Monday, November 28, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Spy: Surveillance Scales to Miniature

The new generation of spies tend to be on the small side. Some of the new, advanced mobile "bugging" devices actually are bugs: insect cyborgs to be more precise.

Professor Khalil Najafi, the chair of electrical and computer engineering, and doctoral student Erkan Aktakka are finding ways to harvest energy from insects, and take the utility of the miniature cyborgs to the next level.

"Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack," Najafi said. "We could then send these 'bugged' bugs into dangerous or enclosed environments where we would not want humans to go." _SD
These tiny, stealthy spies can retrieve information from places you would never dream of sending one of your human agents. And the process of miniaturisation has just begun.
Image Source
Above you see a type of wasp known as the "fairy fly." It is smaller than an amoeba, and roughly the size of a paramecium. Imagine such a mini-wasp outfitted with a full kit of spy equipment. Where could such a tiny spy not go?

Well, of course your cyborg insects would be vulnerable to insecticide. Which is one reason why you would want to pursue research into non-cyborg miniature spy machines. But evolution has a long head-start on artificial nano-machine makers. There is a great deal which we must learn before we are able to mimic living miniature machines in terms of functionality.

The new generation of miniature machine makers will have to learn from nature, rather than to attempt the enterprise from scratch. Even Eric Drexler has been forced to move away from his early "diamondoid architecture" in pursuit of more proven nano-machine materials.

As for the concept of nano-spies, expect it to take off. Literally. An upcoming 2012 space mission aims to launch 4 nano-satellites. And that is only the beginning.

Expect invisible spies to surround you wherever you go -- whether at sea, on land, in space, or underground. Some living, some pure machine, some half machine and half animal. It is a new era, in which it becomes more difficult to remain invisible.

Consider your counter-measures. And consider stocking up on insecticides and advanced insect repellants. Your privacy may depend upon it.

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