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New Radar Sees Through Walls 397

artemis67 writes "A small Israeli company has developed a radar system that uses ultra-wideband technology to produce three-dimensional pictures of the space behind a wall from a distance of up to 20 meters. The pictures, which reportedly resemble those produced by ultrasound, are relatively high-resolution and are produced in real time. Wow, it sounds like the potential benefits of this device are huge, saving lives of soldiers, firemen, or police; the potential for privacy invasion, however, is similarly large."
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New Radar Sees Through Walls

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  • terrahertz imaging (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobthemuse ( 574400 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @12:48PM (#9593190)
    Isn't this similar to the terahertz imaging [] previously discussed? Also seen here [] and here []?
  • saving lives? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by EpokhusMinimalist ( 691947 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @12:50PM (#9593217)
    Well I dont think it would save the lives of the soliders on the other side of the wall, thats for sure
  • Behind walls eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <> on Friday July 02, 2004 @12:51PM (#9593230) Homepage Journal
    Well what kind of walls? Drywall? Brick? Craypaper?

    The material the wall is made out of has a marked impact on the permeability of EM waves. And the frequency you select to get through the wall may pass straight through your intended target of viewing as well.

  • Aluminium Foil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @12:53PM (#9593263)
    Can't see through aluminium foil, if it is truly Al.

    My guess is that within 10 years we will see new homes / apartments boasting of how they form Faraday cages, to prevent all kinds of remote monitoring.
  • Re:Very cool (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @12:53PM (#9593267)
    All from 20 feet away? All you need is a building with a point 20 feet from the nearest walls, and the technology is rendered useless.
  • Walls... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eli173 ( 125690 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @12:55PM (#9593287)
    Just as long as it lets me see where this pipe/conduit/wire goes in my wall. (And where the studs are...)

    Or looky here, we've got termites in this wall.

    So when does the hand-held consumer version of this come out?
  • by El Bromo ( 663141 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:04PM (#9593408)
    These are exactly the types of technologies that will be needed to fight the multifaceted wars the US armed forces will find itself fighting in the next two decades. Urban warfare is a mode of fighting that has haunted armies for a couple hundred years now, and not very many improvments on the weaponry front have come along to *seriously* enhance an army's capability to fight in an urban setting. Modern communications, guns that can shoot around corners, and radar that can see through walls all help, but it still behooves a small, vastly-outnumbered army to hole up in a city they don't mind seeing destroyed and make the big army root them out one building at a time.

    If that big army is the US Army, it's going to put a premium on avoiding civilian casualites, and the bad guys can, will, and do exploit that doctrine. We can't just carpet-bomb the whole city, and it's very casualty-intensive to thoroughly search through urban centers looking for a handful of people.

    This is a problem that will occupy the best minds in the Pentagon, in other armies, and in defense companies for the next two decades. If we can find some good answers, we can prevent unnecessary casualties all around. If we can't, we'll continue to see bloodletting every time an urban warfare situation is encountered. For now, the best doctrine is simply to avoid urban warfare at all costs, and make do when it is forced upon you.

  • Yeah, let's forbid this technology because it might compromise our privacy.

    Also, let's forbid P2P file sharing because it might allow people to download music and movies and games without paying for them.

    *rolls eyes*
  • by maximilln ( 654768 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:08PM (#9593464) Homepage Journal
    Typically I like to run against the government grain simply because I don't believe Big Brother is a good concept. Overhead always causes problems: greed, graft, bribes, special interests, unaccountability. Ask the Soviet Union about it. Ask Afghanistan about it. Ask Cuba about it. Heck, ask Saddam Hussein about it. I'm sure he'll gladly point out that any overhead power is a ripe field for exploitation.

    So we have this ping-pong match of people who hold the government in dreamy-eyed awe and people who see only the ill uses of governmental power. Somewhere in between lies the truth. Sometimes Big Brother gets it right, sometimes Big Brother gets it for himself. The only real way to eliminate the problem is to turn Big Brother into little Brother or even microscopic Brother. That's a fine and dandy solution but Big Brother writes too many paychecks, makes too many people feel warm fuzzy and comfortable, and keeps too many bankers and politicians living a very easy luxurious life.

