Archive for September, 2008

Researchers Demonstrate How to Spoof GPS Devices

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008


With millions of GPS-based navigation devices on the road today, it is time someone considered the question: What if there’s an attack on the GPS network itself?

Researchers at Virginia Tech and Cornell University spent more than a year building equipment that can transmit fake GPS signals capable of fooling receivers.

“GPS is woven into our technology infrastructure, just like the power grid or the water system,” said Paul Kintner, electrical and computer engineering professor and director of the Cornell GPS Laboratory in a statement. “If it were attacked, there would be a serious impact.”

GPS is a U.S. government-built navigation system of more than 30 satellites circling earth twice a day in specific orbits. The satellites transmit signals to receivers on land, sea and in air. Based on the signals received from the satellites, devices are able to triangulate their exact positions on the globe. But if those satellite signals were wrong — or were spoofed — a GPS device might come up with the wrong location based on the signals it was receiving.

The researchers started by programming a briefcase-size GPS receiver used in the research of the uppermost part of the Earth’s atmosphere, known as ionospheric research, to send out fake signals. The phony receiver was placed in the proximity of a navigation device, where it anticipated the signal being transmitted from the GPS satellite. Almost instantly, the reprogrammed receiver sent out a false signal that the GPS-based navigation device took for the real thing.

The experiments to show the vulnerability of GPS receivers to spoofing could help devise methods to guard against such attacks, says Brent Ledvina, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech, and will be detailed in a research paper to be released Thursday.

“It’s almost like someone nearby is spoofing your favorite radio station by transmitting at the same frequency but higher power fooling your receiver into believing it is getting the right station,” says Ledvina.

The idea of GPS receiver spoofing has already been considered by federal authorities. In a December 2003 report, the Department of Homeland Security detailed seven countermeasures including monitoring the absolute and relative GPS signal strength, monitoring the satellite identification codes and the number of signals received and checking the time intervals between the received signals to guard against spoofs.

Still those fall short and would not have successfully fended off the signals produced by a reprogrammed receiver, said the researchers.

Instead they have suggested a few countermeasures that involve both hardware and software changes. “We have two patent applications which include a software algorithm to help make changes to how receivers react to signals,” says Ledvina.

The other patent is around the spoofer tool used, he says. “The idea is to help government and other companies use it to potentially make better receivers,” says Ledvina.

Photo: NASA

Links: HomeLandSecurity, wired

HumanCar Powered by Human Energy, Not Ethanol

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008


Charley and Chuck Greenwood, a father-son combo, think they know the secret to the future of cars: rowing.

And they founded their company HumanCar to prove that human energy, not biofuels, is the gasoline of the future. Their Imagine_PS car seats up to four in a low-slung chassis; the passengers get to help row the lightweight car.

Think of it as an ergonomic, efficient and sneaker-saving Flintstone’s car for an oil-free future. The front two ‘drivers’ get to steer, which is done with a talented and coordinated lean.

“Body steering comes from the hips,” CEO Chuck said. “It’s just like a properly performed ski turn.”

But revolutionizing steering is not the point of these Oregon entrepreneurs. “It’s about thinking about days per life versus miles per gallon,” CEO Chuck Greenwood said.

When powered by four people rowing, the car will go about as fast as the ‘drivers’ would on bicycles, on average.

But, that’s only if they were driving in a flat city like Chicago, where the car is currently on display for two weeks during the Wired NextFest future-tech expo in Millennium Park.

For hillier locales or higher speeds, there’s electric assist motors and regenerative brakes that funnel the vehicle’s momentum back into the batteries.

The Greenwoods plan to sell Imagine_PS as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, a state-by-state designation that frees it from requirements such as air bags and in some states, even the need for a licensed driver or insurance.

But to qualify, the top speed will have to capped at around 20 mph — though the Greenwoods say the chassis can easily handle sports car speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Hear that, hot rodders?

Though not yet for sale, advanced models of the Imagine_PS for corporate campuses will be available soon for $35,000 to $50,000, while the consumer model is slated to be be priced at $15,500.

Source: Wired

Bait Car: A car that catch criminals

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Auto theft can be very dangerous and this is a car thief that should have thought twice before stealing a bait car in Washington State. Check out this dramatic video.

