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Why Printers Add Secret Tracking Dots

Why Printers Add Secret Tracking Dots

Early June, agents from FBI were investigating about a top secret document that was supposedly leaked to the press. While carefully examining the document, they noticed there were creases that proved the pages were printed and manually transferred. After this incident, experts began to study the document carefully, which is now made available to the public on the web. Something else of interest was discovered: there were yellow dots (secret tracking dots) in a rough rectangular pattern present repeatedly throughout the page. It formed a coded design or pattern and was hardly noticeable to the naked eye.

All About Secret Tracking  Dots of a Printer

After analysing it quickly, they were able to reveal the exact date and time the particular document was printed or at the most, the time according to the printer’s internal clock at the moment that document was printed. A serial number of the printer was also encoded through those dots. These dots, also known as “microdots” are known very well by security researchers. Most of the colour printers make an addition to the documents printed by them without the knowledge of the person using it. The person never knows of the existence of these secret tracking dots on their document that they have just printed.

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In the case that the FBI was investigating, they did not reveal to the public that they were able to identify their suspect with the help of these secret tracking dots. But the fact that these microdots were present on a highly confidential document has generated much interest and curiosity. Ted Han from the cataloguing platform Document Cloud said that these secret tracking dots were quite obvious after zooming in on the document. Han was one of the first to notice them and found it interesting and outstanding that there exists such technology in our world today.

Rob Graham, a blogger who has published a blog on how to identify these microdots and decode them, made another observation. He said that their positions when compared with a grid, give specific details like hours, minutes and numbers. These secret tracking dots have been in existence since a number of years. A list of colour printers that are known to use them has been maintained the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Microdots are not only an area of interest to spies, but also have other potential uses, as stated by Tim Benett. Benett is a data analyst at Vector 5, a software consultancy, and was of the persons who examined the leaked document. He also stated that these secret tracking dots could be used to determine forgeries. He explained further that if someone says a document is from 2005, with the help of the microdots on the document one could determine if the document is really of that time. The EFF has an online tool available which will help decode the information the pattern holds if one comes across a document that contains these microdots.

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Secret Tracking Dots Concealed Messages

Similar types of secret messages hidden right under our noses, also known as steganography, have been around for quite some time now. A bit more famous than the microdot, the Eurion constellation, which is a unique five-point design, is featured in many banknotes from across the world. In order to refrain from counterfeiting, when this pattern is recognised by the printer or scanner, they are programmed to refrain from producing copies of the banknotes. The National Security Agency or the NSA gives us an interesting example of secret tracking dots with a hidden message and that is from the World War Two. German Spies from that era had an envelope which had tiny dots taped inside and concealed a memo, which were meant for their contacts in Lisbon.

 

During that time, these spies worked undercover in acquiring materials from Germany such as radio equipment and secret ink. However, these messages were intercepted by the Allies and their mission was disrupted. The Germans used these tiny dots usually in the form of mere bits of unencrypted text which was squeezed down to the smallest size of a full-stop. This form of communication was largely used during the WWII and later during the Cold War. There are also reports of Soviet Union agents operating undercover from their base in West Germany, using letter drops to convey their messages in this manner.

In today’s age, microtext can be used by anyone who wants to safeguard their property. Companies such as Alpha Dot in the UK, sell small bottles of adhesive that is permanent, filled with dots that are the size of a pin-head. These dots are covered in microscopic text holding a unique serial number. If a stolen item is retrieved by the police, the owner can be verified by matching this serial number. There are many examples of these tiny messages that do not necessarily have an output in the form of a coded design developed from a printer but they are a very good example of how a small message applied physically to any document or object can be traceable and identified.

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Some forms of steganography that are based on text, are completely devoid of alphanumeric characters or symbols. A security expert at the University of Surrey, Alan Woodward, gives us the example of Steganographic Nature Of Whitespace or SNOW. He explains that this technique puts spaces and tabs where lines end in a piece of text. With the help of the exact number and order of these blank white spaces, a hidden message can be encoded.

Few organisations, such as the NSA, have maintained records of every document that has printed along with having methods to track down their document once its printed. They are aware that people have the knowledge of these secret tracking dots and so don’t fully depend on this method for tracing their documents.  Whether it is ethical for printers to be adding these secret tracking dots to documents without the knowledge of the user is a long ongoing debate. There has also been a suggestion that is a kind of a human rights violation. However, it is believed by many that this use is ideal for maintaining secrecy for confidential and classified documents as it is mandatory for some cases.

