Hi-tech weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin presented its latest effort in surveillance technology this week – a web of self-organising sensors with the ability to trigger any kind of device from a distance and have it operating autonomously.
The presentation took place at the annual meeting of The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) that took place Monday through Wednesday.
The goal of the defense contractor’s much lauded “field and forget” technology is to offer vast coverage at little operation cost, as well as the ability for units to remain in sleep mode and without maintenance for years on end. It relies on the sun for power, Wired reported from the meeting.
The official name given to the technology is SPAN – or Self-Powered Ad-hoc Network – a “covert, perpetually self-powered wireless sensor network” that offers its users “unobtrusive, continuous surveillance” at sizes so small it could fit into a rock.
When remotely triggered, the self-organizing sensors can do anything from starting up a camera to ordering a computer to alert human personnel when a civil structure is in danger or simply disrepair.
The SPAN system was originally introduced last year. Earlier in 2013, a former Lockheed Martin subcontractor made headlines by trying to sell an earlier prototype of the “surveillance rock” a few years ago for $10 million. The original idea had had been scrapped by the manufacturer and did not come to fruition.
However, the high-tech rocks being marketed now are an entirely new invention. The company proudly announced that the concealed nature of SPAN sensors allows them to “reduce the likelihood of discovery and tampering.”
This comes on the heels of an embarrassing incident involving British intelligence and Russia, in 2006, when British spies used a fake rock in a Moscow park to exchange information between agents and embassy staff.
At the time, a report on Russian television claimed there was proof that British spies were using electronic equipment hidden inside a fake rock to exchange information between agents and embassy staff. The British government of then-PM Tony Blair initially denied using the spy rocks, but in 2012 his chief of staff at the time, Jonathan Powell, admitted to the surveillance, calling it “embarrassing.”
Iran also discovered a spy rock, at the site of a uranium enrichment site, in September 2012.
While troops were patrolling the classified site’s perimeter, they found a monitoring device in a rock. When they had approached it, the device exploded; it was presumably rigged to self-destruct on approach.
It was not clear who was behind placing the device at the Iranian nuclear facility, but Israeli, British and American agents have reportedly been actively involved in surveilling Iran’s military and unclear activities, given the countries’ fear of a nuclear-capable Iran.
3 thoughts on “Rock, paper, surveillance: US Army investing in smarter ‘spy rocks’”
Great. Now we have to beware of the fake rocks, too. I knew that whole hide-a-key fake rock thing would get out of hand. I just knew it.
“The SPAN system was originally introduced last year. Earlier in 2013, a former Lockheed Martin subcontractor made headlines trying to sell an earlier prototype of the “surveillance rock” a few years ago for 10 million. The original idea had been scrapped by the manufacturer and did not come to fruition.”
TRANSLATION: Somebody stole somebody else’s Idea…and the originator never saw a dime.
About as real as Obummer’s birth certificate.
I think the ‘solar power’ is a joke. perhaps they use the worlds smallest photo cells that are not reflective(joke) but as an electronics guy(own a repair shop and did ecm in navy) my honest opinion is a ‘new'(joke) device call a ‘super cap’ These can store a lot of power in very small spaces and charge very easily including from vibration off of a piezoelectric transducer. Thats how I would power it. cost $55 for the cap and $12 for the transducer.
solar is poor output and would cost about $80-$200 plus batteries with a solar panel the size of your shoe. not easily hid.