A bait car, also called a decoy car, is a vehicle used by a law enforcement agency to capture car thieves. The vehicles are specially modified, with features including GPS tracking, hidden cameras that record audio, video, time, and date, which can all be remotely monitored by police. A remote controlled immobiliser (known as a “kill” device in law enforcement jargon) is installed in the vehicle that allows police to disable the engine and lock the doors.

The car is filled with valuable items and then parked in a high-vehicle theft area. In some cases, the vehicle is simply left unlocked with the keys hanging from the ignition. When the car is stolen, officers are alerted, who then send the radio signal that shuts off power to the engine and locks the doors, preventing an escape. The practice does not violate entrapment laws, since suspects are not persuaded to steal the vehicle by any means other than its availability and their own motivation.

The concept and technology was first developed by Jason Cecchettini of Pegasus Technologies and was used by the Sacramento Police Department in 1996, using Sedans like the Toyota Camry, and sports cars, such as the Honda Prelude.

The bait car is a phenomenon in the study of criminal behavior since it offers a rare glimpse into the actions and reactions of suspects before, during and after the crime. Unlike other crimes caught on surveillance cameras, suspects, at least initially, believe and react as if the crime has been wholly successful, until the bait car is apprehended by law enforcement personnel.

The largest bait car fleet in North America is operated by the Integrated Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team (IMPACT), based in Surrey, British Columbia. Surrey was designated the “car theft capital of North America” by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 2002. Their program was launched in 2004, and has contributed to a 10% drop in auto thefts since then.

A LoJack is a similar technology, in that it allows a vehicle to be remotely tracked if it is stolen. These are typically installed in police vehicles.

Bait cars can be used as part of a honey trap, a form of sting operation, in which criminals not known to the police are lured into exposing themselves. Unlike a sting operation that targets a known or suspected criminal, a honey trap establishes a general lure to attract unknown criminals.

Bait cars (and the stings they are used in) have been featured in numerous documentary or reality television programs, including COPS and World’s Wildest Police Videos. They are also the exclusive focus of a 2007 Court TV (now truTV) series simply titled Bait Car.

Links: News10, BaitCar, BSM Wireless

Z-Wave Announces Advanced Energy Control Framework

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

z-waveThe Z-Wave Home Control standard expands its reach with the announcement of the Advanced Energy Control Framework (AEC), a specification for advanced energy management technologies that empower homeowners to make informed decisions for energy consumption and monitor home devices. Z-Wave’s AEC will integrate smart metering, consumer notification, automated load shedding and home controls to enable real-time energy management and to help reduce energy demand, lower utility costs and provide active control over home energy consuming devices. Zensys presents the AEC at the Metering Europe event in Amsterdam (Booth J15) between the 22nd and 24th of September, 2008.

“The Z-Wave Advanced Energy Control Framework is a breakthrough in home energy management that will allow homeowners to actively monitor utility costs and demand response in order to save energy and money while reducing their carbon footprint,” says Mark Walters, chairman of the Z-Wave Alliance. “Some utilities are looking to use smart meters to dynamically adjust billing rates based on energy consumption. With AEC we can notify the homeowner of these changes so they can make informed decisions on how they want to consume energy. With Z-Wave and AEC the power to conserve is in the hands of homeowners, not the utilities.”

Transparency and management reduce energy costs
Most consumers receive only one electricity meter reading per month, providing little insight into their daily energy consumption and habits. With Z-Wave’s AEC, consumers can view their energy consumption anytime and anywhere in order to determine when they are using the most energy, and then can work to reduce overuse. Homeowners can also respond to utility billing structures, such as time-of-use pricing and tariff schedules, to minimize energy usage at peak times.

“With its undisputed strength in interoperability and its range of available products, Z-Wave does not only provide for the simple communication from an electricity meter to a gateway and a wireless display in the home,” says Roar Seeger, CEO of Modstroem, a Danish utility company. “It also enables the control of devices in the home that actually consume the power. Especially this second aspect is essential for Modstroem’s advanced service and key to actually achieving energy reduction without compromising comfort for the consumer.”

Z-Wave’s large selection of interoperable home energy control devices enables AEC solutions for a range of consumer scenarios, from simple energy monitoring with smart meters and home displays, to fully integrated device networks including thermostats, home control panels, gateways, sensors, controlled lighting, window coverings and other electrical devices. All the data is collected through an easy-to-understand central Z-Wave control interface that provides homeowners with the information they need to best manage their energy consumption.

