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Correction: Op-Ed from 2006
March 26, 2009

Neato: Tiny Accoustic Sensors in Soldiers' Helments May Be Linked into Sound-Capturing Network, Able to Triangulate Positions of Enemy Shooters (and even Identify Their Weaponry)

The last part would be a boon, because if the AK-47 can be successfully differentiated from friendly weapons, finding the bad guys is that much easier.

Very cool stuff.

Vanderbilt University's inhouse Exploration mag reported last week on the gunshot-locator net developed by the uni's Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS). It involves mounting a small electronics package on each soldier's helmet, running on four AA batteries.

In each package is a wireless network node, of a type dubbed a "smart-dust mote" for its small size and cheapness. There are also four separated microphones, for picking up the acoustic signatures of flying bullets, and a GPS satnav location system. The GPS isn't accurate enough to act as a basis for properly pinning down opposing gunmen, so the Vanderbilt boffins added a crafty radio interferometry enhancement system of their own - apparently of such cunning that it has attracted as much interest as the rest of the system on its own.

I don't like that part -- I thought that GPS was deliberately sabotaged a bit to prevent enemies from taking full advantage of it. If these smarty-pants have figured out a way to engineer and math their way around the built-in inaccuracy, that software is going to be highly sought after by enemies.

I don't like that it's possible, mind you. Not that I hold it against these guys for trying to figure a way around it.

The system works by picking up the distinctive conical shockwave trailing behind a passing supersonic bullet...

But then various special sauces developed by ISIS prof Akos Ledeczi (http://www.isis.vanderbilt.edu/akos/) and his team kick in. All the smart-dust node hats in the squad or platoon net pass their information back and forth, and a special patented filter strips out false muzzle-blast reports - the great bugbear of such technology. The supersonic bullet-booms are very distinctive, it seems, but the muzzle blasts are much harder to distinguish from random banging sounds or echoes - especially with lots of guns firing at once in a built-up area.

As every node has a good idea exactly where it is, owing to its embedded radio-interferometry-enhanced GPS, the combined reports can thus be boiled down to locate all the guns firing nearby within a metre or two - enough to pinpoint which window, corner or whatever each enemy is shooting from. Apparently it still works even in the case of crafty snipers lurking well back from windows - the usual method favoured by the pros. Nor is the system bothered by guns firing out of line of sight - hidden behind walls or buildings or whatever.

Thanks to Arthur.

Wrong: GPS No Longer Sabotaged. Yeah, that's why I said "I thought;" I thought I remembered something like this, but couldn't be sure.

When GPS was first released to the public, we got the dumbed down version. It was still an order of magnitude better than "legacy" systems like loran. But after a couple years they let the good stuff out.

I think what they are talking about hear is sort of GPS plus because despite the accuracy of GPS, and it is amazingly accurate, it still probably isn't good enough to do what they are talking about.

Correction thanks to JackStraw.


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posted by Ace at 05:06 PM

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