Mobile Phone Data Predicts Poverty in Rwanda

Posted by Julia Thames on September 12, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |

A picture of how wealthy or poor people are can be reconstructed from anonymized data generated by mobile phones, according to researchers analyzing cell phone data from Rwanda.

Personal information that mobile devices gather such as a person’s location often gets anonymized by stripping it of names, home addresses, phone numbers, and other obvious identifying details. Such metadata often get shared, and underlies popular services such as Google’s real-time monitoring of road traffic.

However, anonymized data can still divulge a great deal about individuals, suggesting that the process does not protect privacy as well as often thought. For instance, anonymized credit card data can easily be used to identify credit card users, and analyzing the movements of your social contacts can help generate a relatively complete picture of your movements.

Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed data from billions of phone calls and text messages from 1.5 million subscribers to Rwanda’s largest mobile phone network. The data captured details about individuals such as social networks, travel patterns, and the amount and timing of communications.

The researchers also conducted phone surveys of more than 850 subscribers of the network. The investigators asked respondents questions about what their housing was like, about whether they had access to assets such as motorcycles or electricity, and about other indicators of their wealth or poverty.

The scientists used the asset data and phone usage patterns of these respondents to predict the wealth and poverty of the other 1.5 million or so subscribers. The wealth and poverty maps their system generated agreed with those made using detailed surveys of the Rwandan population conducted in person by the Rwandan government.

Limited resources make censuses and household surveys rare in developing countries such as Rwanda, hampering research into how poverty and wealth are distributed in those nations. For instance, previous research suggests that national statistics on economic production may be off by as much as 50 percent in much of Africa. The scientists noted their approach could lead to new ways to quickly analyze poverty and wealth at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods, helping uncover the kind of details that are essential to sound economic policy.

Smartphone Keyboard Teaches While You Text

Posted by Julia Thames on September 4, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |

Eight companies graduated last week from the Intel Education Accelerator. None are going to set the world on fire, but all are prepared to make learning just a little bit easier. I’ll tell you about a few more of them later this week, but I have to start with the product that I think was at the head of the class: WordsU.

WordsU has developed an alternate keyboard for smart phones with an autocorrect function that, instead of trying to figure out what word you are trying to type, tries to expand your vocabulary. (Alternate keyboards are apps that replace the standard keypad image that appears when you need to type on a mobile device. Most are designed to make typing faster, more intuitive, or more fun.) WordsU’s digital keyboard app will make its debut in January.

In their pitch to potential investors and journalists, WordsU founders Sam Mendelson and Allan Zhang said the company is targeting English as a second-language (ESL) learners and SAT test preppers who would otherwise use flash cards. They say their approach is better for learning because it presents vocabulary in context, and does so throughout the day. The keyboard, the founders said, works with any app, including iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat. (The company previously tried to introduce the technology through its own messaging system, but it’s a lot harder to get users to embrace an entirely new form of social media than a new keyboard.)

I think this approach is brilliant—and not only because it’s been only a matter of months since my youngest child finally finished running the pre-college testing gauntlet and the tables and countertops in my house were made free of stacks of SAT vocabulary flashcards. It’s clear that my children spend far more time messaging, texting, and snapchatting than they ever did reviewing vocabulary; I’ve been embarrassingly unsuccessful at reigning that in, and I’d feel a bit better if I thought they were learning a little something during the process. I don’t think it would completely replace those boxes of flash cards—there are just too many things that teens don’t talk about with their friends—but it certainly could help.

And, come to think of it, the app would probably bring a little something to my own text messages too. We all get lazy about word choice when we text.

Besides the more serious versions of the keyboard that teach SAT words and American idioms for language learners, WordsU is having a little fun with the technology, demonstrating Valley Girl and Cowboy variants. In one example, the app took a text message that read “I’m super excited” and came up with “thrilled” (SAT word), “chomping at the bit” (American idiom), and “like so psyched” (Valley Girl) as alternatives

Is Real Wireless Phone Charging Nearly Here?

Posted by Julia Thames on August 29, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |

In 1891, Nikola Tesla performed an amazing demonstration: He illuminated a gas discharge tube (essentially a fluorescent bulb) with an electric field, showing that it was possible to transmit electric power without wires. Since then, advances in electronics and computing have given us portable versions of his contemporaries’ inventions—Bell’s telephone and Edison’s phonograph. But when it comes to powering up those devices, we’re still tethered in place.

The best we’ve managed to engineer so far is inductive charging: Place your cellphone on top of a resonant inductive charging pad and the pad’s oscillating magnetic field generates a current in the phone’s receiving antenna. The wire may be gone, but the device is still closely bound to the pad until it’s charged, which isn’t quite what Tesla had in mind.

Real progress on wireless power might come as soon as this year. Several companies are promising to deliver the kind of charging that we really want: technology that can charge devices while they’re in our hands, in our pockets, or wherever we happen to put them down. “Promising” is the key word here. Though these systems seem like magic, it’s important to temper any excitement with a healthy dose of the reality imposed by the laws of physics.

Silicon Valley startup Energous Corp. is developing a technology it calls WattUp. At CES 2015 in Las Vegas, IEEE Spectrum saw a private demo of WattUp’s transmitters delivering energy to devices via microwave beams, and we were impressed. Hundreds of small antennas embedded in speakers, televisions, and dedicated router-size boxes directed power to toys, lights, and cellphones over distances of several meters.

WattUp’s sophisticated localization and beam-forming technology allows multiple radio frequency antennas to emit low-power, 5.8-gigahertz beams along different paths that converge in a “pocket” around the targeted device. Together, they generate enough RF power for a metamaterial receiving antenna to harvest. The device—say, a cellphone—is tracked in real time, and the beam paths are continuously updated with its location. The microwaves can bounce off surfaces, so as the device moves, the microwaves can reach the receiving antenna even if it’s not in a WattUp transmitter’s direct line of sight.

