News Stories

Fighting Crime with Radio Waves

Can we fight crime with radio waves? (They work against mosquitoes). They're safer than guns. What would be really effective would be to read criminals' text messages so cops can catch them planning their next heist (as long the police don't keep their phone in the wrong pocket!)

A wireless network of radio transmitters can track people moving behind solid walls. The system could help police, firefighters and others nab intruders, and rescue hostages, fire victims and elderly people who fall in their homes. It also might help border control.

Researchers Joey Wilson and Neal Patwari say, "By showing the locations of people within a building during hostage situations, fires or other emergencies, radio tomography can help law enforcement and emergency responders to know where they should focus their attention."

Their method uses radio tomographic imaging (RTI), which can "see," locate and track moving people or objects in an area surrounded by inexpensive radio transceivers that send and receive signals, so the people they're observing don't need to wear radio-transmitting ID tags.

Patwari says the system still needs improvements, "but the plan is that when there is a hostage situation, for example, or some kind of event that makes it dangerous for police or firefighters to enter a building, then instead of entering the building first, they would throw dozens of these radios around the building and immediately they would be able to see a computer image showing where people are moving inside the building. They are reusable and you can pick them up afterwards."

The technique can't distinguish good guys from bad guys, but at least will tell emergency personnel where people are located. Both law-abiding people and criminals send text messages on their cell phone calls, so is this a good way to catch the bad guys?

In New Scientist, Linda Geddes describes walking into a windowless room in a government office building in the UK where analysts are reading the text messages from the SIM card on her cell. 80% of us carry information on our handsets that could be used by a criminal to commit fraud (usually identity theft) and about 16% of us even have our bank account details on them. And cells do not have the kind of "firewalls" that we can install on our computers in order to avoid this kind of data "phishing." And since they are carried in pockets and purses, cell phones are easier to steal than computers.

We once interviewed a man who claimed he could contact the dead over his computer. Now we've found an easier way!It all has to do with what Anne Strieber calls the Green Man.

To learn more, click here and here.

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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