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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore



Your smartphone might soon see through walls…and clothes

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

When I first came across this story, I thought it was a joke. But a little googling convinced me it’s not.

Chip lets smartphones see through walls, clothes

Researchers at a Texas university have designed a chip that could give smartphones the long-envied ability of comic book hero Superman to see through walls, clothes or other objects.

A team at University of Texas at Dallas tuned a small, inexpensive microchip to discern a “terahertz” band of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The design works with chips made using Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor technology behind processors commonly found in personal computers, smartphones, televisions and videogame consoles.

“CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips,” electrical engineering professor Kenneth O said in a statement on Friday.

“The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and a transmitter on the back of a cell phone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects.”

To assuage privacy worries, the professor and his team at the Texas Analogue Center of Excellence are limiting their study to what the chips can make visible at distances of four inches (10 centimetres) or less, according to the university.

The terahertz band has wavelengths that fall between microwaves used for mobile phone signals and infrared that is employed for night vision goggles.

The chip designed by Mr O’s team detects terahertz waves and shows the resulting imagery, perhaps on a smartphone screen.

Mr O’s team highlighted potential medical uses such as enabling doctors to peer easily into patients’ bodies and practical applications along the lines of finding studs in walls.

“We’ve created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use,” Mr O said.

“There are all kinds of things you could be able to do that we just haven’t yet thought about.”

Well, I feel a lot better knowing the researchers will be “limiting their study to what the chips can make visible at distances of four inches or less.” Lord knows we wouldn’t want anyone wandering the streets taking a peek at everyone through their clothes.

Of course, once they develop the technology, I suspect there will be lots and lots of people, most of whom will be drawing government paychecks and and carrying badges, who’ll have no compunction at all about using the technology to spy on everyone on the street and in their homes. Store detectives will be using the technology to look for shoplifters…and really enjoying the work!

What? Fourth Amendment, you say? It won’t apply. “We’re not searching you,” they’ll say. “We’re just looking around. You know these goggles we wear can see through things so it’s up to you to stay out of our line of sight if you don’t want us to see you naked.”

On the plus side, girlie magazines will quickly be out of business. For that matter, so will porn sites. Why pay to look at pictures in a magazine or on your monitor when you can don your goggles and watch your neighbors getting busy.

Once this technology becomes commonplace, I think we’ll see lots of manufacturers weaving enough metal threads into their clothing lines to block the snooping. Aluminum siding will make a comeback. Other siding and roofing will begin incorporating metal particles.

You know, this new technology might well be a boon to the economy. Think of all the new jobs it will create as people clamor for new smartphones and other devices that will let them see what folks at the gym or the club or at the park really look like. Think of all the manufacturing and construction jobs it will create as the demand for the aforementioned siding and shingles skyrockets.

Professor Kenneth O and his team might well accomplish with their new technology what Our Dear Leader and his cabal have failed to do for three-plus years. And it won’t cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars.

The real question now is, do I invest in the spy goggles manufacturers or those who make the siding and roofing?

Maybe both?

What do you think?

10 Responses to “Your smartphone might soon see through walls…and clothes”

  1. JG Says:

    I read about this band of the spectrum before, under the name T-rays. It sounds like science fiction until you come across that band’s weakness: metal. It cannot see through metal. If these cameras become commonplace, expect underwear manufacturers to start making underwear with metal wires woven into the cloth.

  2. Marian Says:

    Our leadersihip has been peering under, and reaching under, our clothes for years. Have you been to an airport lately? There is a company making 4th amendment under garments to wear through the body scanners, I am sure that they would work for this too. :)

  3. Elissa Says:

    As if infrared devices weren’t enough if a threat to privacy! You can run, but you can’t hide!

  4. glenn Says:

    I remember the scare over ir filters on video cameras a while back that were supposed to see through clothes. They didn’t really work though at least no better that a bright light or camera flash and the hoopla died down. Then we have the uproar with the tsa over their body scanners and fig leaf covers for modesty. It was just a matter of time before hand held mobile device came along to make snooping just that easier.
    But you know, there my be an easy solution for it all. Just go around naked. That’s right, cut out the trouble and get right to it, if everyone went around naked there would be nothing to hide and no fears. Well except if your attractive and get gawked at and subjected to lewd remarks. and we’ll need to carry bags everywhere cost we wont have pockets. Hey but then we wont have to worry about concealed carry laws just open carry. Then again the FBI has issued a warning about “cavity bombs” so nothing will be spared in future searches.
    Now all jokes aside this kind of tech has a lot of legit uses that could revolutionize the medical field, police and military uses that can save lives, hell with a few twinks we could be looking at the greatest fish finder ever. But with anything the evil comes with the good, there is tons of potential for abuse. Nothing new there. With fear of abuse comes ways to beat the tech which results in ways to improve the tech, to more ways beat it, etc… Seems like nothing really ever changes

  5. Melissa Says:

    Oh, I’m so comforted to know that they’re limiting it to 4 inches! (Sarcasm!) Like that technology isn’t going to get into the wrong (perverse) hands rather quickly. ~sigh~ Dare I ask, “What next?!?”

  6. Harley Says:

    I can’t think of a single valid use for that kind of technology on a cell phone…

  7. Jeffrey C. Anthony Says:

    With obesity on the rise, do you really want to see through everyone’s clothing?

    Consider the gun scanners they’ve been discussing in NY. Might be a good market for a clothing line they cant see through?

  8. Stryder Says:

    When I was a kid, I sent away for the X-ray specs in the back of the comic books…they didn’t work but they did give me a headache. But I’m still waiting for my six foot submarine!!

  9. Robert Says:

    I agree with Jeff. There are some things out there that would be better not seen! But it might be a cure for those that think porn in king. “She looks hot! OMG, it a dude in drag!”

  10. Kentucky Kid Says:

    Stryder, I bought ‘em too. Had fun with them.

    One day this smarter-than-most girl said “OK, if those are X-ray specs, what color is my underwear?”

    I said “Gee, I dunno . . . I’m looking thru them.”

    Had her going there for a minute . . .

    ;-)

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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