Energous recently commissioned a performance evaluation from Underwriters Laboratories. UL verified that, under ideal conditions, a WattUp transmitter is capable of delivering microwaves to up to four devices simultaneously. The amount of power the beams deliver is dependent on distance: 4 watts within 1.5 meters, 2 W within 3 meters, and 1 W within 4.6 meters. Energous wouldn’t comment on the end-to-end efficiency of the system during this test, except to say that its eventual goal is 25 percent efficiency. While it has yet to receive the approval of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Energous says it plans to make a splash this month at CES 2016 with an announcement of substantial efficiency improvements and integration into near-market consumer devices.

Energous has a competitor in Ossia, based in Redmond, Wash., which is also developing an RF power delivery system. But engineers at the University of Washington have taken a completely different approach, showing that a reliable source of wireless power is hiding in plain sight. Vamsi Talla, a UW electrical engineering doctoral student, is the lead author of a paper describing Power Over Wi-Fi (PoWiFi), which can distribute tiny but useful amounts of power using an ordinary Wi-Fi router.

Your existing Wi-Fi router, transmitting at full strength, emits enough RF power, at least in theory, to operate or gradually charge very small devices at ranges approaching 10 meters. In practice, this isn’t realistic because your router emits power only when it’s sending data packets. Instead, PoWiFi keeps a stream of “superfluous broadcast traffic” flowing so that the router’s power output is kept at the maximum; this flow of nonessential packets is intelligently managed to avoid interference with the user’s actual Web surfing.

As with WattUp’s microwave beams, the amount of power transferred from PoWiFi’s custom routers to its RF harvesting antennas depends strongly on distance. According to Talla, temperature sensors placed more than 8 meters from a router collected enough charge to return data every few seconds. A modified consumer fitness device left within a few centimeters of a router went from zero to a 41 percent state of charge in 2.5 hours. Six PoWiFi routers, tested in the homes of volunteers, had no discernible impact on the quality of the users’ Internet access.

RF isn’t the only charging modality being promised for 2016. Israeli startup Wi-Charge uses beams of infrared light, and Santa Monica, Calif.–based uBeam relies on ultrasound. uBeam’s recent technical disclosures, and the fact that we’ve yet to see an operational acoustical-to-electrical-energy prototype, have left experts with one big question: How can ultrasound—which needs an unimpeded path and attenuates rapidly in the air—lend itself to power transmission in a world filled with stuff like, say, furniture? [See “Experts Still Think uBeam’s Through-the-Air Charging Tech Is Unlikely,” IEEE Spectrum, November 2015.]

Wireless tech will probably never match the efficiency and effectiveness of a plug in a wall socket. But even if real-world end-to-end efficiency ends up in the single digits—well below Energous’s hoped-for 25 percent—our guess is that it won’t stop many people from wanting to give wireless charging a try.

Ossia’s Cota Wireless Power Tech Promises to Enable the Internet of Everything

Posted by Julia Thames on August 27, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen enough companies promising to deliver truly wireless power that we’re almost, almost starting to believe in it. But there’s an awful lot of hype, compounded by the fact that there are a bunch of very different technologies all targeting the same goal: charging everything, everywhere, without plugs or cables or pads. Recently, we’ve taken a closer look at a few of these technologies, including uBeam’s ultrasonic power transmitters and Energous’ WattUp pocket-forming antenna arrays.

Yesterday at CES, we were introduced to Ossia, another company that wants to transform how we power our devices using wireless energy. Ossia’s solution, called Cota, uses thousands of tiny antennas to deliver substantial amounts of power directly to embedded receiving antennas in devices located up to 10 meters away. Cota emphasizes safety, efficiency, and reliability, and their technology seems pretty incredible.

Companies like Ossia aren’t working on the kind of wireless power that you might already have in your toothbrush or cell phone, where you have to place the thing you want to charge in a specific orientation and specific place and then not touch it. You may not technically have to plug in a wire, but you might as well, for all the freedom such an arrangement provides. (And at least having a wire would let you use the device while it charges.) The wireless power that everybody wants and nobody has is the kind where all of your devices are charging themselves wherever they happen to be, whether you’re using them or wearing them or not. That is what Ossia is offering with Cota.

Cota is based on the transmission of power using 2.4-gigahertz radio waves. Small antennas embedded in devices can receive up to 1 watt of power at up to 10 meters away. Rather than transmit this power in one concentrated beam, Cota uses a bunch of small antennas to transmit power to the receiver along multiple pathways. It’s not only safer, but it also helps to compensate for the position and orientation of the receiving antenna in real world environments.

So far, this sounds a lot like another wireless power technology we’re familiar with: WattUp, from Energous, which uses multiple beams of 5.8 GHz RF energy to create a discrete “pocket” inside of which a device with a receiving antenna can charge. However, it’s the details of how Ossia’s technology works that sets it apart from anyone else in the wireless power space. What the company has managed to do with Cota seems kind of amazing.

The fundamental problem with wireless power is coming up with an efficient way to safely deliver a concentrated amount of energy to one specific (but arbitrary and sometimes moving) point in space where your device happens to be located. Ideally, to be safe and efficient, you’d want to transmit RF energy only to your receiving antenna and nowhere else. But how the heck would you project energy in the exact shape of an antenna out to a random point in 3-D space? That seems impossible, right? But it’s exactly what Cota does.

Here’s how Cota works: each device that you want to power contains an RF receiving antenna that also acts as a beacon. It sends out an RF “ping” 100 times a second. The Cota power transmitter (which is stationary) receives those pings across an array of thousands of small antennas, and each one of those antennas hears that “ping” from a slightly different angle. The transmitter responds by having each of its antennas send RF power straight back in the direction from which its particular ping came. Since all of those transmitting antennas are sending RF back to the ping’s point of origin, the RF is focused precisely on the shape of the receiving antenna with submillimeter accuracy.

This can be a little bit difficult to picture, I know, but fortunately, there’s a totally cool experiment from Japan that handily illustrates the principle. Watch this:

To create an arbitrary shape in the water at an arbitrary point, this system uses a bunch of actuators all around the sides of the pool to generate small waves that constructively interfere with each other in very specific places. You could “teach” the system to make a new shape in a new location by dropping an object of that shape into the water, and then having the actuators all record the characteristics of the waves that reach them. By simply “replaying” those waves in reverse, you’d be able to precisely recreate the shape of the object in the pool. This would even work if you put a bunch of other static objects in the pool before you dropped the object in: just record and replay all the waves that you see, and you’re good to go.

