Tech Universe favourites: Monday 17 December

By Miraz Jordan

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

GIVEAWAY GLASSES: Drinking in a club or bar? If you've taken your eyes off your glass for a moment you wouldn't know if someone's slipped in a date-rape drug such as GHB, Ketamine or Rohypnol. Such drugs are tasteless, but a sensor material in the glass may still detect them. DrinkSavvy aims to create glasses, stirrers, straws and plastic cups that change colour to show when a drink has been tampered with. That's good until the bad guys slip a new ordinary glass as well as the drug.

HUMDINGERS: Those recordings they use on crime shows as proof could, of course, have been faked. But there's a way for forensic scientists to establish whether recordings are genuine, by using the hum from mains electricity. Any digital recording made anywhere near an electrical power source picks up that hum so it's embedded throughout the audio. The electricity supply experiences minute fluctuations in the order of a few thousandths of a hertz.

The pattern of those fluctuations is unique over time, and some places have been recording them in a database. That means an audio recording could be compared to the database and disparities such as breaks would easily be revealed. Such Electric Network Frequency analysis has already been used in court in the UK to send criminals to jail. When will the recording industry use the unique hum pattern to authenticate video recordings?

BUSES HAVE EARS: Chat with a fellow traveller on a bus in the US and your conversation might be recorded. Sophisticated audio surveillance systems are being installed on public buses across the country to eavesdrop on passengers. The audio recordings may supplement the video recordings already being made, and may be matched with GPS tracking and ticketing data. Speech and facial recognition software could also be used with the recordings for very sophisticated monitoring. All recordings may be stored for 30 days. How quickly will people find the best gadget to interfere with the signals I wonder?

DRIVE BY WIRELESS: The average length of a taxi ride in London is 15 minutes. What should passengers do with all that time? Get onto wifi of course, and check their email or Twitter. The Eyetease CabWifi service in taxis is to provide free internet via 3G or 4G after a 15-second advert every 15 minutes. They aim to offer the cabbies free access with a special login as an incentive to install the service. That's handy for tourists to keep an eye on their smartphone's map app.

BOMBS IN SIGHT: The Bomb Sight project from the University of Portsmouth lets you explore the London Blitz that took place between 7 October 1940 and 6 June 1941. The project presents an interactive map of London with pins showing where every bomb fell during the Blitz. Click on a bomb to read more about it and view photos from nearby, if any are available. Zoom out to see London was really just one huge bomb site.

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