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Microwave Amplifier: Highly-Sensitive Tracking Nose in Space

Microwave Amplifier: Highly-Sensitive Tracking Nose in Space

ESA Introducing Updated Weather Satellites with Microwave Amplifier

European Space Agency – ESA,  in the forthcoming years would be introducing a sequences of updated weather satellites which would be capable of measuring significant atmospheric data like precipitation, temperature or water vapour much better than done earlier. The core of these evaluating devices comprise of very sensitive Microwave Amplifier which have been invented for Applied Solid State Physics IAF at the Fraunhofer Institute  that can see even the most weak signals from the atmosphere  which are essential for a precise weather forecast.

There seems to be a joke among meteorologists that the weather of the next day can be forecasted safely, while presuming that it would be the same as the current day.  The mutual belief is that in several cases it could be true. Evidently, presently meteorologists no longer depend on this.  In the case of weather predictions, they tend to depend on computer simulations that are fed with thousands of fragments of measurement data.

For some years these types of data had been supplied by satellites which tend to utilise sensitive sensors for evaluating the temperature or the precipitation on the earth.  If the sensors are better the measured values tends to be precise and so the weather predictions.

Meteorological Operational Satellites

Hence, European Space Agency in the next two years will be introducing the second generation of its MetOp weather satellite, Meteorological Operational Satellites, which are six in all and are equipped with state-of-the-art measurement machinery.  A sum of 1.4 billion EUR has been assigned for the erection of the second generation MetOp satellites, excluding the launch and operation.

 

Together with the satellites, small though very fine technological modules of highly precise amplifiers which tend to absorb microwave radiation from the Frauhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF in Freiburg would also be introduced. This radiation is released from each object, each surface identical to how a body tends to radiate heat that can be viewed in the infrared image.

 

Moreover the microwave amplifiers are adjusted to microwave frequencies since they seem to provide significant meteorological statistics, they capture microwaves released by water vapour, fog, rain or ice crystals especially also from the ice crystals high up in the atmosphere  in the cirrus clouds, which are presumed to have a major effect on the climate as well as the weather.

Microwave Amplifier Proved Perfect

Due to the microwave radiation, there is a possibility of reaching accurate conclusions regarding the ground temperature. Signals received by the microwave antennas of the satellites seem to be very weak but they are only a few nanowatts strong.  To be capable of measuring these microwave signals with some reliability it is essential of amplifiers.

Microwave Amplifiers from Fraunhofer IAF have been proved to be perfect. Dr Michael Schlechtweg heading the High Frequency Electronic business unit at the Fraunhofer IAF has commented that `the core of these amplifiers is a transistor from the semiconductor material indium gallium arsenide.  A characteristic of this material is that it is traversed very easily by electrons even if the electric field that drives the electrons is very small. Consequently the electrons in the transistor are set in motion already by the weak microwave signals making the transistor very sensitive.

Due to the microwave circuits established by the Fraunhofer, the satellite MetOp is capable of determining the temperature, type of precipitation, water vapour more accurately in the future. According to ESA Project Manager Ville Kangas, microwave amplifiers tends to enhance the reliability of the weather prediction.  But transistors of the conventional semiconductor silicon material could be quite insensitive. Indium gallium arsenide only is not what makes the amplifier so sensitive.  Their small sizes have made their contribution to this.  The electrodes of the transistors are only 50 to 35 nanometers long. They are measurable only with tiny electron currents or signals.

Five Frequency Bands of Microwave Amplifier

Michael Schlechtweg has explained that `this extreme sensitivity and small size of microwave amplifiers are due to 25 years of research.  During that time, they had developed a highly precise manufacturing process wherein the microwave amplifiers circuits were built in 150 production stages.

 

The electrodes were formed with an electron beam and only a few companies all over the world were able to do this with some amount of accuracy. The amplifiers on the MetOp satellite are utilised in three diverse microwave instruments that are said to measure various things lie precipitation, ice crystals, water vapour or the temperature.  Experts working for this purpose with Schlechtweg had to produce various sensors, wherein each had to be regulated to the equivalent microwave frequency.

In actual terms, it is said that there are five frequency bands between 54 and 243 gigahertz.  As explained by Schlechtweg a value of 243 gigahertz is a substantial value as, higher the frequency, more powerful the amplifier needs to be.  The components of the Fraunhofer IAF are said to be powerful and they have impressed the ESA and recently a US company have made enquiries regarding them.  Hence there is a possibility that the microwave amplifiers from the IAF would be introduced on board US satellites.

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Omnicopter Plays Catch with a Human with Pinpoint Accuracy

Omnicopter plays catch with a human with pinpoint accuracy

Human beings are omnipresent, so why not a helping hand too? Presenting the mighty omnicopter! Imagine playing catch with a drone? Difficult? Not anymore! This device is not only user friendly, it has huge potential in the developing industries over the world.