This is essentially how Cota’s power transmission works, except in three dimensions, and with radio waves instead of water waves. The initial ping from the receiving antenna in the device provides the information that the transmitting antennas need to be able to precisely transmit power to the device and nowhere else. The device can be behind something, or you can be holding it; it doesn’t really matter. As long as the transmitter hears that ping, all the transmitting antennas have to do is detect the phase and calculate the complex conjugate of the incoming signal, and then transmit power back in that direction.

Okay, so now that we have a sense of how Cota works in principle, let’s talk about how it performs in practice:

Efficiency: right now, Cota’s transmitter uses about 8 watts to deliver 1 watt of power to a device. This is not end-to-end efficiency; Ossia says that including all the necessary conversions and computing and LEDs and stuff, a Cota transmitter will probably use a total of 60-70 watts to charge 4-5 devices remotely at 1 watt each. That 8:1 ratio is the significant one, though, because that’s the measure of the efficiency of the wireless power delivery technique itself. Relative to other types of wireless power transmission, Ossia says that Cota is very well optimized, since it precisely targets the receiving antenna to minimize losses, including losses over distance. Ossia points out that if you use its system to charge something like a AA battery, it would be orders of magnitude more efficient and cost effective than buying even a single disposable AA.

Safety: Ossia’s engineers say that they deliberately chose 2.4 GHz because it’s significantly safer than 5.8 GHz. None of their antennas emit that much power individually, and since the power is entirely focused on the receiver with submillimeter accuracy, it’s safe to charge devices, even if they’re right up against your skin like wearables. Furthermore, Cota doesn’t interfere with WiFi networks, and can be used as a communication channel in addition to its role as a power delivery system. Ossia seems very confident about getting U.S. Federal Communications Commission approval for Cota: the technology is undergoing its third round of testing at an FCC certified lab, and Ossia “fully expects” to meet all SAR requirements with its current platform.

Cost: It might be a bit premature to talk about cost at this point; we’ve seen a sort of proof of concept demo, and that’s it. (“We literally built this an hour before you came in,” said a product spokesperson.) Ossia still has a ways to go before it’s able (with the assistance of partners) to bring Cota to market. Having said that, we did get company reps to speculate a little bit on eventual cost, and the news is mostly good. The cost of the receiving antenna and associated hardware could probably be described as trivial, especially if it gets integrated directly to devices. The first generation of the transmitter (like the round one in the pictures except smaller in production) might run you a few hundred dollars. Ossia will be making more announcements about commercialization partnerships later this year.

There’s a lot more to be said about Cota that we don’t have time to put into this article in the midst of a jam-packed CES schedule. For example, since Cota can be used for data transmission as well as power, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for small Internet-Of-Things devices that won’t require batteries. We spent an hour and a half talking with Ossia reps about their technology and vision for the future, and we were very impressed by how open they were about everything.

After CES, we’ll have a more in-depth article on Ossia, but for now, if you have any questions, let us know and we’ll try and get them answered at the show.

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Lessons from CES How VR Can Avoid the Fate of 3D TV

Posted by Julia Thames on August 8, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |

“Your quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail, to the ruin of all.” So says Galadrial to the fellowship sent to destroy the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. But that advice might as well be directed to the burgeoning virtual reality industry. Early optimism that the second coming of VR, after a false start in the 1990s, will blossom into a new mainstream medium could collapse into despair, with the technology joining 3D television as another misfire.

“Hollywood got a black eye from 3D,” said Eric Shamlin, of the Secret Location production company, yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In the end, despite a lot of effort from TV makers and even some networks,  he said, there just wasn’t enough compelling 3D content to overcome the limitations of the technology.

Contrast this with, say, the introduction of home VCRs, in which users were willing to put up with quite a bit of hassle in the early days—such as the relatively low quality of video over film or the need to swap in multiple tapes for long movies (especially for Betamax tapes)—in exchange for something totally new, i.e. the ability to watch a desired TV show or movie whenever they wanted, as many times as they wanted. Fiddling with the tracking ad naseum, or trudging to the video rental store in the rain, were things people were willing to do as the price for great content.

So the lesson (re)learned in Hollywood from the 3D debacle “was that there needs to be content,” continued Shamlin. But the industry faces some significant hurdles:

  1. The technology is still in what I think of as the “Cambrian Explosion” phase. As can be seen from just a few minute walking around the VR and AR zones on the CES showfloor, this means that there are a lot of different technical approaches in play from many different vendors, extending right down to the consumer level. The same raw piece of VR cinematic content could be captured, edited, processed, placed on a delivery platform, and downloaded and viewed by a consumer with nary a piece of software or hardware in common (apart from our old friend, the Internet).  This makes every production something of an experiment and things like quality control difficult—are you trying to create something that will make an Oculus Rift flex its muscles, or still comes across well with Google Cardboard?
  2. Following on from this point, finding VR content “is a real problem,” said Rebecca Howard, the New York Times’ former video general manager at the same CES panel as Shamlin. “It’s scattered in different platforms.” Even within these siloed platforms, it’s often difficult to search for the content a given viewer will find most appealing.
  3. Storytelling techniques are similarly siloed within different production and media companies. To work well, VR production requires different skills than traditional movie, TV, and game creation. People are now learning the rules and grammar of creating new medium (for example, if you want to go from a static shot to say, the view from a moving car, it’s best to do a jump cut rather than letting the viewer see the camera accelerate, as doing so turns out to be a great way to induce simulator sickness) but there’s not a lot of easy-accessible knowledge sharing going on, outside of the excellent efforts of places like the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. If the industry can’t learn and improve quickly as a whole, the overall quality of VR storytelling will be slow to improve, regardless of what technical achievements are made.
  4. VR faces an even greater education problem when it comes to the mainstream than 3D TV did. When 3D TV rolled around people were already used to the basic concept from years of okay-to-good 3D in cinemas. But—just the like the Matrix—no one can be told what VR is; you have to see it for yourself (clearly, I’m on a role with the geek references tonight). Which, in practice, currently means going to some sort of demo and trusting the brightly smiling acolyte handing you a headset that everything is going to be okay.