Metering Europe: movement in the utility market
This year, the tenth anniversary of the Metering, Billing/CRM Europe takes place in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Since the European member states have opened their electricity and gas markets to competition, the demand for solutions which enable an efficient use of energy and lower the costs increases rapidly. So the investments in smart metering technologies are on the rise. Against this background Zensys will present its Advanced Energy Control Framework in Amsterdam and explain the benefits of the new solution with regard to energy efficiency and the management of consumption.

Source: Sensor News

Wireless Data Loggers Record with Four Inputs

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Using the ZigBee wireless protocol, Fourier Systems’ DataNet wireless data loggers offer 4 recording inputs for direct measurement and recording of PT-100 thermocouple (J, K, and T), voltage, current, frequency, and pulse. The devices come with internal temperature sensors, a 4-channel RF logger, operating keypad, LCD display, and a monitoring network. Long range monitoring is possible with multiple alarms, including SMS and e-mail, to any location. Each unit serves as a transmission repeater to neighboring units to form a mesh network of up to 65,000 nodes.

Source: ECN

Russian town smiles to Google Earth

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

It’s a fun new activity to do, along with new killer applications keep on submerging on the web…

source: MAKE

TESLA version 2.0 hits the road?

Saturday, September 13th, 2008


Tesla Motors has released the much-awaited upgrade to the gearbox in the all-electric Roadster, and in typical Silicon Valley fashion calls it Powertrain 1.5 — even though it’s a different transmission and so ought to be called v2.0.

Nomenclature aside, the slick one-speed Borg-Warner transmission joins a stouter power inverter and revised engine in a package said to deliver 30 percent more torque and 10 percent more range. That lets the Roadster make good on its promised zero to 60 time of 4.0 seconds while squeezing 244 miles from the battery. “The new setup is superior in almost every way,” says J.B. Straubel, Tesla’s chief technology officer.

Tesla says it’s already putting Powertrain 2.0, er, 1.5, in Roadsters that have made the trip from the factory in Hethel, England to San Carlos, California, for final assembly. So what’s different about Powertrain 1.5, and what happens to the 27 people driving Roadsters with Powertrain 1.0?

The new one-speed transmission weighs 17 pounds less and creates less drag on the motor, increasing efficiency and bumping the car’s range. A revised power inverter puts out 850 amps, up from 650, and the motor had redesigned terminals to reduce resistance. It’s beefier, too, and torque rises from 211 foot-pounds to 280.

Tesla started developing Powertrain 1.5 after realizing the two-speed transmission it planned to use “had many durability, efficiency and cost challenges,” Straubel wrote on the Tesla blog. Eager to start building cars, Tesla slapped an interim one-speed transmission in the Roadster when it fired up the assembly line at the Lotus plant in Hethel, and although early reviews of those cars were positive, the stop-gap tranny significantly cut into its performance. Early adopters got a car that did zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds — about as fast as the Toyota Tundra pickup. Powertrain 1.5 cuts that to the promised 4.0 seconds, putting the Roadster on par with the Porsche 911 GT3.

Tesla’s put 27 Roadsters in driveways since production started March 17, and will retrofit every one with the new drivetrain at no charge beginning next month. Darryl Siry, vice president of sales and marketing, tells us the modular design of the Roadster’s drivetrain makes it a plug-and-play operation. “It’s a four-hour swap,” he says. “It’s not a complicated thing.”

With the drivetrain finally sorted out and the assembly line running smoothly, Tesla’s increased production from four cars a week to 10. That’s expected to double before the end of the year, then double again to 40 a week early in 2009.

“Now that we have a final powertrain design, in a matter of months there will be hundreds of Tesla Roadsters across the country,” says CEO Ze’ev Drori. “We’re heralding nothing less than a new era of the automobile.”

But what about that nomenclature? Siry says Powertrain 1.0 was the internal designation for the air-cooled motor in the Roadster, while Powertrain 2.0 refers to the liquid-cooled motor being developed for the all-electric sedan that was codenamed Whitestar (the Roadster was Blackstar) but is now called Model S.

Glad that’s cleared up.