    As for prisoner abuse that's a touchy subject. I've heard that some of the fellows who were stacked up on each other were being disciplined for attempting to start an exercise yard riot. Some of the people who were blindfolded and threatened with dogs were guilty of assaulting prison guards or officials. Certainly there are some legitimate cases of abuse but, all in all, every society has it. The Taliban had it, it happens in Paris and Amsterdam, the British _definitely_ have some neat B&D equipment, and American civilian police are caught abusing and bullying citizens all the time.

    There is the hypocrisy to address. Well, crap, that's just part of life. I don't like it anymore than anyone else. The US likes to strut around the world and point fingers and meddle in affairs and tell everyone else how to run their nations when, in all reality, the US gov't isn't doing such a hot, fair, honest, or kind job within its own borders. Once again it's the Big Brother syndrome. The only way to fix it is to turn Big Brother into little Brother or even microscopic Brother. And, again, there are too many paychecks, too many leeches, too many bleeding hearts (who don't have what it takes to do something on their own but like to bleed with someone else's money), and too many comfortable and wealthy politicians, bankers, brokers, and attorneys.

    So what of this "see through walls" technology? What if it is used by the local police someday to scan each and every house as they drive slowly down the block? Unless we can fix the Big Brother problem there's absolutely no sense in working yourself into a froth over the obligatory abuses that come from Big Brother.

    Personally I'd like to get rid of Big Brother. I'm an advocate of small efficient government just like I'm an advocate of small efficient software. But just like Microsoft, Big Brother has a monopoly on the field and plenty of loyal (or at least contractually trapped) followers.
  • by klasikahl ( 627381 ) <> on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:10PM (#9593476) Journal
    Or used for pre-emptively assassinating political opposition leaders? The only people that Israel assassinates are terrorist leaders. If you think Yassin was a "political" leader, you speak for your own stupidity. Political leaders do not use exploding children as their means of communications; politics is the art of not having to resort to violence. In Israel, lives are saved by killing terrorist leaders. Killing is, however, never the preferred method. Israel still arrests hundereds of more terrorists than it kills. The ratio of arrested to killed is unbelievably high.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:10PM (#9593483)
    Yes, but now the Israelis have done it, which makes it so much more important.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:10PM (#9593487)
    If the soldiers had better way to find snipers firing from behind kids throwing rocks, eg using radar vision, then their nervous-trigger-fingers would be less likely to fire at kids while trying to get the sniper. eh?

  • by Alan Cox ( 27532 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:11PM (#9593491) Homepage
    It seems odd to me that the same people who can follow that the DMCA is problematic because it bans the tools not the abuses of the tools can't make the connection when its non-computing related.

    Peering through neighbours walls (with this technology or drilling peepholes) is the offence. Would you argue that drills should be regulated because they could be used this way ?

    If anything the main reason to regulate it is likely to be because long exposures to low levels of radio frequency radiation seems to do bad things to human beings so operating one might require training, care and exposure limits.

    I'd also disagree its just a military tool. It has clear civilian usages including earthquake searches (because it can visualise spaces not just people so gives more info) and even boring stuff like inspecting buildings. Having had a large hole hacked in my house to see if a crack was structural I can certainly appreciate the civilian value of having tools to inspect it effectively without the mess, and the dust, and the redecorating.

  • by Eneff ( 96967 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:13PM (#9593524)
    that would love this one.

    The Diary of Anne Frank would have been a lot shorter, though.
  • Have they illegalized Jammers for this yet?
    If not, someone send me the frequency specs, i'll be able to whip one up pretty quick.

    As would any serious criminal equipment supplier, after they are illegalized...yet one more way to make sure everyone is a criminal, or can easily be proven to be one.
  • by marcello_dl ( 667940 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:24PM (#9593625) Homepage Journal
    The article and the Slashdot summary talk about ultra-wide band while teraherz imaging should be about high frequency, so its difficult to say if those two methods are similar.