The omnicopter is a device that works on similar principles of a drone except that it does not go up or down. Hence it can fly over a wider radius in any direction. It follows airborne objects with accuracy like never seen before.

The construction of Omnicopter:

The device is built with eight motors, pointing in eight different directions, as a result widening the radius of its action. Perhaps one of its most relevant feature is the precision with which it functions. It can measure distances rapidly and follow its function. With its capacity to calculate 500,000 trajectories each second, the precision becomes clearer. At a particular time, the trajectories help the device to guide from a starting state to its final destination. It is like a mathematical competition in itself, reactions and algorithms measure the distance and the trajectory to reach the goal. The algorithms become the basis of selection of the trajectories and its path.

The omnicopter has an external camera, which helps in finding the position of an object. The camera helps in tracing the distance covered by the object and find the correct trajectory with extreme precision. Hence, the trajectories are important.

Comparison:

Drones like Quadrocopters consist of motors in only one plain, restricting its path of travel. This is the advantage of omnicopters over them, they travel in multiple directions. A quadrocopter will be unsuccessful in finding a random object thrown out of its path of trajectory, but the omnicopter can.

After obtaining the object, the Omnicopter device drops it in a direction, where the human can easily catch it. Simplifying jobs yet again!

The application of this Omnicopter is vast. According to researchers, the Omnicopter can travel to areas which cannot be commuted to, hence help in delivering important objects of relevance. That would mean , delivery into areas which require help from another individual, remote lands as well as hi-tech labs. Imagine a situation where you are eagerly waiting for your friend to play catch wit, but your friend cancels on you because of prior appointments. Would you go to bed disappointed, or would you want another companion to play with? There comes this legendary device, the drone will measure the trajectories of the catch ball with way more precision than your friend, something he could never beat.

The Omnicopter will develop more with time, probably one day becoming a device of security in national and international projects. Right now, it is a device of interest in various fields of research studies.

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Google I/O 2017  Annual Developer Festival Held

Google I/O 2017  Annual Developer Festival Held

Google I/O 2017: This  Google’s developer conference ended with 101 announcements

The Google I/O is a yearly developer conference from Google. Since 2008, people from all over the world have been traveling to San Francisco to attend the company’s product presentations and announcements from the Mountain View and listen to lectures from Google employees. The topic spectrum is always broadly diversified and is addressed explicitly to a technically savvy specialist audience. In the past, the event featured Android OS, Google Glass, Android Wear and Hangouts.

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In the last three days everything was under the sign of the developer conference Google I/O and they heard many announcements there. Now the Google I/O developer conference is over and Google itself draws a conclusion from the event and has published an overview, in which all announcements are listed. In fact, during these three days, 101 announcements were made, some of which are already available.

As every year, Google’s developers save a series of announcements for the big show stage, which are then announced directly on the Google I/O – and best still on the keynote. There were fewer announcements this year than in the previous years, but this may be due to the fact that the developers only had improvements in their favored, but did not present or launch a single new product in Google I/O conference.

An overview of the most important innovations happened thro’ Google I/O:

Google Lens – new start with the picture search

Google’s CEO was very much excited to introduce the Google Lens in Google I/O conference. Google has already made several attempts to transform the visual search into the mainstream; Veterans of the Android early times may remember the Google image recognition app. “Google Lens”, which is integrated into the “GoogleAssistant” software and this boomed into a new start.

Google Lens” recognizes, for example, objects in the search field of the mobile phone camera and proposes actions or steps itself to act. Anyone who photographed a flower does not only display the name of the species, but can also be taken to the florist nearby. Scanning the WiFi code at the bottom of the router ensures that the smartphone logs in at the same time. In addition, photos with the Google lens will “blur” blurred motifs even better “and soon even auto-retouch photo obstacles away – instead of the smartphone camera puts the software in the center.

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The “Virtual Positioning System” (VPS), a combination of the Augmented reality platform “Tango” and Google Maps, shows how far Google’s trained image recognition is. VPS is intended to allow navigation in closed rooms by scanning the objects there and matching them with a database. For example, consumers can find certain products in supermarkets easier when they look at their smartphone while walking.

The trend towards smart lenses is followed by the whole industry, among other things Facebook wants to use the camera more strongly for the identification, the change of pictures and the superimposing of digital objects.

Android O – small changes planned

Another innovative announcement in Google I/O conference is Android O. Initially available in the beta version, accessible from the summer, but still without nicknames: “Android O” is the latest version of the smartphone operating system currently equipped with two billion active devices.

