiming to make the format open to anyone in the future,” Sharp said. However, Pioneer said, “We have yet to determine when and how we will release the format.”

“Photoremo” is a standard originally developed by Sharp for data exchange between mobile phones and home appliances. It attaches information used to control home appliances to images in JPEG format. With Photoremo@Navi, the same capability can be easily used with car navigation systems.


For example, a user carrying a GPS mobile phone finds a good restaurant and takes a picture of it (in JPEG format). Then, the photo data is registered together with its location data based on the Photoremo@Navi standard. If this photo is sent to his/her friend’s mobile phone, the friend can easily register the photo and location data in his/her car navigation system.

“One of the major issues with car navigation maps is the fact that they cannot quickly update store names and other variable information,” Pioneer said. “If Photoremo@Navi can enable the easy registration of the names and locations of the stores that users recommend, this challenge can be overcome.”

“Photoremo@Navi is also available for any devices that support Photoremo,” Sharp said.

Currently, Photoremo-compatible products include Sharp’s “SH706iW” mobile phone and “Aquos R” series LCD TVs released in 2008. Meanwhile, Pioneer has not yet determined when it will release a Photoremo-compatible car navigation system.


Know where your’e at

“It is impossible to make our car navigation systems compatible with Photoremo only by upgrading their software,” Pioneer said. “So, it is difficult to incorporate Photoremo@Navi capability in our existing products.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 22nd April 2009

KDDI Handset Uses Arm Swing

Motion for Personal


Apr 14, 2009 17:55
Yukiko Kanoh, Nikkei Electronics

KDDI R&D Laboratories Inc developed a system that can authenticate individuals by the way they swing a mobile phone embedded with an acceleration sensor (the arm swing authentication system).

The new system, which was developed jointly with Yoshinori Hatori Laboratory at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, retrieves signals from the acceleration sensor during arm swinging motion and judges the degree of similarity to a pre-registered swinging pattern.

A variety of individual characteristics, including physical characteristics including the length of an arm and muscle structure as well as action patterns such as holding methods and other habits, are reflected in the acceleration signals recorded during arm swinging motion, according to KDDI R&D Laboratories.

In addition, it is easy for a person to reproduce his/her own arm swing pattern, while it was confirmed that arm swing patterns are a physical characteristic that is difficult for someone else to reproduce even if the person happens to steal a look at the pattern, according to the company. Therefore, if an arm swing pattern known only to the user is used, it is possible to realize as accurate an authentication system as existing biometric authentication technologies.

The equal error rate, where an error rate of rejecting an authorized user and that of accepting a different person are equal, is 4% when arm swing patterns are disclosed. When action patterns are not disclosed, the equal error rate becomes even lower, according to the company.

The processing load for the authentication process is well within the level that a mobile phone can handle. The problem of instability that occurs until a certain pattern is learned and variations in the pattern over time will be solved by updating the template. The template update function modifies the registered action pattern by reflecting the latest pattern.

With the new authentication system, it will become possible to lock a personal folder in a handset by a secret action, and applications can be started by a special action pattern of the handset owner, the company said.

KDDI R&D Laboratories and its partner will enhance the maneuverability of the system by field experiments.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiech 22nd April  2009

[HK Fair] Chinese Firm Exhibits ‘

World’s Smallest’ Video Camera

Shenzhen AEE Wireless Technology Co Ltd of China exhibits what it claims is the world’s smallest video camera at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair (Spring Edition).

The fair, which is organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, is taking place in Hong Kong from April 13 to 16, 2009.

The dimensions of the camera, “Mini DV,” are 55 x 20 x 18mm. Its volume is 20cm3 and weight is 50g.

“Only an ultra-small camcorder like this can enable people cycling or skiing, pet animals and radio control toys to shoot video,” AEE said. “We developed this product to have more flexability and to allow people to shoot a wider variety of scenes.”

The company reduced the size by focusing on image recording function. The Mini DV is not equipped with a monitor for checking images, and recorded images can be viewed only after they are transferred to a PC.

The camcorder employs a 2-Mpixel CMOS sensor. It shoots 640 x 480-pixel images at 30fps, compresses the images with the JPEG format and stores them in the AVI format by using a microSD memory card of up to 8 Gbytes.

The interface for PC connection is USB 2.0. When the camcorder is connected to a PC, images can be output to a PC in real time. Its Li-ion secondary battery has a capacity of 260mAh, allowing two hours of continuous shooting.

The Mini DV is equipped with a clip for attaching the camera to clothing or accessories like belts etc..  AEE offers a version including a mount that allows users to attach the camera to a helmet, etc, and is intended for filming while playing sports.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 22nd April 2009

Fujitsu Vein-Pattern



True identity isn’t in your fingertips, argues Fujitsu. It’s in your blood. The company’s newest biometric mouse uses infrared cameras to look beneath your hand’s skin and map its pattern of veins as a substitute for entering a password. That vein-pattern recognition system is 99.9992% accurate, the company spokesperson says–far greater than fingerprint systems, which often suffer from dirty sensors or hands and can sometimes be spoofed with copied prints.

On a morbid note, even chopping someone’s hand off won’t allow a would-be intruder access: A lack of blood flow would change the hand’s capillary pattern, Fujitsu says.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009

UPEK Eikon Fingerprint

USB Drive


Security gurus recommend what they call “three-factor” authentication.” That means requiring users to prove their identity with something they know, (say, a password) something they have (like a physical token) and something they are (such as a fingerprint). A cheap USB stick from UPEK incorporates all three for around $75. The thumb drive uses RSA software to generate a changing password every minute, ensuring the user has the drive in hand.

It also incorporates a fingerprint reader to make sure the tiny gadget hasn’t been stolen.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009

RSA’s Gait Recognition



The real issue with biometrics isn’t how accurate they are, says RSA researcher Ari Juels. It’s how obtrusive they are. He and others at the security company are working on software that would allow a phone’s accelerometers to detect a user’s motion and match it to a known walking pattern that’s particular to the phone’s owner. That gait recognition technology isn’t likely to identify thieves. But it could make the user’s life easier. Whenever the phone identifies its users’ gait, it could let him or her skip entering a password to gain access to the phone.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009

UPEK Eikon Fingerprint

USB Drive


Security gurus recommend what they call “three-factor” authentication.” That means requiring users to prove their identity with something they know, (say, a password) something they have (like a physical token) and something they are (such as a fingerprint). A cheap USB stick from UPEK incorporates all three for around $75. The thumb drive uses RSA software to generate a changing password every minute, ensuring the user has the drive in hand. And it also incorporates a fingerprint reader to make sure the tiny gadget hasn’t been stolen.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009

UPEK Eikon Fingerprint



Even as companies search for innovative new systems like facial recognition or vein-pattern sensors, old-fashioned fingerprinting still holds a simple advantage: it’s both effective and cheap. For around $40,usd  you can pick up this UPEK Eikon fingerprint reader that plugs in via USB cable. A simple swipe can replace Windows log on passwords, or even let the user skip Web logins on browsers like Firefox or Internet Explorer.

The memorized scan of your fingerprint in the compter will allow you to access all parts without having to enter your password.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 16th April 2009