    AFAIK, if the israeli method uses wide-band (that is a wide interval of frequencies), it should be easier to detect if you are being scanned. Even without resorting to special purpose detectors, such radar scans may interfere with cellphone, sat tv, or wireless transmissions, so the target may know a scan is underway and react.
  • Radar Units (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geomon ( 78680 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:25PM (#9593639) Homepage Journal
    I use one quite a bit. The ground-penetrating radar is probably not much different than this device in physical principles. That means it is subject to the same problems as my GPR:

    1) high clay content can wash out any signal,
    2) metallic objects (aluminum foil has been mentioned) can render the device useless, and
    3) too many objects can interfere.

    There have been numerous examples posted here where you just spring a few moving decoys around the building and now the operator on the outside has just as much valuable information as they had without the $20KUSD device attached to their arm.

    This thing is a boat anchor.

  • The benefits (Score:2, Insightful)

    by quadra23 ( 786171 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:26PM (#9593644) Journal
    ...[radar system that] uses ultra-wideband technology to produce three-dimensional pictures of the space behind a wall from a distance of up to 20 meters.

    Things I learned from this:

    • Forget about trying to use boss-mode Messenger Plus! at work at all!
    • No need to use a proxy server at work because your boss can use the information in the pictures taken of you playing games instead -- with blocked access you really don't know if the person is attempting the games just for kicks or because that's honestly what they want to do at work (in which case they wouldn't be as productive anyways).
    • This would help out with the Olympics and races since pictures can be taken around the corner.

    The pictures, which reportedly resemble those produced by ultrasound, are relatively high-resolution and are produced in real time.

    At least if a picture can be taken of it you know you will be able to see occurs in it for sure. The technology would be very self-defeating if they weren't clear and sharp. What good are pictures that can't be verified? They would be very similar to invisible ink on paper.

    Wow, it sounds like the potential benefits of this device are huge...the potential for privacy invasion, however, is similarly large.

    Yeah, but that pretty much goes without saying within technology. Most things in technology are double-edged swords (look at gov't reading your personal emails) -- while this technology can make improvements for all but it can also be readily abused when in the wrong hands (unless properly managed).

    In conclusion the only thing that is needed for this excellent technology is enforcable (without bias) measures that protect the rights of everyone fairly -- a comfortable medium that wouldn't be easy to obtain but would help out immensely to prevent lawsuits, etc (saves from possible damages) but still achieve the original goals (i.e. save lives).
  • Re:Our gratitude (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geoffspear ( 692508 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:26PM (#9593651) Homepage
    That's why we have that whole "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden of proof thing.

    If they have a low-res recording of you building a bomb, your defense attorney can reasonably argue that the blob the jury sees could be doing anything. I doubt such images would ever even be considered admissible by the courts if they were of such low quality.

  • rejected (Score:3, Insightful)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @01:28PM (#9593665) Homepage Journal
    It looks like everything that is interesting today is about small Israelly companies. [] (story was rejected on submission.) I wonder why these guys did not participate in the DARPA Grand Challenge?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2004 @02:04PM (#9594077)
    That's not "interesting" at all, nor is it accurate. If you have a better way of fighting terrorists, please feel free to share it, but the Israel bashing I see on Slashdot sickens me. I don't agree with many of Sharon's policies, I don't want to see any Palestinian territories occupied, I would love it if the Palestinians could live and let live and have their own state, their own government, and get plenty of aid funding and help rebuilding their economy.

    The sad part is that's where things were back in the late 90s when things were rapidly improving for the Palestinian people, many Palestinian expatriots were considering returning and reinvesting in the economy and a lasting peace seemed around the corner. Can you tell me, for 10 points please, who ended that possibility? Was it Sharon? Was it Bush? Was it Clinton? No. It was the Palestinians who brought this on themselves when they started the Al Aqsa Intifada, and used as justification Sharon's daring to visit a site in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount.

    I hate to see the terminology of liberalism and peace hijacked by Palestinian warmongers and bought into whole hog by so many American liberals because they hear words like "genocide" and "war crimes" being bandied about.

