Sensors and Sensor networks | Homeland Security Newswire

  • InfrastructureSmarter, safer bridges with Sandia sensors

    In 2016, more than 54,000 bridges in the U.S. were classified as “structurally deficient” by the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory. This means about 9 percent of U.S. bridges need regular monitoring. Researchers outfitted a U.S. bridge with a network of eight real-time sensors able to alert maintenance engineers when they detect a crack or when a crack reaches a length that requires repair.

  • Search & rescuePortable device to sniff out trapped humans

    The first step after buildings collapse from an earthquake, bombing or other disaster is to rescue people who could be trapped in the rubble. But finding entrapped humans among the ruins can be challenging. A new, inexpensive sensor is light and portable enough for first responders to hold in their hands or for drones to carry on a search for survivors.

  • Human-induced earthquakesGeologists report new findings about Kansas, Oklahoma earthquakes

    In the more than three decades between 1977 and 2012, only 15 earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 or greater were recorded in the entire state of Kansas. Since 2012 more than 100 earthquakes of 3.0 or greater have been recorded in only two counties in the state, Sumner and Harper. These include the largest earthquake ever monitored in Kansas in November 2014, a magnitude 4.9 event near the Sumner County town of Milan. The frequency of earthquakes has continued to increase. Between May 2015 and July 2017, sensors detected more than 2,400 earthquakes in Sumner County alone, ranging in magnitude from 0.4 to 3.6. As concern rises about earthquakes induced by human activity like oil exploration, geologists report a new understanding about recent earthquakes in Kansas and Oklahoma.

  • Food safetyBioelectronic “nose” detects food spoilage by sensing the smell of death

    Strong odors are an indicator that food has gone bad, but there could soon be a new way to sniff foul smells earlier on. Researchers have developed a bioelectronic “nose” that can specifically detect a key decay compound at low levels, enabling people to potentially take action before the stink spreads. It can detect rotting food, as well as be used to help find victims of natural disasters or crimes.

  • Water securityRobot detects underground water leaks

    The United States faces a looming crisis over its deteriorating water infrastructure, and fixing it will be a monumental and expensive task. In Los Angeles alone, about two thirds of the city’s 7,000 miles of water pipes are more than 60 years old — and nearing the end of their useful lives. Water main breaks can cause flooding, leading to serious structural damage and soil erosion. Even small leaks can exacerbate water shortages and allow potentially harmful contaminants into our drinking water. But locating a leak within a vast network of underground pipes is almost impossible. Researchers are developing an autonomous robot that could quickly and inexpensively detect damage in water pipes — even those buried meters below the ground.

  • InfrastructureDark fiber: Sensors beneath our feet to tell us about earthquakes, water, other geophysical phenomenon

    Scientists have shown for the first time that dark fiber – the vast network of unused fiber-optic cables installed throughout the country and the world – can be used as sensors for detecting earthquakes, the presence of groundwater, changes in permafrost conditions, and a variety of other subsurface activity.

  • Alarm systemsSmart alarm system detects attempted break-ins

    There is a large selection of glass break detectors on the market. Although these detectors reliably trigger an alarm when window panes break, they do not register all other ways in which burglars can interfere with a pane. To counter this, Fraunhofer researchers have created a new type of alarm system that recognizes any attempt to manipulate the window. It registers temperature changes in real time as well as vibrations caused by external interference with the glass, leaving burglars with no chance.

  • DetectionEmploying plants as discreet, self-sustaining sensors to warn of security threats

    Few military requirements are as enduring as the need for timely, accurate information. To meet this demand, the Department of Defense invests heavily in the development of powerful electronic and mechanical sensors, and in the manpower to maintain and operate those sensors. DARPA notes that nature, the master of complexity, offers potential solutions, and that the agency new Advanced Plant Technologies (APT) program looks to seemingly simple plants as the next generation of intelligence gatherers. The program will pursue technologies to engineer robust, plant-based sensors that are self-sustaining in their environment and can be remotely monitored using existing hardware.

  • Seismic early warningNo funds for California's earthquake early-warning system in Trump's proposed budget

    The Trump administration’s proposed budget would eliminate federal funding for an earthquake early warning system being developed for the U.S. West Coast. Critics say that if the relevant clauses in the budget proposal become law, the long-planned seismic warning effort will be killed. Scientists say the withdrawal of federal funds would likely end the early-warning project, which aims to send smartphone tremor alert messages to West Coast residents.

  • Seismic early warningIsrael to install earthquake early-warning system

    Israel has selected Ottawa, Canada-based Nanometrics to build an earthquake early-warning system in Israel. The alert system will give a 10-to-30-second alert of an impending earthquake. The system’s success depends on the distinction between two types of waves an earthquake generates — P waves (for primary) and S waves (for secondary). P waves are very fast, traveling through rock at between four and seven kilometers per second, and are thus the first waves to arrive at a recording station following an earthquake. An S-wave has a shearing motion that makes the rock vibrate perpendicular to its path. This movement slows the S-wave, so that it travels at two to five kilometers per second, or about half the speed of the P-wave. It is S waves which are almost entirely responsible for the damage and destruction associated with earthquakes.

  • Infrastructure protectionQuickly detecting structural problems in bridges, dams

    Today, there is great interest in using distributed sensors to continually monitor the structural health of large structures such as dams or bridges. With one million sensing points, a newly developed fiber optic distributed sensor could offer significantly faster detection of structural problems than is currently available.

  • Cow avoidanceAutomated, real-time automobile cow-avoidance device

    India has the second largest road network in the world, and a large number of traffic accidents: 1 in 20,000 people die there in a road traffic accident, and 12 in 70,000 are seriously injured in such accidents. India also has a large number of cows roaming streets and roads, and a large number of incidents in which cars run into loitering cows. India researchers have developed a real-time automatic obstacle detection and alert system which determines whether an object near the vehicle is an on-road cow and whether or not its movements represent a risk to the vehicle. If the cow poses a risk to the vehicle, an audio or visual indicator then alerts the driver to apply the brakes.

  • Nuke detectionFirst large-scale, citywide test of advanced radioactive threat detection system

    Field testing of more than 1,000 networked, mobile radiation sensors in Washington, D.C., yields valuable data for implementing enhanced radiation-detection networks in major U.S. cities. By getting volunteers to walk all day looking for clues, the DARPA-sponsored exercise provided the largest test yet of DARPA’s SIGMA program, which is developing networked sensors that can provide dynamic, real-time radiation detection over large urban areas.

  • Infrastructure protectionSensors monitor bridges’ health – and tweet the information they gather

    While bridge collapses are rare, there have been enough of them to raise concerns in some parts of the world that their condition is not sufficiently monitored. Sweden is taking a hi-tech approach to its aging infrastructure. Researchers are rigging up the country’s bridges with multiple sensors that allow early detection of wear and tear. The bridges can even tweet throughout the course of a day.

  • FirefightingNew sensors detect cable fire before it starts burning

    Fires are frequently caused by smoldering cables. New sensors now help detect such smoldering fires at an early stage by analyzing the plastic vapors released by overheated insulating cables. Scientists have developed these hybrid sensors that combine measurement processes with data evaluation. These detect the gases released from the plastic coating due to heating and reliably identify and analyze the gas mixture and its concentration.