• When disaster-response apps fail

    When a terrorist struck Nice, France, on 14 July, a new French government app designed to alert people failed. Three hours passed before SAIP, as the app is called, warned people in and around Nice to the danger on the city’s waterfront during Bastille Day festivities. This aspect of the tragedy highlights an emerging element of disaster preparation and response: the potential for smartphone apps, social media sites, and information technology more broadly to assist both emergency responders and the public at large in figuring out what is happening and what to do about it. Sadly, disasters will keep occurring. But the future is bright for improved communication when they happen. It’s even possible that someday smartphones may be able to monitor the environment automatically and contribute to disaster alert systems on their own.

  • NIST’s rolling wireless net improves first-responder communications

    First responders often have trouble communicating with each other in emergencies. They may use different types of radios, or they may be working in rural areas lacking wireless coverage, or they may be deep inside large buildings that block connections. NIST has worked with industry partners to integrate commercial technologies into a mobile wireless communications system. About the size of a large file cabinet, the platform offers more capabilities and faster setup than typical “cell on wheels” systems.

  • view counter
  • 1967 solar storm jammed USAF radars, nearly taking U.S. to brink of war

    A solar storm that jammed radar and radio communications at the height of the Cold War could have led to a disastrous military conflict. On 23 May 1967, the Air Force prepared aircraft for war, thinking the nation’s surveillance radars in polar regions were being jammed by the Soviet Union. Just in time, military space weather forecasters conveyed information about the solar storm’s potential to disrupt radar and radio communications. The planes remained on the ground and the United States avoided a potential nuclear weapon exchange with the Soviet Union, according to the new research.

  • Texas, UT ask judge to throw out lawsuit challenging campus carry

    The Texas Attorney General’s Office and University of Texas at Austin on Monday asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit brought by three UT-Austin professors seeking to keep guns out of their classrooms despite the state’s new campus carry law. Three professors have argued that the law, which went into effect 1 August, will stifle discussion in their classrooms. The professors say they fear that guns present during class discussions will cause people to censor themselves out of concerns for their safety.

  • Young engineers compete for RoboSubs

    After months of planning, building, programming, testing, and tweaking, it all came to down to this one moment — the 19th annual International RoboSub Competition, held in San Diego, California, 25-30 July.

    Forty-six teams competed in this year’s event. The robotics contest challenges students to design, build and race submarines through a complex obstacle course, where points are awarded for the number and difficulty of successfully completed mission tasks.

  • Expert: Hezbollah’s storage of missiles in civilian areas will make next war “catastrophic”

    The next war between Israel and Hezbollah “will be catastrophic” because the Iran-backed terror organization has stationed its military assets inside “built-up population centers in cities, towns and villages” in Lebanon, says an expert. In 2006 Hezbollah only had around 12,000 rockets and missiles at its disposal. It is now believed to have more than 110,000. Some analysts estimate that Hezbollah’s rocket and missile arsenal is greater than that of all twenty-seven non-U.S. NATO nations combined.

  • SayVU security app – developed by a BGU graduate student -- deployed at Rio Olympics

    A new app, SayVU, conceived as a graduate student project at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, is being deployed at the 2016 Rio Olympics. International Security & Defense Systems (ISDS), the security integrator for the Olympics, selected SayVU as one of the Israeli technologies being used to protect attendees. SayVU enables a user to send a distress signal to an emergency hotline even if a phone is locked and without having to access the application. The message can be sent in a number of ways; shaking the device, tapping the camera button, or simply speaking into the phone.

  • NICS, a communication platform for first responders, now available

    DHS S&T has announced the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS,) an information sharing tool for first responders, is now available worldwide. NICS is a mobile, Web-based communication platform that enables responders on scene at a developing incident to request and receive assistance from remote experts — and experts can observe an evolving situation and volunteer relevant material or resources.

  • Mass shootings driven by "media contagion": Study

    The prevalence of mass shootings has risen in relation to the mass media coverage of them and the proliferation of social media sites that tend to glorify the shooters and downplay the victims, a new study finds. “If the mass media and social media enthusiasts make a pact to no longer share, reproduce, or retweet the names, faces, detailed histories, or long-winded statements of killers, we could see a dramatic reduction in mass shootings in one to two years,” says one of the study’s authors.

  • Melting ice sheet could release frozen cold war-era radioactive waste

    Camp Century, a U.S. military base built within the Greenland Ice Sheet in 1959, was decommissioned in 1967, and its infrastructure and waste were abandoned under the assumption they would be entombed forever by perpetual snowfall. But climate change has warmed the Arctic more than any other region on Earth, and as portion of the ice sheet covering Camp Century melt, the camp’s infrastructure will become exposed, and any remaining biological, chemical, and radioactive waste could re-enter the environment.

  • In dirty bomb prevention, Texas fails a crucial test

    The clandestine group’s goal was clear: Obtain the building blocks of a radioactive “dirty bomb” — capable of poisoning a major city for a year or more — by openly purchasing the raw ingredients from authorized sellers inside the United States. It should have been hard. The purchase of lethal radioactive materials — even modestly dangerous ones — requires a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a measure meant to keep them away from terrorists. But a team of undercover bureaucrats with the investigative arm of Congress discovered that getting a license and then ordering enough materials to make a dirty bomb was strikingly simple.

  • “Liquid fingerprinting” technique identifies unknown liquids instantly

    A new company — Validere — will commercialize sensing technology invented at Harvard University that can perform instant, in-field characterization of the chemical make-up and material properties of unknown liquids. Validere aims to develop the licensed technology, called Watermark Ink (W-INK), into a pocket-sized device that could be used by first responders to quickly identify chemical spills, or by officials to verify the fuel grade of gasoline right at the pump.

  • Accessing a murder victim’s fingerprint-protected smartphone to help solve a crime

    Last month, when the Michigan State University Police Department approached professor Anil Jain to see if he could access a fingerprint-locked deceased man’s smartphone to aid in a police investigation, Jain accepted the scientific challenge. On Monday, 25vJuly, it was mission accomplished – Jain and his team unlocked the phone.

  • Live-streaming crime incidents a challenge U.S. privacy law

    In July, the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile went viral on social media. The aftermath of the Castile shooting was first shared via Facebook Live, which is a type of mobile streaming video technology (MSVT) that allows users to stream live video to followers, similar to Periscope and Meerkat. The two incidents focus attention on the legal rights of people to record and live stream and any potential right to be free from being recorded and streamed in public places.

  • “Second skin” uniform protects soldiers from biological, chemical agents in the field

    In work that aims to protect soldiers from biological and chemical threats, scientists have created a material that is highly breathable yet protective from biological agents. This material is the first key component of futuristic smart uniforms that also will respond to and protect from environmental chemical hazards.