    I have met several former Israeli soldiers, by the way, and none of them were people who wanted to our would ever take part in killing innocent civilians knowingly. They shot because they were fired upon or because they caught somebody planting a bomb. I won't say that nobody innocent gets killed, surely it happens, but you need to look at who is choosing to keep making the area a war zone and who started the Al Aqsa Intifada in the first place and who perpetuates it - it's surely not the Israeli government, with a populace that overwhelmingly wants a peaceful solution with the Palestinians. Look at the people whose financial interests and power are tied up with keeping the fighting going - like Hamas, which would lose its political power and fundraising abilities in the rest of the Arab world with a peace settlement. Look at Arafat who clings to his autocracy and apparently fears the creation of a stable, economically solvent democracy for the Palestinian people.

    The most shameful part is that I have to post this anonymously because experience has taught me that the liberal forces on Slashdot have bought into this twisting of liberal terminology so much that to post reasonable, moderate discourse on this issue invariably gets you moderated into oblivion. And that is a particularly sad statement.

  • by CHaN_316 ( 696929 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @02:05PM (#9594084)
    Urban warfare is a mode of fighting that has haunted armies for a couple hundred years now

    Actually, urban warfare has haunted armies since the days Sun Tzu. Hence his famous quote:

    "The worst policy is to attack cities. Attack cities only when there is no alternative." --Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    It's also interesting to see how military doctrine has fundamentally changed since world war 2. During WW2, civilians were legitimate military targets. The best way to take an enemy city was to bomb it to heck, and move your troops in to mop up. On another tangent, it's also interesting to see how the media has changed the way war is fought. The media can massively influence the public's opinion of a war. I'm reminded by a quote that went like, "If CNN was around during WW2, the allies would have lost." Nations just don't have the stomach for casulties when the media reports on the losses.
  • Re:Very cool (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @02:06PM (#9594107)
    I imagine a system similar to AWACS, but for snipers. Imagine you're in an urban war-zone, enemy combatants hiding in bombed out buildings all over the place. You have a network of these radar devices (airborne or land units) connected to the scopes of sniper rifles. The scope feeds information about location and where the gun is pointing to the radar system and the system gives it a real-time image of what the gun is pointing at. As an added bonus, this location information can be used to identify friendly units in the scope, reducing unwanted casualties. A smart enough system could even provide automatic target acquisitioning--prioritizing targets based on either location, or direction of travel (i.e., hit the guy trying to blow up the embassy before he even rounds the corner).

    On second thought, more than just snipers would benefit from this. If every soldier had this built in to their equipment, they reduce the risk of being ambushed.

    These are just my non-sensical ramblings, but in all seriousness this could do for urban warfare what radar did for air combat and sonar for naval combat.
  • Re:Our gratitude (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geoffspear ( 692508 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @02:30PM (#9594345) Homepage
    The reasonable doubt provision does not aim to provide "perfect justice". Perfect justice would be if everyone who committed a crime was convicted and everyone who was accused of a crime he or she did not commit was acquitted.

    Fortunately, the authors of the US Constitution believed, as I do, that it's "good enough" to let some people who commit crimes get acquitted if the government can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they're guilty, to ensure that not a single innocent person is convicted.

    The real problem is that our law schools produce people who can, as Socrates was accused of doing, make the weaker argument appear to be the stronger, and convince juries to convict people who not only aren't guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, but who are later proven beyond any doubt whatsoever to be not guilty when new evidence or new techniques of analyzing evidence are used. Just having one person on death row exonerated by DNA evidence shows that the system is horribly broken.

    Of course, the sort of "strict constructionists" who believe that the government should never, ever, even think of overstepping the authority granted to it in the Constitution are, ironically, the exact same people who think it's a "technicality" when an alleged criminal is set free because the Constitution includes specific provisions to protect the People from abuse by the government.

  • Re:Our gratitude (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bckrispi ( 725257 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @03:47PM (#9595022)
    You're kind of missing the problem here. The "blobs" being admissible in court isn't the issue. Using this technology to establish probable cause for executing a warrant *is*. Let me clarify this with a "real world" example that I read about a couple of years ago.

    "John" was suspected of growing Marijuana in his attic with intent to sell. The police tried to get a warrant to search John's house, but they hadn't established enough probable cause to get a judge to sign the warrant, even with John's house under surveilance(sp?).