Photo by Tesla Motors.
source: wired

All in days of work

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Sometime, the GPRS coverage & priority issue is a turning down subject in our AVLS operations. Despite of GPS data errors and interferences, we choose to add SMS  mode for failsafe function to our AVLS architecture. It’s not really a big deal to develope the back engine, but in considering the alarm dispacthing functions. Maybe, it will become another turning down factor in our bussiness. the dispatcher should be really intelligent to determine the raw data despite of many of uncertainty factors that always bother. We bought a quad-core dell 1U rack server in order to replace our old beloved application server, a 4 pentium 4 Dell 5U tower server. We done doing upgrades to database server, and now working on the back-end & front-end application test. In another hand, we are migrating the Telemery System for waterworks…. developing a friendly GUI for Flood Monitoring System plus testing the alarm dispatching functions, still handling data loses in ABB EM meters integrations… sigh!

Peterbilt Fuel Cell Means No Idling When Idle

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

image by peterbilt

So you’re a trucker stinging from high fuel prices. You don’t want to back off the hammer and double-nickel in the granny lane to save gas, nor do you want to turn off the AC in the sleeper cab on those hot Texas nights. Well, we’ve got good news for you, Rubber Duck: Peterbilt has demonstrated a big-rig fuel cell that provides the juice to provide your creature comforts when you’re parked, cutting out overnight idling and saving the motion lotion for the Big Slab.

The Pete uses a solid oxide fuel-cell auxiliary power unit (or SOFC APU, an acronym only the Army could love) from Delphi that provides 800 watts of electricity through oxidation rather than combustion. During a test in July, the truckmaker and Delphi found the fuel-cell unit could easily power the “hotel loads” — AC, radio, TV, lights and, of course, the CB) in a Peterbilt 386 (pictured) for ten hours without firing up the engine. In other words, it’s enough to keep you and your dog Fred cool and entertained while you rest up.

The fuel-cell power unit requires a starting temperature of around 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, but that’s no problem thanks to the truck’s engine. After a typical day’s haul the diesel will effortlessly bring the SOFC APU up to temp and keep all your gadgets — check out the Pete’s sleeper cab below — running on through the night. The idea was discovered by the late Delphi scientist Dr. Jerry Reed and outlined in his Department of Energy brief, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.”

For truckers who find themselves beyond the range of “shore power” (somewhere to plug in their traditional APU), the fuel-cell variant is an attractive alternative to idling. Peterbilt’s ComfortClass system uses charged batteries to run climate control systems and promises to reduce annual fuel consumption by eight percent, but it won’t let you listen to The Truckin’ Bozo on XM (though we’re not sure that’s such a bad thing).

Peterbilt promises the fuel cell will run off of nearly anything from natural gas to military logistics fuel, which will come as welcome relief to long-haul truckers sweltering under the growing number of idling restrictions imposed on the brave truckers of Baghdad who don’t need any more reasons to sweat. According to Delphi, the SOFC APU was installed in the Peterbilt 386 because of its already fuel-efficient performance. “It merges conventional Peterbilt styling with leading aerodynamic design and has been recognized as fuel efficient and environmentally friendly by the EPA’s SmartWay program,” according to Delphi. We tried to get a quote from C.W. McCall, but were informed that he’s not a real person.

Photos by Peterbilt.

source: Wired

Sniffing ZigBee Packets

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

When engineers tackle a project that uses ZigBee communications they may get a surprise. Unlike point-to-point communications, ZigBee involves a network that can establish nodes, repeaters and complex mesh topologies. The proper test tools–often called “sniffers”–help engineers diagnose ZigBee-network problems that could otherwise turn into nightmares.

Microchip Technology includes the ZENA Wireless Network Analyzer with its PICDEM Z demonstration kit so engineers can see what goes on among ZigBee devices. The ZENA tool also can sniff and decode Microchip’s MiWi protocol that, like ZigBee, uses IEEE 802.15.4 radios. According to Steve Bible, an applications engineering manager at Microchip, ZENA time stamps packets and displays them in a graphical format. ”

The screen shows the destination and source addresses, the payload and the data,” explained Bible. “We add some color coding and provide data as hexadecimal values. Users also see a received signal strength indication, or RSSI–an uncalibrated relative value.”

“ZigBee and IEEE 802.15.4 technologies require a shift in how we analyze and manage ad-hoc wireless networks,” said Matt Perkins, VP of technology development at Awarepoint, a supplier of wireless asset-tracking systems. “An analyzer should take time-sliced snapshots of network traffic, ‘mine’ the traffic for metrics such as throughput, bottlenecks and end-to-end delays, and presents information in a concise graphical form.”

Source: Freaklabs