Some of these problems will shake out naturally—solid technologies will emerge from today’s stiff competition and mature in the next few years, reducing the confusion and DIY factor common to today’s VR production. Already we’re seeing the viewer market segment evolve nicely into well-defined entry, mid-range, and premium levels (currently represented by Google Cardboard, Samsung’s Gear VR, and the Oculus Rift, respectively), which will make it easier for creators to judge how their content will be viewed. Standardized editing and processing tools should hopefully follow suit, which should also reduce the silo factor.

Others problems—like figuring out how to tell stories that are native to VR in the way that This American Life is native to audio and Battlestar Galactica was native to TV—are harder to address. The industry is going to have to make a better fist of seeing past the immediate commercial interests of individual production and media companies and sharing hard-won skills and insight.

But VR has one giant ace up its sleeve that 3D TV didn’t. It really does offer something brand new that is compelling. Call it transport or call it presence, but even with the cheapest viewer today, VR can make you feel like you’re part of the content in a way that the biggest and most lavish IMAX documentary can’t. If VR technology companies and content producers can consistently deliver that core experience to viewers, those viewers will most likely be willing to forgive a few teething troubles and other stumbles along the way. Otherwise, VR could join 3D in being sent to the cornfield.

Hands-On with Ultrahaptics’ Invisible, Touchable Controls

Posted by Julia Thames on August 2, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |

Last year at CES, we experienced a very cool demo from Ultrahaptics of an ultrasound-based gesture interface that provides invisible tactile feedback in mid-air. This year, Bristol, England-based start-up is showing how their technology can be embedded into devices like cars, stereos, and stoves. And it’s exactly as magical as we were hoping it would be.

Ultrahaptics’ tactile interface is based on a Leap Motion sensor that tracks the location of your hand in space paired with an array of ultrasonic transducers. The transducers generate ultrasonic waves that constructively interfere with each other where they intersect, generating targeted points of invisible turbulence that you can feel.

Ultrahaptics showed off a few new demos in a private suite at CES last week that we got to experience for ourselves. The most impressive one was definitely the stove, where you can control the temperature of four individual burners by waving your hand around above the space where the temperature knobs would be if this wasn’t a stove from the future.

There are four discrete controls (one for each burner) that you can feel by moving your hand above Ultrahaptics’ ultrasonic transducer array on the right side of the stove. It’s not like you can feel an actual knob or anything, but as you move your hand around, you absolutely feel these four tangible regions in space that correspond to the burner controls. Each is a little bit like having an invisible, silent bumble bee right under your palm or fingertips. To turn a burner on, “tap” your hand in mid-air, and the system will register the action with a soft tactile explosion across your palm, the haptic equivalent of a “click.” There’s also a slider control: if you make a pinching gesture with your finger and thumb, the system recognizes it, and you’ll feel a gentle buzzing. Then, just move your hand laterally back and forth to adjust the temperature of the stovetop up and down.

This kind of interface is so foreign that it takes a little bit of practice to get comfortable with, but after waving my hand around haphazardly for a minute, I was able to control the stove as dexterously as if there’d been physical controls there. Once you get a sense of what sorts of tactile sensations to expect, and what each of those sensations means, it’s a very natural control system to adapt to.

While the video shows actual knobs and dials, that’s not really what you should expect from Ultrahaptics’ system. The minimum point size that the system can create (constrained by the wavelength of the ultrasound) is 8.6mm in diameter. By moving those points around quickly, or using many of them, you can make three dimensional shapes, although not with very fine amounts of detail. Force fields are realistic, though, and Ultrahaptics suggests that they might be a useful feature to add to stovetops: if it’s hot, there’s a tangible force field that you’d feel before you got too close to the surface itself.

It’s true that you could accomplish all of these control interactions by just waving your hand around in front of the Leap Motion sensor. But without tactile feedback, it’s very difficult to execute fine control over specific areas in 3D space, since you have no idea whether or not your hands and fingers are in the right spot. Tactile feedback like this means that you can execute fine control in situations where you don’t want to touch anything (like while you’re cooking) or when you can’t look at a display (like while you’re driving). It also opens up the potential for all kinds of different form factors for future electronics, because you can potentially do away with buttons and dials completely.

Right now, Ultrahaptics is using the same sorts of transducers that you might have in your car to alert you when you’re about to back into something. They work fine, but they’re a bit bulky for consumer device integration. The next generation of transducer (already in development) will be about 1mm in height and 1/40th of the volume, although it’s going to take some work to crank the power high enough for tactile use. In terms of software, version 2 (currently under development) will enable “fully tailored sensations,” like very fine recreation of textures that update at 10,000Hz (as opposed to the 200Hz of the version 1 software). Feeling textures, fundamentally, are just your fingertips feeling a pattern of changing vibrations, and with fine enough resolution, Ultrahaptics should be able to fool your brain into feeling just about anything.

In 2016, Ultrahaptics will be using the £10 million of funding they just got to develop industry partnerships, although they already have a bunch of (secret, so far) customers. They’ll also be reducing the size and power draw of the array to make it easier to integrate into devices. If we’re lucky, we should see some products being announced this year, and since Ultrahaptics’ tech isn’t inherently expensive, some of those products might even be affordable.

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North Korea may soon be able to strike USA with ultimate doomsday weapon that deactivates (nearly) all electronics

Posted by Julia Thames on July 27, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |

Obama administration officials have released new intelligence indicating North Korea is building mobile ICBMs that will soon be able to reach the United States. This was reported in the Washington Times, which states, “New intelligence indicates that North Korea is moving ahead with building its first road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, an easily hidden weapon capable of hitting the United States.” (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/dec…)

ICBMs typically carry nuclear warheads, and they can easily target cities on the West Coast such as Los Angeles or Seattle. But even this threat doesn’t compare to the “doomsday weapon” that China or Russia could almost certainly launch right now: A high-altitude EMP weapon (HEMP for short, and I’m not joking).

