Public Safety

  • 2002 Color-code terror alert system, RIP

    On 26 April a new terrorist alert system — the National Terrorism Alert System (NTAS) — will go into effect, replacing the color-code alert system which has been in effect since 2002; the new system will include “imminent threat” and “elevated threat” alerts; the “imminent threat” alert will warn of a credible, specific, and impending terrorist threat against the United States; in some cases, alerts will be sent directly to law enforcement or affected areas of the private sector

  • U.S. Air Force wants mind reading aerial drones

    The U.S. Air Force is currently working with several firms to develop aerial drones that have the ability to think and anticipate a controller’s actions before it occurs; the Air Force began exploring this capability in order to avoid collisions during takeoff and landings at busy airport terminals where both manned and unmanned planes launch; to address this problem, the Air Force awarded contracts to several firms to develop predictive software that can anticipate a pilot’s reaction if a drone is flying too closely

  • Army spends $50M for translation app that is already available

    This year the Pentagon has set aside nearly $50 million for the development of a sophisticated smartphone translation app that would allow troops in Afghanistan to translate Pastho and Dari; but some troops have already begun using the SpeechTrans app to translate Arabic which can be downloaded on any iPhone or iPad for less than $20, and the New Jersey based company is hard at work on an Afghan language edition of its app; one defense analyst questions the need to spend millions on research when “good enough” technology is already available, especially in light of congressional efforts to cut the deficit

  • New rifle sighting system dramatically improves accuracy

    Crosshairs automatically adjust for conditions in real time; a fiber-optic laser-based sensor system automatically corrects for even tiny barrel disruptions; the system, developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL), precisely measures the deflection of the barrel relative to the sight and then electronically makes the necessary corrections; the new sensor is 250 times better than that of traditional crosshairs, which can be manually adjusted by one-fourth minutes of angle; the ORNL sensor can sense angular displacement and shift the reticle (crosshairs) by 1/1,000th of a minute of angle

  • Brazilian police get biometric "Robocop" glasses

    Facial-recognition glasses have been deployed by Brazilian police ahead of the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament; the system can scan and compare four hundred faces per second using 46,000 biometric points for comparison; the technology will be tested at public events leading up to the World Cup

  • Smugglers use portable ramp to jump border fence

    Drug smugglers along the U.S.-Mexico border are relying on increasingly more innovative ways to bypass additional security measures deployed along the southern border; law enforcement officials recently discovered a mobile folding ramp that allowed vehicles to drive over the border fence; the portable ramp was found in the Barry M. Goldwater Range east of Yuma, Arizona as Border Patrol agents chased a vehicle that had just used the ramp to leap over the fence with 1,000 pounds of marijuana

  • An electronic trail for every crime

    Police across the country are increasingly turning to electronic devices like cell phones and computer files to identify, prosecute, or exonerate criminals; the ubiquity of this technology has often provided investigators with an electronic trail that gives prosecutors concrete analytical evidence for nearly every crime; officials in Dubuque County, Iowa have established a digital forensic lab to analyze data on computers, cell phones, and video recorders to discover any encrypted files or other valuable information; in February law enforcement officials in Dubuque used text messages and surveillance camera footage to convict Teodoro Borrego of first degree murder

  • West Virginia signs up for free mass alert system for missing persons

    The Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and the Princeton Police Department are now using the A Child Is Missing Alert Program which uses computer mapping programs to place up to a thousand calls a minute to residents and businesses near where a person is reported missing; the call contains a message that details the missing person’s description, last known location, and other critical information; the A Child Is Missing Alert program is a free service provided to law enforcement agencies

  • Technology helping police stop child pornography

    The advent of the Internet, file sharing technology, and social networking has allowed the market for child pornography to thrive, but now those very same technologies are helping police to crack down on individuals distributing child pornography; local police departments across the United States are using sophisticated software to track, identify, and convict individuals trading child porn; in Shawano County, Wisconsin investigators recently received new tools that have led to the arrest of five people on child porn charges in the last six months; investigators have been trained to spot individuals on file sharing sites; detectives have also been trained in computer forensics to recover data from confiscated hard drives

  • N.J. receives $5.7 million for seventeen police departments

    Earlier this month the Department of Justice awarded New Jersey $5.7 million in grants to help seventeen local police departments; the grants are specifically aimed at purchasing surveillance equipment like closed-circuit cameras, gunshot detection systems, and mobile data centers; each city will receive either $250,000 or $500,000 based on the city’s size and violent crime; surveillance technology has already proven effective in helping New Jersey police departments track down and convict criminals; New Jersey’s attorney general is encouraging police departments to consider regionalizing and consolidating functions as the grants can be used to purchase equipment to create regional dispatch systems

  • FBI's Next Generation Identification launched

    The FBI has launched its futuristic database — the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system); NGI will gradually replace the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS); this phase of the NGI project involves the core biometric processing and matching capability using ten fingerprints

  • Strong fabric can be used to protect buildings from explosion

    Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) is a fabric that can carry 143,000 pounds of force per square inch; University of Missouri researcher collaborates with the U.S. Army to test a method of retrofitting buildings to protect them in the case of a terrorist attack; to protect a building from an extreme event, CFRP can be used to increase the bending capacity of walls or columns

  • Twitter and natural disasters: lessons from Japan

    Researchers from Kobe City University of Foreign Studies surveyed and questioned Twitter users and tracked updates from people in the disaster-struck area on the social media site two weeks after the Tohoku earthquake and devastating tsunami of 11 March; Twitter was the only functioning communication tool immediately after the earthquake; the researchers found that there benefits for using Twitter, such as bringing information to people involved in a disaster and to those hoping to hear news; there was a downside, though: Twitter helped spread unverified rumors and misinformation, causing people to panic in areas where there was no reason to panic, thus making the work of rescuers and service authorities more difficult; one solution: have the government itself use Twitter to offer reliable information to all involved

  • Chips may sabotage hi-tech weapons

    Countries producing sophisticated weapon systems do not want these systems to fall into the wrong hands; one idea is to plant a chip in these weapons which would allow the country that supplied them to destroy or disable them remotely; already there are worries that with chip manufacturing moving outside the United States, foreign powers may bribe or coerce chip manufacturers into planting “backdoor” circuits in chips these manufacturers sell American defense contractors