Thursday, August 11, 2011

Electromagnetic Fish Hook Repels Sharks

This news is a couple of months old but I found it interesting and just now stumbled upon it. A New Jersey-based Shark Defense company developed the SMART (Selective Magnetic and Repellent-Treated) Hook that is intended to repel sharks but does not affect other types of fish. It is magnetic and coated with a metal that produces an electrical current when placed in seawater. Electromagnetic fields are known to affect sharks' sensory systems they try to steer clear of them when possible. Market-valuable fish, such as tuna, do not have this electrical sense and are not repelled by the hook. It requires no power source, and reportedly only costs slightly more than a traditional hook (an amount that should be made back through reductions in damaged equipment, wasted time, and unmarketable catches).

In a set of 50 tests using two different groups of sharks, it was found that smaller, recreational-sized SMART hooks with bait received 66 percent less shark strikes than their conventional counterparts. Larger, commercial-sized SMART hooks received 94 percent less, due to the fact that more of the shark-repellent metal was present.

As reported by Live Science, the original work was sponsored by NSF SBIR grant. "Combining a magnetic repellent with a galvanic repellent is very important, because many studies have shown that sharks behave differently to magnets or metals alone," said Craig O'Connell, who researches the effects of magnetism in sharks with Shark Defense and publishes on the subject. "There are many species of shark, and they seek out their prey differently. Having two repellents available increases the chances that the sharks will be deterred."

Magnetic and voltage-creating metals have separately been shown to reduce shark catches by 18 to 68 percent in past studies, although the Shark Defense researchers state that combining the two properties boosts the SMART hook's repellent properties.

EM waves have many uses!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Google Wallet and NFC Smartphones Starting to Take Off

ABI stated that recent developments in contactless payment technology are generating renewed interest, and suggest that the long-delayed dream of comprehensive contactless payment systems may finally be approaching reality. The introduction of Google Wallet and the expectation that several new NFC-enabled smartphones will reach consumer markets soon have created a sense of optimism.

According to ABI Research, in 2010 only about 10% of total POS terminal shipments included some form of contactless technology. While the analyst firm does not agree with some of the wilder media predictions for contactless POS growth – for example that within 12 months, one third of all terminals in the US will accept contactless payments – it does forecast that 85% of terminals shipped worldwide will be contactless-enabled in 2016, driven by increased proliferation of contactless cards and especially, rapid adoption of NFC-enabled cell phones.

Senior analyst Craig Foster comments, “Contactless has the potential to change the way we pay for goods completely, significantly reducing time spent queuing at the point of sale. It also represents an almost perfect fit for the vending industry, because:

• The increased speed and simplicity of check-out go hand-in-hand with the very essence of the vending machine – to provide goods quickly and conveniently;

• The fact that small-value transactions – typically under $25 in the US – do not need to be authenticated by signature or PIN entry is very appealing to vending machine operators.”

M2M practice director Sam Lucero adds, “Contactless technology is also in the very early stages of adoption in ATMs: rather than inserting the card, a customer waves it in front of the machine and enters a PIN.”

Ingenico, VeriFone, and Hypercom are the three leading vendors of POS terminals and command most of the market. VeriFone recently completed the acquisition of Hypercom after satisfying the antitrust concerns of the US Department of Justice. Contactless terminals have formed an increasingly significant part of Ingenico’s portfolio in recent years, accounting for a claimed 21% of the company’s shipments in 2010.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

After Chinook Downing, RPG Defeat Should Get More Priority

It was very sad to hear about the recent downing of the Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan that killed 38 soldiers. Eastern Afghanistan has steep mountain ranges, providing shelter for militants with rocket-propelled grenade launchers creating a dangerous area for military aircraft and personnel. Large, slow-moving air transports like the CH-47 Chinook are particularly vulnerable, so the military should not be surprised that one was shot down especially if it is not equipped with countermeasures as it is a relatively defenseless aircraft.

The two greatest dangers faced in asymmetric warfare are improvised explosive devices (IED) and rock propelled grenades (RPG) as they are easy to obtain and widely used by insurgents. Large funding has gone into IED defeat systems in the US, such the Warlock and JCREW programs, with thousands of systems being fielded. These are RF based systems to jam wireless frequencies that remotely detonate the IEDs. The systems have been relatively effective but there are other ways to detonate IEDs (wires, pressure plates, etc.) so they are not a total solution to defeat them. However, there seems to be much less emphasis put on defeating RPGs as there are only a few systems available today.

Most solutions are deployed on land vehicles which have cages or nets around them that are designed to defeat RPGs but these would not be appropriate for airborne vehicles (photo courtesy of Polish military). There are a couple of active RPG defeat systems that have been developed for vehicles that use RF technology. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries' Elta Group developed an active protection system called Trophy. Trophy intercepts and destroys incoming missiles and rockets with a shotgun-like blast by using radar sensors to track the incoming RPGs. The system includes the Elta EL/M-2133 F/G-band fire-control radar with four flat-panel antennas mounted on the vehicle, that has a 360-degree field of view. A computer uses the signal from the incoming weapon and calculates an approach vector. The system then calculates the optimal time and angle to fire the neutralizers. The launchers fire the neutralizing agents, which are usually small metal pellets (like buckshot).

A few years ago it was reported that there was resistance to incorporating Trophy into the US Army. The US DoD had contracted with Raytheon to develop a similar system, Quick Kill, which at the time was several years behind Trophy in development so there were rumors they wanted their own system instead of the Trophy. Later, in February 2011, Rafael announced that the Trophy system completed a successful evaluation in the US. This system is primarily intended to be used on ground vehicles so these systems probably need to be adapted to be used on airborne vehicles.

Another system that is a non-lethal RPG defeat concept is the RPGNet from Qinetiq US that uses a net shaped "trap" made of super-high strength ballistic fiber, developed under a joint ONR/DARPA program. The net intercepts the flight trajectory at a safe distance from the vehicle and defeats the RPG by crushing its nose, rendering the fuse inoperable. This prevents the high-order blast effect by preventing the formation of the shaped charge plasma jet. The system is in development by Foster Miller from program for the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Several US companies are working on systems to defeat RPGs but they seem behind several other countries like Israel and the UK. General Dynamics has developed the ShotScreen™ RPG Defeat System which is an active protection system that can be mounted on new or retrofitted on a variety of vehicles including helicopters. The system releases a wave of small diameter, low velocity non-lethal pellets from several non-slewing locations to defeat multiple anti-tank type RPGs. It provides 360° horizontal protection with variable inclination coverage and an option for full hemispherical coverage. As mentioned previously, Raytheon has also worked on active protection systems.

Asymmetric warfare presents different challenges than the military is used to dealing with over the years so priorities need to be assessed and new systems deployed quickly to meet these new challenges. Airborne vehicles operating in insurgent areas need protection/countermeasures such as RPG defeat systems which should be more of a priority for the military on vehicles performing critical missions such as the Chinook that was shot down.