High-Altitude EMP could fry the USA back into the pre-industrial age

HEMP weapons are detonated in the high atmosphere, theoretically as high as 300 miles above the ground (well above the orbits of most satellites, even). Once detonated, the energy released by these weapons interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field, producing an extremely fast and powerful electromagnetic burst that rushes to the ground at 94{bf778c8bb715473a23ba3b0c2bd910dc63257eeb13443738bfa83317c1d8d409} the speed of light, slamming everything on the ground with as much as 50,000 volts per square meter at high amps.

Not surprisingly, such a phenomenon would fry virtually every piece of electronics they touch, as today’s electronics are manufactured with delicate circuitry that simply cannot withstand such extreme voltage ranges.

Instantly taken out of service would be many automobiles, televisions, cell phones, air conditioners, airplanes, radios, military electronics, and many satellites. Even more worryingly, such an attack would also take out the backup generators and control electronics for active nuclear power plants, which as we’ve already reported here on NaturalNews, could unleash a wave of nuclear meltdowns across the USA (http://www.naturalnews.com/033564_solar_flar…).

As Duncan Long writes on a survival website:

“A major area of concern when it comes to EMP is nuclear reactors located in the US. Unfortunately, a little-known Federal dictum prohibits the NRC from requiring power plants to withstand the effects of a nuclear war. This means that, in the event of a nuclear war, many nuclear reactors’ control systems might will be damaged by an EMP surge. In such a case, the core-cooling controls might become inoperable and a core melt down and breaching of the containment vessel by radioactive materials into the surrounding area might well result.” (http://www.aussurvivalist.com/nuclear/emppro…)

Extensively studied by the government

This is not science fiction. EMP blasts from nuclear weapons have been extensively studied from the very first nuclear tests in the 1940’s. Back then, the world didn’t have much in the way of electronics, so the early effects of EMP were barely noted. But throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, as more testing was done, it became apparent that the electromagnetic pulse effects of nuclear detonations could be devastating.

Today, with civilization running on computers, electronics, GPS units and mobile phones, such a blast could literally fry a modern nation back into the pre-industrial age.

Well, at least back to the 1800’s anyway, where the only tools you could really rely on were shovels, leather straps and shotguns. Firearms, you see, don’t have electronics, so they’ll be fully functional even after an EMP attack. Keep this in mind when you consider how to survive a post-EMP scenario.

Interestingly, governments openly admit that EMP attacks would wipe out all the electronics that keep modern civilization working. The Washington state Department of Health, Office of Radiation Protection explains:

When “detonated,” an EMP weapon produces a pulse of energy that creates a powerful electromagnetic field capable of short-circuiting a wide range of electronic equipment, particularly computers, satellites, radios, radar receivers and even civilian traffic lights. Since EMP is electromagnetic energy traveling at the speed of light, all of the vulnerable electronic equipment in the detonation zone could be affected simultaneously.

Society has entered the information age and is dependent on electronic systems that work with components that are very susceptible to excessive electric currents and voltages. Many of these electronic systems are controlled in some way by semiconductors. Semiconductor devices fail when they encounter an EMP because of the local heating that occurs. Failure of semi-conductive chips could destroy industrial processes, railway networks, power and phone systems, and access to water supplies.

Commercial computer equipment is particularly vulnerable to EMP effects. Computers used in data processing systems, communications systems, displays, industrial control applications, including road and rail signaling, and those embedded in military equipment, such as signal processors, electronic flight controls and digital engine control systems, are all potentially vulnerable to the EMP effect.

Other electronic devices and electrical equipment may also be destroyed by the EMP effect. Telecommunications equipment can be highly vulnerable and receivers of all varieties are particularly sensitive to EMP. Therefore radar and electronic warfare equipment, satellite, microwave, UHF, VHF, HF and low band communications equipment and television equipment are all potentially vulnerable to the EMP effect. Cars with electronic ignition systems/ and ignition chips are also vulnerable.
Source: http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/factsheets/fact…

A single high-altitude detonation could reboot human civilization in North America

If you still think I’m making all this up, by the way, check out the entry on Wikipedia which explains all this in much more detail: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic…

There, you’ll find a fascinating map which shows something rather horrifying: A single burst just 300 miles above the Earth would cover the entire United States (minus Hawaii and Alaska) while also nailing most of Canada and Mexico as well. See that graphic here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EMP_areas….

This map was created based on testimony given by Gary Smith to the US House National Security Committee on July 16, 1997.

That’s right: With one relatively small nuclear weapon detonated high above the Earth, an entire modern nation could be effectively destroyed. Why? Because without electronics, you get runaway starvation, riots, fires, and a complete breakdown of law and order.

A near-instant collapse of modern cities

Imagine Los Angeles, for example, if all the water pumps went out. Imagine Chicago if food deliveries stopped. Many of the rigs on the highway, you see, would be instantly shut down with an EMP burst. Every plane, train and automobile — except for those built pre-1980’s or so — might instantly become road kill.

Imagine police trying to function without police radios. Fire and other emergency services are wholly dependent on electronics. Deliveries of food, water, medical supplies and consumer goods are all dependent on electronics. Oil refineries, nuclear power plants, coal-fired power plants and even renewable energy systems are all entirely driven by complex electronics. All these electronics would be vaporized in a nanosecond.

And no, “surge protectors” cannot protect anything. The EMP wave moves far too fast for surge protectors to trip their own relays. So all the surge protectors get blown out before you can even blink an eye, and then the remainder of the pulse fries all the electronics that were supposed to be protected. Only those electronics specifically shielded against EMP attacks will be protected (and only the military bothers with such expensive retrofits).

As the next graphic shows (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:High_altit…), such a weapon detonated even at just 100km above the surface of the planet would unleash anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 volts per square meter. This chart doesn’t cite the amperage of the current, but military experiments have shown it is more than sufficient to fry all electronics that aren’t specifically shielded against EMP. If you happen to be underground at the moment the pulse hits (i.e. in a subway station), your cell phone may be spared, but the cell phone towers of course will all be kaput.

Both Russia and China probably already have these weapons

North Korea is undoubtedly working on developing such weapons as a way to bomb advanced nations back to the level of low technology found in North Korea itself. But the real worry here is that China and Russia probably already have such weapons and could launch them at any time.

“The non-lethal nature of electromagnetic weapons makes their use far less politically damaging than that of conventional munitions, and therefore broadens the range of military options available,” explains the Department of Health website for Washington state (http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/factsheets/fact…). “Several nations, with United States at the forefront, are reported to have developed non-nuclear bombs capable of generating EMPs.”

This is a game-changer. In the “old” mode of thinking about nuclear war, bombs were unleashed on targeted cities, then calibrated to detonate just a mile or two above the city in order to maximize the intensity of the nuclear burst. But with the rise of electronics-driven societies, the real weakness becomes not the brick and mortar of buildings but the delicate electronic circuits that keep civilization humming. Take away the electronics, and an advanced nation is far worse off than if it were physically blasted by a high-yield weapon. After all, a physical city can be rebuilt as long as you have the electronics to coordinate rescue operations and shipments of materials to rebuild. But if you take away the electronics, the cities destroy themselves with riots, fires, starvation and disease.

Why America is unable to stop such an attack

No doubt the strategic thinkers at the Pentagon have already realized all this. They don’t talk about it much, and they certainly don’t make it public, because if the public really knew the seriousness of this threat, they might utterly freak out.

You see, America has no capability whatsoever to stop some other nation from launching a nuclear device into high orbit (300 miles, say) and detonating it over North America. There is simply no military capability to halt such a missile or to block the EMP effects. Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” defense system never became a reality.

The only real way to stop such an attack is to stop pissing off other nations, and of course America can’t even do that because it’s running around the world interfering in everyone’s business, running secret military ops in Iran right now (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/worl…), overthrowing national governments with CIA-funded terrorist rebels (Libya, for example), unleashing economic hit men to enslave developing nations, and basically running around the global playground like a giant bully.

This is not a way to win friends. If anything, the USA has been building resentment among other powerful nations such as China, which not only holds a shockingly high percentage of the U.S. national debt, but also has advanced rocketry technology and an ability to launch nuclear missiles into high orbit.

Both Russia and China are fed up with the U.S. mucking around in the Middle East, and nearly everyone in the Middle East is fed up with U.S. support for Israel. What all this means is that America is making enemies, not friends, and some of those enemies no doubt have EMP technology already developed that could literally “bomb” America back into the pre-industrial era.

Why the real threats have little to do with individual terrorists

As you can tell if you’re getting all this, the real threats against America have almost nothing to do with lone terrorists trying to bomb a single airplane, for example. The TSA is a cruel joke. It will no more keep you safe than wishing for a magical unicorn to show up and whisk you away from danger.

Even the events of 9/11 would pale in comparison to the total devastation unleashed by a high-altitude EMP device. Beyond a few skyscrapers being leveled, imagine entire cities being zapped into a state of instant electronic death. Such an act would transform cities into death zones from which few would escape alive. (Cities are not designed to sustain life without huge inputs from outside, including food, water, electricity, fuel, raw materials, and so on. Absent those inputs, they become concrete tombs…)

See, most of the U.S. government is wasting its time running roadside checkpoints and trying to entrap gullible teens into acting like terrorists (http://www.naturalnews.com/034325_FBI_entrap…). What the government should be doing is figuring out how to stop acting like the bully of the world and start making economic trading partners instead of making enemies everywhere.

Why international trade is crucial for halting war

The only way to stop Russia or China, for example, from frying North America with a HEMP weapon is to make it more painful for them to lose the USA than keep it around. And that means engaging in two-way trade to create win-win economic ties that would lose a lot of money for some very rich people if bombs started going off. This strategy has worked for China-Taiwan relations, by the way, where China-Taiwan investments are now so commonplace that the two nations are strongly economically dependent on each other. The best “defense” against a military invasion, it turns out, is to have strong economic trading partners who need your nation to stick around so they have viable trading partners.

It’s also effective to have your own HEMP weapons that you can unleash upon your neighbors, should they have any crazy thoughts about bombing you. “Mutually Assured Destruction,” believe it or not, is actually a very wise military tactic for self defense. People may bash the apparent insanity of the idea, but it is one of the things that has kept America relatively safe for generations. If we didn’t have nuclear weapons ready to be unleashed on other nations, do you really think we wouldn’t have already been bombed in the 1960’s during the Cuban Missile Crisis? I don’t have a lot of kind words for the military industrial complex, but at the end of the day, I must honestly acknowledge the fact that the U.S. military’s possession of nuclear weapons has effectively countered the nuclear arsenals of other nations.

In the same way, the most polite place in the world you will ever visit is a small town where everybody carries a concealed weapon. You’ll hear a lot of “sir” and “ma’am” in polite conversation. People tend to avoid arguments for precisely the reason you might imagine: Because they’re all armed. “Mutually Assured Destruction” is a deterrent to violence at both the local level and the global level. It may sound insane, but on a practical level, it prevents violence and helps keep the peace.

And that’s why the USA is no doubt also working on its own HEMP weapons. Even China is extremely vulnerable to the EMP destruction of electronics. It’s no longer a developing nation, you see. China left that in the dust decades ago. Today, China is a high-tech, electronically-organized nation in much the same way as the USA. Perhaps only Papua New Guinea would be completely immune to an EMP attack. Nearly all other nations (including North Korea) would be devastated by it.

Solutions: What can YOU do about this right now?

Okay, so if you’re convinced that the threat of EMP weapons looms over all advanced nations today, what exactly can you do about it?

I’ll answer it in three words: Go low tech.

In addition to your high-tech, electronically timed clothes dryer, have a clothesline outside so you can use the sun to dry your clothes.

