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Entries in Sensors (6)


Twine Links Your Everyday Objects to Twitter, Email or Texts

With Twine, Supermechanical wants to put your world online -- literally.

The amazing innovation will enable you and your household to be super high-tech, with relative ease. Get a text when your laundry's done, be notified by email if your house floods or automatically Tweet when the kids arrive home from school.

Is it magic? Nope, just super-intelligent sensors. The 2.5-inch Twine square includes WiFi connectivity and internal and external sensors that detect pressure, water, movement and more. It runs on AAA batteries for months, and a single app lets you quickly "program" your Twine with easy rules, like "WHEN temperature exceeds 90 degrees THEN text 'Kitchen is overheating.'"

This seems like the kind of awesome idea that, in reality, turns out to be overly complicated. But Twine may be the exception. Set-up sounds ridiculously easy. You just point Twine to your WiFi network, and the sensors are immediately recognized by web app when you plug them in. It reflects what the sensors see in real time, so you can try out new rules and test them quickly.

Supermechanical is funding the Twine project in January. In the meantime, you can visit Kickstarter to pledge some money, find out more, and, if you want, become a Kickstarter and receive your own Twine sensor for less than $150.

We're interested to see where these amazing sensors go. And once you're tried one yourself, don't hesitate to let us know what you think.


Intelligent Perimeter Detection System Deployed at Florida Airport

A smart sensor system that recognizes spatio-temporal sensor patterns of perimeter intrusion by foot, fence and vehicle is currently deployed at Panama City Bay County International Airport in Panama City, Fla., and evaluated by Naval Command.

The sensors were trained to ignore typical fence manipulation (kicking, leaning, shaking) by visitors who gather at end-of-runway fence lines to watch landings and take-offs. However, it alerts if the fence is climbed or if someone attempts to breach the perimeter. Also, the ground sensors ignore the presence of large jets, but alerts for human footsteps in unauthorized areas.

All the sensors slew video cameras to the origin of the intrusion event for threat identification.

No false positives or false negatives were reported by the installed fence sensors for a duration of 45 days of unattended operation, which included several days of seasonal storms.

Another round of tests is scheduled to begin in late February at the new Panama City airport for the purpose of obtaining approval and certification by Naval technology assurance officers to sell the system to the TSA.

The Dallas Fort Worth airport and Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, are also looking to vet the cutting-edge technology.



Researchers Develop Sensors that Rapidly Detect Explosives, Banned Substances

Gobet Advincula works with a variety of devices in his laboratory. He is seen here adjusting his surface plasmon spectrometer instrument prior to another experiment. Credit: Thomas CampbellUniversity of Houston researchers have developed sensors that monitoring everything from explosives to tainted milk.

"There are many dangerous substances, pollutants and infectious bacteria we are constantly exposed to," said Rigoberto Advincula, a highly cited materials scientist at UH. "Our work is poised to assist in such efforts as rapidly detecting explosives or banned substances in airports for homeland security, as well as monitoring commercial products like milk and pet food for substandard additive products. There is a need to measure this quantitatively and in a rapid manner."

Advincula's team fabricated the polymer materials and then built a device that was used as a sensor. The work is based on what he calls "the artificial receptor concept." This is akin to an enzyme functioning as a biochemical catalyst within a cell, like an antibody, binding with specific molecules to produce a specific effect in the cell. The elements in Advincula's work, however, deal with metals and plastics and are called molecular imprinted polymers, a concept also used for making plastic antibodies. These polymers show a certain chemical affinity for the original molecule and can be used to fabricate sensors.

Based in electrochemistry, the films were prepared by electrodeposition, a process similar to electroplating used for metals in the automotive and metal industries. Their key innovation was to use a process called electropolymerization directly on a gold surface and attached to a digital read out. The group's next step is to put this film on portable devices, thus acting as sensors.

"Our materials and methods open up these applications toward portable devices and miniaturization. Our device will allow, in principle, the development of hand-held scanners for bomb detection or nerve agent detection in airports," Advincula said. "This means accurate answers in a rapid manner without loss of time or use of complicated instruments. We can achieve very high sensitivity and selectivity in sensing. The design of our molecules and their fabrication methods have been developed in a simple, yet effective, manner."

In the coming year, the researchers hope to expand the work to many other types of dangerous chemicals and also to proteins given off by pathogens. Ultimately, they plan to create portable hand-held devices for detection that will be made commercially available to the general public, as well as being of interest to the military. 


Amazing New Car Enables the Blind to Drive

This month, Daytona International Speedway isn't just about racing. A unique car that enables blind people to drive will be unveiled there Jan. 29. 

The car, a modified Ford Escape Hybrid, features special sensors, computers and interfaces that help it gain an unprecedented understanding of its road environment -- and even enable the driver to make his or her own decisions. It was designed by engineers and students at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, College of Engineering in Blacksburg, Va.

How does it work? According to the Vancouver Sun, the first step is the sensors, which include lasers and cameras. 

"The laser shoots around, scans the environment and makes a map around the vehicle," said Dr. Dennis Hong, an associate professor in the mechanical engineering department. "The camera system looks all around the vehicle by using some very sophisticated computer vision algorithms to identify and classify objects so that the vehicle knows ... a tree is over there, a rock is over here."

The sensor information enables the car's computer to create a virtual map of the environment. It then interfaces with the driver when necessary: 

Special driving gloves, for example, vibrate across each knuckle to let the vehicle's operator know how sharply to turn, while speed strips, which vibrate along the driver's legs and back, indicate how much to accelerate, says Anil Lewis, director of strategic communications with the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Md.

One interface, for example, is the AirPix, a small tablet-like device with holes on it. Compressed air comes out from these holes and forms an image of what is around the vehicle.

"You put your hand over it and feel these are the roads. That's a tree over there; there is a moving vehicle to my right," says Hong. "The computer provides information about the vehicle so that it is you, the driver, who makes active decisions," he adds. "That is the concept."


Microsoft Develops Phone with "Digital Breadcrumbs" to Help You Find Your Way

Researchers at Microsoft have created Menlo, a prototype phone that helps you navigate back to a location with "digital breadcrumbs." The phone includes sensors that collects your movements and shows you how to get back to your original location, all without using a GPS.

An accelerometer detects movement, a side-mounted compass determines direction and a barometric pressure sensor tracks changes in altitude.

Menlo includes an app called Greenfield, which leverages the data from the sensors. The goal is to count a user's sequence of steps, gauge direction changes and calculate how many floors the user has traversed by stairs or an elevator. The app stores the trail data so the user can retrace the path.