The changes that Google is presenting are, above all, details that are meant to make everyday life easier. For example, a picture-in-picture function allows you to make notes or scroll through the calendar in video chat. Android O also allows the automatic completion of passwords for apps other than Google. The notifications in apps receive small speech bubbles, so that a constant call will no longer be necessary.

In the Play Store, Google promises more security, with batteries more runtime and with the light version “Android Go” an optimization for low-budget smartphones (memory of 512 megabytes / one gigabyte). As always, such promises can only be answered as soon as the “O” update is available. And here many users are still dependent on the schedule of manufacturers or providers.

Google Assistant

According to CEO Sundar Pichai declared in Google I/O Conference, is the organization and operating software Google Assistant currently has 100 million users. To make it more, more languages will be released in the coming months. In addition, the app is now available for Apple’s iOS devices. The opening of the wizard for developers is intended to enable the control of further devices and programs. The command center in the smartphone and voice control era is a major goal of companies such as Microsoft (Cortana), Apple (Siri) or Amazon (Alexa). To simplify operation in noisy environments, however, you can also use typed commands in Google Assistant.

Google Home sends visual answers

Googles command-receiving loudspeaker Home is also a fantabulous annoucement in Google I/O. The competitor of Amazons Echo, is to be launched in this summer. Exact details on prices are not yet available, in the US, the device supposed to costs around 130 US dollars. Functional updates are provided with a telephone function (“call mama on”), the integration of Spotify, Deezer and SoundCloud as well as the display of visual answers if a screen is nearby – think of it A calendar or Google Maps.

The virtual reality software Daydream will run on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and on the next premium smartphones from LG. Own data glasses are to be produced together with partners.

As always, the innovations cover Google’s money, especially on the search for text, and thus remains the golden goose of the parent company’s alphabet. In the past quarter, Alphabet reported $ 5.43 billion in profits, while growth rates were in profit as well as sales at more than 20 percent.

This growth is probably due to the fact that the company has greatly expanded the number of ads in mobile search results. A success of the visual search on smartphones could create more opportunities for advertising ads

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Virtual Reality Typing Lights up Ideas and Keyboards

Virtual Reality Typing Lights up Ideas and Keyboards

Computer scientists from the Michigan Technological University have presented a new research that studies the different ways one could type into a virtual reality space also called as VR. They conducted a presentation at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems and stated that while texting has become an integral part of our digital lives, it is an area of research that has surprisingly less emphasis in the development of Virtual Reality.

Scott Kuhl, who is an associate professor of computer science at Michigan Tech, stated that many people are purchasing head-mounted displays for mostly video games and they are trying to figure out how the head-mounted displays can be used in an office for writing or editing a document or emailing someone.

These ordinary tasks are not yet ideal in Virtual Reality, but by making the user wear a headset that resembles a sleeping mask that’s oversized, Virtual Reality can transport the user in a surreal place which can be anywhere in the world. The trick lies in creating a balance between visuals on the head-mounted display and what can be touched physically by the person. Both the aspects are required for the purpose of typing.

Head-Mounted Display

Also researching with Kuhl was James Walker, a computer science lecturer, for the purpose of his dissertation. He said that the challenge lied in the fact that the user needed to see what they were typing and that was difficult with a headset mounted over the eyes.

So as a solution to this he developed a light-up virtual keyboard that was synced with a physical keyboard.This keyboard helps the Virtual Reality user to see what keys are typed in the head-mounted display while using the physical keyboard at the same time.Mid-air virtual keyboards or overlaying of real-world video into the Virtual Reality display are the two methods on which other Virtual Reality typing systems depend on.

However, both require additional equipments such as tracking cameras, which are prone to errors and are invasive. The quality of texting also declines with the availability of only virtual keyboards. Walker says that his solution is significant as it allows people to continue using the physical aspects to interact which makes way for better performance. Also, it doesn’t need additional hardware or an arrangement where a video feed is superimposed into the virtual environment.

Autocorrect Algorithm called VelociTap

Walker conducted an experiment in order to assess the efficiency of a physical keyboard where participants had to type on a keyboard they couldn’t see. In the first part, participants were given a head-mounted display to use which in this case was an Oculus Rift.

In the second part, participants were made to use a desktop monitor along with a keyboard that was out of their view but could be used to type. Both were tested with and without Walker’s virtual keyboard. Most of the participants reported back with at least proficient typing skills.

However, those without the virtual keyboard lighting up keys made a lot of mistakes. This experiment help set the basis for not just Virtual Reality testing but also to observe how far does autocorrect help in this scenario.Through this study, their team developed a language model to automatically correct the typing called VelociTap, a touch recognition screen program that has been trained on billions of words making it very accurate. The aim is now to implement texting, for both work and play, into Virtual Realityby using physical keyboards.

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