In addition to your high-tech Toyota Prius that’s packed with high-density electronics, have an old “beater” wagon from the 1970’s sitting around in case you need it. Heck, you don’t even need to keep paying the license taxes on it if you don’t drive it day to day.

For every tool you have that’s electronic, have a hand-powered alternative standing by: Hand saws, hand drills and other hand-powered tools are easy to come by. Don’t rely entirely on electronics.

Think about low-tech items that reliably work. Duct tape. Scissors. Shovels. Quality cutlery in the kitchen. And if you can, find yourself one of those antique treadle sewing machines powered by your foot! (I’ve been trying to find one of these for months and can’t dig one up…)

How are you gonna write things down when the electronics are all melted? You’d be amazed how many people no longer have pencil and paper, especially among the younger generation which has entirely abandoned wristwatches, too. (Their mobile phones tell them the time, you see.) Have you ever tried to MAKE a pencil? You’d be amazed how difficult it is. It’s so much easier to just buy a bunch right now and have them stored away. They’re cheap, and for the moment, UPS trucks still operate just fine and they’ll bring these pencils right to your doorstep in a pretty brown box.

Getting back to basics

In a way, a world without electronics might actually be a far more “real” world than the one in which we live today. More peaceful… back to nature… a place where local community would mean something once again. But of course there would also be a huge price to pay for that transition in terms of lost lives in the cities where people are so disconnected from the real world that they are utterly unable to survive in it. Today’s teens are so addicted to texting devices that I’m pretty sure some of them would just flat-out drop dead within 24 hours if the cell towers stopped functioning.

The good news in all this is that getting back to basics is a wise strategy no matter what threats we may be facing in the near future: Nuclear war, police state tyranny, EMP weapons, natural disasters, Earth changes, and so on. The more you can rely on your own two hands — and simple tools that leverage your efforts — the more likely you are to survive the next decade.

It also goes without saying that if EMP weapons are unleashed upon the world, the internet will be destroyed, meaning you won’t be able to search Google to find answers like “How do I grow tomatoes?” You’ll need to either have the knowledge in your head or have the physical books on your shelf which is one of the reasons why I still buy lots of physical books. They don’t break, and they never have to be rebooted.

If there’s one thing I’ve really learned in all these years of analyzing society, history and technology, it’s that technology is fragile, and so are civilizations. The society we take for granted today is far more fragile than you might imagine, and the whole thing could come tumbling down in a microsecond. It wouldn’t even take an act of war to make it happen: just one high-energy solar flare could accomplish much the same effect.

If you want your children to survive and prosper in our world, teach ’em the basics: How to grow gardens. How to care for animals. How to think for themselves, live off the land and resist buying into the bull being spewed by technocrats. When the electronic heartbeat of modern civilization comes to a screeching halt, all the circuit boards in the world won’t help you in any way whatsoever. You’ll have to save yourself. And you’d better have a little bit of gold, silver, ammo and garden tools packed away if you hope to have any real chance of making it through the transition.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/034344_EMP_weapons_electronics_modern_civilization.html#ixzz3xrCOdeSO

Move Over Wearables. Make Way for Implantables

Posted by Julia Thames on July 25, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |
Wearable monitors for health and fitness seemed to be everywhere in the exhibit halls and on the conference stages at CES 2016. But while this generation of biometric monitoring devices goes mainstream, a little Silicon Valley company is working on what could be the next generation of body sensing technology: the injectable.

In a small suite high above the CES convention floor, South San Francisco-based Profusa last week demonstrated the Lumee Oxygen Sensing System, the first of what it expects to be a line of biocompatible sensors. This tiny, flexible sensor is about the thickness of a few human hairs and the length of a piece of long-grain rice. It’s made of hydrogel, a substance similar to the material in contact lenses, but is permeated with fluorescent dye. It’s designed to sit under the skin to monitor the levels of oxygen in the surrounding tissue. The company expects to market the device to help people monitor peripheral artery disease, wound healing, and, eventually, for athletes, muscle performance. Profusa has been in stealth mode since 2009, supporting its research with approximately US $10 million in grants and $15 million in venture financing, CEO Ben Hwang told me.

Originally, Profusa planned, Hwang said, to build a better continuous glucose monitor—one that doesn’t trigger a foreign body response that leads to scar tissue buildup—so it can work accurately for years. As a first step, Profusa’s researchers focused on developing the implantable side of the equation rather than the sensing side. They wanted to create an implantable that could be left in the skin forever without triggering the formation of scar tissue or other reactions. They eventually settled on a design that resembles a sponge; it has rounded edges and microscopic holes into which cell tissue grows.

As a test of the prototype, the team embedded the hydrogel sensor with fluorescent dye sensitive to oxygen. The dye glows when excited by particular wavelengths of light; the brightness of the fluorescence diminishes as oxygen binds to chemical receptors in the dye. To read the device, the researchers shine light on the skin above it; an optical reader picks up the emissions. This cycle can happen as quickly as once per second. And while the scanner is currently a handheld device that communicates to a smart phone, Hwang said it could easily be built into a watch or other type of wearable band.

While the oxygen sensing capability was initially planned to be simply a proof of concept (and, perhaps, a method for calibrating other sensors), Hwang said it turned out to have multiple applications of its own. So the company is releasing the oxygen sensor as its first product. Work on the glucose monitor and other sensors—including ones to monitor levels of lactate, creatinine, and urea—continues. Profusa expects its oxygen sensor to receive clearance in Europe for use in monitoring peripheral artery disease within the next few months, with FDA approval on its way. Profusa then expects to seek approval for other applications, including monitoring wound healing and sleep apnea.

To this point, 14 test human test subjects have each had four or so sensors implanted in them for two years; 80 percent of the devices are still working. The company previously conducted tests in rats and pigs. Hwang himself is one of the test volunteers; because you can’t find the sensors by touch, he’s marked his arm to help him quickly find one of them for a demo (though the reader has what Hwang calls a “stud-finder” mode, with colored LEDs that light up to direct you towards a sensor as you scan someone’s body).

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TSA ‘officer’ who stole $800,000 worth of electronics says agency is a culture of criminality

Posted by Julia Thames on July 12, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |

Our regular readers know we’ve got a lot of heartburn when it comes to the antics and actions of the Transportation Security Administration and a number of goofballs this rogue agency regularly employs. As we have well documented, it is one of the most lawless federal agencies in existence.

But for the most part, that is us talking; it’s incredibly more damning when one of the agency’s current, – or, in this case, former – personnel talk about the TSA’s culture of criminality.

Pythias Brown, a former TSA employee at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, who spoke to ABC News recently in his first public comments after being released from prison, said he was part of a “culture” of apathy within the agency that permitted corrupt employees – and there are a lot of them, apparently – to prey on passengers’ luggage and personal items with abandon, thanks in large part to nonexistent oversight and tips from fellow TSA workers.

“It was very commonplace, very,” said Brown, who admitted lifting in excess of $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year span. “It was very convenient to steal.”

‘I got complacent’

Brown told ABC News his lengthy crime spree came to a close only after he tried to sell a camera he had stolen from the luggage of a CNN producer after forgetting to remove all of the stickers identifying the network.

“It became so easy, I got complacent,” he said.

Brown is but one of scores of TSA thieves who have been fired for stealing passengers’ items in the past decade. The agency says 381 of its agents have been fired for theft between 2003 and 2012; 11 have been fired so far this year.

Of course, in a statement to ABC News, the rogue agency said it has “a zero-tolerance policy for theft and terminates any employee who is determined to have stolen from a passenger.” Incredibly, the agency went on to claim that theft is not a widespread problem, saying the number of employees fired “represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed” by the agency.

Critics of the agency in Congress tend to take more stock in what Brown is saying, however. They say the level of theft that is taking place is no surprise considering the agency’s unimaginable failure to properly vet its security screeners.

“TSA is probably the worst personnel manager that we have in the entire federal government,” said Rep. John Mica, (R)-Florida, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “It is an outrage to the public and, actually, to our aviation security system.”

Beware, the TSA…

Brown said his job was to screen luggage behind the ticket counters. There, he says, he often worked alone and knew when overhead security cameras were not working. He adds that he was never questioned about suspicious behavior.

“It was so easy, I walked right out of the checkpoint with a Nintendo Wii in my hand,” he said. “Nobody said a word.”

In the interview, Brown said he learned how to read the x-ray scans to find the best stuff to steal.

“I could tell whether it was cameras or laptops or portable cameras or whatever kind of electronic was in the bag,” said Brown. When he was arrested, Brown was offering more than 80 cameras, video games and computers on his personal eBay page.

“It was like being on drugs, it was,” he said. “I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ but the next day I was right back at it.”

Brown turned his admission of guilt into a public service message for the traveling public: Beware, the TSA; it’s an agency rife with corruption and ineptitude.

Medical microchipping is real Scientists develop tiny electronics that dissolve inside your body

Posted by Julia Thames on July 2, 2015 in Electronic with Comments closed |

If you thought the concept of medically-injectable microchips was something out of a science fiction novel, think again. A cohort of scientists from universities the world over has developed a new type of implantable microchip capable of performing various pre-programmed functions inside the body for a certain period of time, and later dissolving into oblivion.

Published in the journal Science, a new study on the technology explains how “transient electronics” are the exact opposite of traditional electronics, which are designed with stability and long-term durability in mind. Dissolvable electronics, on the other hand, are specifically designed to melt away once they have accomplished their respective tasks, or at least this is what we are being told.

“A remarkable feature of modern silicon electronics is its ability to remain physically invariant, almost indefinitely for practical purposes,” says the study abstract. “Although this characteristic is a hallmark of applications of integrated circuits that exist today, there might be opportunities for systems that offer the opposite behavior, such as implantable devices that function for medically useful time frames but then completely disappear via re-absorption by the body.”

One example of this might be implantable chips designed to target open wounds with heat in order to prevent infection, particularly during patients’ time at hospitals, says a BBC piece on the subject. Another use might perhaps be to trigger an immune response that targets a potentially deadly infection, seeing as how conventional medicine has largely rejected the much more effective holistic and nutrition-based approaches to preventing and treating disease.

According to reports, test chips have already been created that are composed of a combination of silicon and magnesium oxide, and coated in a protective layer of silk produced by extracting silk from silkworms, dissolving it, and reforming it into a crystallized coating. Depending on the intended lifespan of a particular chip, the thickness of the silk might be extremely thin to last for just a few hours, or slightly thicker to last for days or even weeks.

You can read the study’s abstract here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6102/1640

Are dissolvable ‘medical’ microchips a prelude to implantable tracking devices?

As fascinating as this new research might be to some who believe that such technology will only be used for benign purposes such as in medicine, the momentum of this type of science seems to be moving ever more closely towards permanent implantable tracking microchips. Earlier in the year, for instance, researchers in the U.K. were already testing pharmaceutical drugs equipped with “edible microchips” that track whether or not patients are taking their medications. (http://www.naturalnews.com/034708_edible_microchips_tracking.html)

And last summer, research involving “electronic tattoos,” or flexible microchip sensors that can be attached to or embedded under patients’ skin, was unveiled as a so-called “advanced” approach to future medical treatments. A CBS News report from back in January explains how researchers are already testing these chips in heart and brain patients, as the devices could theoretically help prevent heart attacks or brain seizures, we are told. (http://www.cbsnews.com)

Where this all seems to be heading, of course, is into uncharted, Big Brother tracking territory, where human beings are literally controlled by microchips connected remotely to a centralized server that instructs them on how to behave inside the body. While reports about the technology may appear relatively good-natured at the present time, there is clearly a push for such microchips to become not only normative in modern society, but also a permanent facet of the human body.

The question remains; however, whether or not the public will openly embrace such technology, or recognize it as the Big Brother Trojan Horse that it truly is, and thus reject it.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/041304_medical_microchipping_technology_tracking_chips.html#ixzz3xrBe1YgD

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