    The police then used an Infrared camera to look "inside" John's house (without a warrant) to see what he was up to. They saw the heat coming of the growing lights illuminating what appeared to be a small forest of Home Grown. The police return to the Judge with this evidence. The judge signs the warrant, John's house is searched, the weed is found, and John is arrested.

    In a pre-trial hearing, John's lawyer challenged the legality of the search, on the grounds that the police effectively "searched behind closed doors" by using the infrared camera without a search warrant.

    Unfortunately, I can't remember for the life of me what the judge ruled on this motion, but it is very similar to what we're dealing with here. Essentially, it deals with what is considered 'plain sight' for an officer. It is accepted that an officer can use what he sees in his depth of vision as evidence. If you allow a policeman into your house, and he sees drugs lying in open on the table, you sure as hell will be arrested. But that same officer has no right to start opening drawers in your house looking for drugs. IR and Sonic technology "blur the line" on what is plain sight, and what is an intrusive search.

  • Re:Our gratitude (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cheezit ( 133765 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @04:06PM (#9595207) Homepage
    The parent post's point was that for the *death* penalty the stakes should be almost impossibly high, because a mistake is not correctible in any way. I can't speak for the poster but I think it is only rational that non-death penalty cases would be held to a lower standard.
  • Re:Very cool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @04:40PM (#9595512) Homepage
    I could see this being especially useful for counter-sniper sweeps. If you can see through buildings, you can do a helicopter sweep of the area and verify that no snipers are waiting to kill a VIP on the move

    Even without range issues, I don't think that would really work that well. For example, suppose they had done that in 1963 along the Kennedy motorcade route. They would have found out someone was in the book depository. The problem is that someone being in the book depository is not suspicious. Without a lot more resolution than it sounds like this technology provides, you wouldn't be able to tell a sniper from anyone else.

    Sure, there might be some cases where it would work, such as when the sniper is someplace that no one should be, but thinking about most assasinations by sniper, the sniper is usually someplace where you'd expect to find people.

  • by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @05:31PM (#9595910) Homepage Journal
    Killing people by attacking civilians trying to get to work or enjoying a cup of coffee just because of their ethnicity or religion.

    Killing known-combatants using their own families as shields for their bomb making operations, while happening to miss a few times, causing unfortunate deaths.

    Real moral equivalency there.

    From elsewhere in the article you linked, coming to the exact opposite conclusion you did:

    The statistics show that Israeli noncombatants over the last 23 months have been killed essentially at random, as Palestinian terrorists have chosen to attack whichever civilian targets were accessible. Palestinian fatalities, however, have been strongly concentrated within a particular population segment - teenaged boys and young men.


    In contrast, Palestinian noncombatant fatalities have been overwhelmingly young (but over the age of 11) and male. This pattern of Palestinian deaths completely contradicts accusations that Israel has "indiscriminately targeted women and children." It is clear that the vast majority of the Palestinians killed did not die as the result of random Israeli attacks on inhabited areas, or on mixed-sex crowds at roadblocks and the like. There appears to be only one reasonable explanation of this pattern: that Palestinian men and boys engaged in behavior that brought them into conflict with Israeli armed forces.

    Why don't you just add:

    "YALLA YALLA YALLA JIHAD!ALLAH IS GREAT! DIE INFIDELS!!!" to your sig. That way you can be an extremist asshole with EVERY post instead of just this one.
  • by KingReuben ( 707879 ) <spambox AT endarus DOT com> on Friday July 02, 2004 @06:46PM (#9596388) Homepage
    Soldiers and police are increasingly becoming the same thing. Their job, basically at the end of the day, is to kill poor people and protect the wealth of the worldwide elite. You guys may think this is a nifty idea because it will "save soldiers and police lives" but in the long run it is just another tool at their disposal to keep us oppressed and in check.

    No sir, I don't like it.
  • Re:saving lives? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by heby ( 256691 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @06:47PM (#9596398) Homepage
    ...or even civilians for that matter because the person using the radar will not be able to tell the difference.
  • by matdodgson ( 203405 ) on Friday July 02, 2004 @10:06PM (#9597350)
    This thing comes from Israel - meaning it was designed to make killing Palestinians easier.

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings