Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends #231
September 14th, 2008

Creating a ‘Facebook for spies’

One might expect James Bond’s MySpace page to list shaken martinis, Walther PPKs, and Aston Martins among his interests. While that scenario is a bit far-fetched, agents for the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency are testing a social-networking site designed for use by analysts within the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a report on CNN’s Web site. Instead of posting thoughts on music and movies, the agents use the site — called A-Space — to share information on terrorist activities and troop movements around the world.
Source: Steven Musil, CNET’s Digital Media, September 7, 2008

Police probe cell phones to thwart criminals

Deep in the bowels of San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, Sgt. Wayne Hom plugs in a USB key to activate a new high-tech tool that has become the delight of cops, the bane of bad guys and a cloud over civil liberties – a device to extract contacts, text messages, pictures and videos from cell phones. [...] Hom said these devices — made by companies including Cellebrite, Data Pilot and Oxygen Software — often can extract text messages, pictures or contact lists that the phone owner thinks they have erased.
Source: Tom Abate, The San Francisco Chronicle, September 7, 2008

Taking intelligence analysis to the virtual world

Online virtual or synthetic worlds are increasingly being eyed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) as an potentially important tool for intelligence analysis. For example, the ODNI’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) program is planning to begin a project called the Analysis WorkSpace for Exploitation (A-SpaceX) that will examine how virtual worlds can be used to create the workspace of future for analysts. In a separate effort, through ODNI’s Summer Hard Problem or SHARP program, roughly 30 people — about half of whom were intelligence analysts – recently spent the summer studying virtual worlds.
Source: Ben Bain, Federal Computer Week, September 4, 2008

Terrorism: What the next president will face

On the seventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks, what is the nature of the terrorist threat against the United States and other nations of the world and how should the next President address that threat upon taking office in January 2009? These questions are at the center of a special volume of The Annals edited by Richard A. Clarke, as well as in a series of interviews with terrorism experts featured in the volume conducted by Philadelphia Inquirer foreign policy columnist Trudy Rubin, available at: http://go.philly.com/trudyrubin.
Source: SAGE Publications press release, September 10, 2008

Self Surveillance: A new device tracks activity and sleep patterns 24-7

The simple pedometer has been given a makeover. Fitbit, a startup based in San Francisco, has built a small, unobtrusive sensor that tracks a person’s movement 24 hours a day to produce a record of her steps taken, her calories burned, and even the quality of her sleep. Data is wirelessly uploaded to the Web so that users can monitor their activity and compare it with that of their friends.
Source: Kate Greene, Technology Review, September 10, 2008

Better health through your cell phone

In many Third World and developing countries, the distance between people in need of health care and the facilities capable of providing it constitutes a major obstacle to improving health. One solution involves creating medical diagnostic applications small enough to fit into objects already in common use, such as cell phones — in effect, bringing the hospital to the patient. UCLA researchers have advanced a novel lens-free, high-throughput imaging technique for potential use in such medical diagnostics, which promise to improve global disease monitoring, especially in resource-limited settings such as in Africa.
Source: University of California at Los Angeles news release, September 10, 2008

Jhai PC: Low-cost computer links villages to the Web

In the small Hmong village of Phonsavad in Laos, three hours upriver from the nearest road, the Jhai PC is a portal to another world. Built to withstand monsoon rains and extreme temperatures and linked to the Web by satellite, the tough computer brings villagers weather reports, current prices for their rice crops and weavings, and contact with relatives living abroad. It comes with a communications suite that both literate and illiterate villagers can use and will eventually host a videoconference kit for checkups with doctors. The computer costs about $200 and can charge its battery from a generator powered by pedaling a stationary bike.
Source: Gisela Angela Telis, The Christian Science Monitor, September 11, 2008


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