Spies like us need spy gear like the items at the Homeland Security Conference

January 22, 2008

Spies like us need spy gear like the items at the Homeland Security Conference death star Homeland Security had a conference that showcased all of the latest in spy technology for the paranoid geek. My first thought on seeing some of the gadgets being showcased was “the Death Star is fully operational, Lord Vader”, especially when gazing at the item pictured to the left. Then I started browsing the newest in security technology and discovered that companies like iRobot (makers of the popular Roomba) aren’t just for household cleaning anymore.

At the conference iRobot showcased a military robot called the iRobot PackBot 510. Unlike its likable, helpful cousin the Roomba, the PackBot is a robot built to carry, locate and install explosive ordinance for the military. I hope they never ship Muffy or Biff Homemaker the wrong one!

The item pictured above may look reminiscent of the Death Star from Star Wars Trilogy fame, but in reality it is a military grade throwable digital camera called the Remington R1. You can toss the camera anywhere you want pictures taken and you can survey the area from afar. This one is available to the public, not just the military, for a mere $2500 USD.

GE’s contribution to the conference was a tough, high tech portable spectrometer called the StreetLab Mobile. This one is still in the prototype phase, but once it is finished it is designed to scan liquids and solids with a laser to determine if a HazMat declared “Hot Zone” is safe to enter and what you may be dealing with if it isn’t safe.

The RespondeR RCI is made by Smiths, and it looks a bit like an old chemistry set on first glance. In reality, it is a compact chemical spectrometer (as opposed to the laser spectrometer above). The chemical spectrometer can identify a substance in less than 30 seconds. It is also BlueTooth compatible and works with other Smiths products like the HazMatID as well.

Smiths also brought in the LCD-3.2e, a lightweight chemical agent detector. It is small, light and built to detect agents of chemical warfare like nerve gas, blister gas, skin and blood agents, and basic toxic chemical waste and spills. One disturbing quote from our source says “The LCD’s exhibitor said it’s difficult to sell the LCD because some of the substances it detects are classified. ” Yikes.

The LAPD brought in several of their in-use gadgets, like Andros the armed robot. One of their gadgets is the Phraselator, which acts as a portable translator and comes ready to handle six languages right away, plus is trainable for many more. The LAPD has taught it 224 so far.

The Catcher Rhino is a mobile tablet computer that the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense are both already using in the field. Why? Because its list of capabilities includes: a biometric fingerprint scanner, dual cameras, digital voice recorder, GPS and a panic button plus the ability to stream real-time video to and from the field.

Avalias brought in its CrowdFlow software, recently used in places like Sydney, Australia to prepare for events. Plug in your event location and information, then let the program tell you how the crowd will move in a computer generated simulation. It accurately projected the crowd flow for the Sydney event and other that have tested it. I can’t decide which is creepier – the need for crowd flow simulation to help police control the crowds at events, or the fact that humans are so darn predictable.

Other items included multiple security device monitoring strategic device systems, the latest in mobile incident command software and vehicles, communications devices, satellite linkup tools and other easily portable gadgets and devices. all were designed to stand up to the most abuse the average situation can dish out, and if not survive it in working order at least relay as much data as possible before the item’s demise.

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