Faced with a tech tsunami, Motorola fights to preserve cop‑com franchise

As Chicago cops braced for protests in advance of the NATO and G-8 summits in 2012, hometown radio giant Motorola made what seemed like a grand gesture.

JOHN FITZHUGH / SUN HERALDMississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Calvin Robertson, MSWIN land mobile radio system at MHP Troop K headquarters on Wednesday Dec. 11, 2013.

The company, which for years has used tenacious marketing and clout to reign over the emergency radio business, donated to the city $1.8 million worth of telecom equipment that could beam data and videos to law enforcement officers shielding the world leaders.

Generosity wasn’t the only motive behind the gift.

In a letter, Motorola Vice President John Molloy said the company also could operate a network for the city as a “test platform” until year end and provide Chicago’s public safety agencies entree to the world of emergency broadband LTE – the new global standard for transmitting huge amounts of data at rocket speed.

Motorola’s gift was designed to keep on giving.

From Mississippi to Texas and California, the company now known as Motorola Solutions Inc. has reshaped its business strategy in the face of a technology tsunami that threatens to upend its decades-long hold on the emergency communications market.

While fighting to preserve its immense walkie-talkie franchise, Motorola has maneuvered to become a player in broadband, where it must contend with new and bigger competitors in a scrum for billions of dollars of taxpayer funds pledged for a coast-to-coast emergency data delivery network.DROPPED JAWS, PROTESTS OVER

Motorola’s aggressive push into broadband, however, is a cause for consternation among officials of the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, the Commerce Department agency tasked with building the first nationwide public-safety communications system. To garner broadband business, Motorola has relied on many of the same strategies and deep customer relationships that helped it capture more than 80 percent of the radio market.

As McClatchy reported in a series of articles last year, the industry giant has landed scores of sole-source radio contracts and wielded enough pricing power to sell its glitzy handsets for as much as $7,000 apiece, at a taxpayer cost of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars that could have been saved in a more competitive market.

At the request of three senior Democrats in the House of Representatives, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, John Roth, recently ordered an audit to examine McClatchy’s disclosures and determine whether federal grant money has bankrolled biased contract awards to Motorola.

The new broadband network, backed so far by a whopping $7 billion federal commitment, is expected to spawn a competitive market involving names such as ATT, Verizon, Cisco, General Dynamics and Alcatel-Lucent.

How 4G broadband LTE (Long-Term Evolution) works

4G stands for the fourth generation of broadband, the same technology that beams data to your cell phone. It effectively works as a high-speed radio signal that relays tiny packets of data between the internet and base stations on cellular towers outfitted with antenna equipment and microwave dishes.

The cellular towers flash the data to first responders’ handsets or perhaps to a mobile unit mounted in a police car’s dashboard.

4G LTE can save lives: It can deliver images of suspects within seconds, where previously it could take 10 minutes or more, as well as offering live streaming of disaster or crime scenes.

While people around the world use 4G technology to make cell phone calls, because calls are frequently interrupted, it has not yet been deemed ready to produce voice communications reliable enough for public-safety agencies. The current public-safety standard requires that the connections operate reliably 99.999 percent of the time – or all but about five minutes per year.

What threatens Motorola is the possibility that technology advances could within a few years enable ruggedized cellphones to transmit voice communications as reliably as two-way radios, a development that eventually could crumble the company’s radio franchise, which serves thousands of public safety agencies.

One Motorola tactic for penetrating the new market has been to donate equipment, as the company did in Chicago.

It’s a way to “lock in future relationships and future opportunities,” said Steve Koman, a former Motorola employee who was a consultant to the city of Charlotte, N.C., when it sought unsuccessfully to build a broadband network a couple of years ago. Koman said he finds such equipment donations by a market kingpin to be troubling.

“I’ve always wondered if these kinds of gray-zone practices violate the spirit of federal antitrust laws,” he said, “because they appear to be a continuous attempt to corner the market.”

A Motorola executive vice president, Robert Schassler, contended in a phone interview that many companies routinely invite government agencies to join them in testing new products.

The 2012 donation of a mini-broadband network wasn’t Motorola’s first gift to Chicago, which has been buying the company’s radios since 1956.

In 2009, the company gave the city a mobile radio network to help protect members of the International Olympic Committee coming to town to weigh Chicago’s bid to host a future Olympics.

Motorola’s philanthropy was rewarded later with a $1.5 million no-bid contract from Cook County to use the donated equipment to build a “high-performance” data network for the city and county – a system that was doomed from the start because its radio bandwidth was too narrow to transmit data at high speeds, said Sophia Ansari, a spokeswoman for the county sheriff’s office. The county now plans to swap the equipment for new Motorola radios, she said.

As for the broadband LTE (for Long Term Evolution) equipment donated for the summits, the city has obtained a temporary license to build a test network but is still mulling what to do, said Melissa Stratton, a spokeswoman for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Charlotte also was a recipient of Motorola’s largesse before hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Motorola loaned the city about 3,000 radios free of charge to assist state and federal law enforcement officials in communicating with one another.

Such gestures, which are not always trumpeted publicly, typically grow from carefully cultivated relationships that have helped Motorola steamroller competitors for nearly 20 years in the multibillion-dollar radio business.

I’ve always wondered if these kinds of gray-zone practices violate the spirit of federal antitrust laws.

The company’s formula: build top-quality equipment; dote on police, fire and sheriff’s departments; woo contracting officials; pursue every angle to gain a sole-source deal or an inside track, and where possible, embed equipment with proprietary features so it can’t interact with competitors’ products.

It’s worked so well that a single company – Motorola – has dominated state and federal two-way radio markets, untouched by federal antitrust regulators although there’s been little price testing to assure that taxpayers got the best deal.

Motorola executives make no apologies for their market supremacy.

“Motorola Solutions’ public safety success is because we offer the best solutions and service at competitive prices, because our customers trust in our products and commitment to stand behind them, and because of our continued investment in innovation,” said the company’s chief spokesman, Kurt Ebenhoch.

Motorola’s Schassler said the company that pioneered the first police radio in 1930 is the only manufacturer that has stood behind cops, firefighters and emergency medics “uninterrupted” for 85 years.

…our customers trust in our products and commitment to stand behind them…

That commitment has engendered strong loyalties from the nation’s more than 4 million first responders, legions of whom insist on toting a Motorola as their communication lifeline.

But to rivals and frustrated government officials, Motorola is the industry’s version of “Leave it to Beaver’s” unctuous Eddie Haskell (“You look lovely today, Mrs. Cleaver”), whose charms are but a cover for myriad connivances. Using an array of tactics, the company repeatedly has found ways to stick taxpayers with the priciest equipment when far cheaper options performed to the same standards.

Schassler was asked whether Motorola sales representatives propose ways for government officials to award sole-source contracts.

“No,” he replied.

State and local government officials have done the dirty work, frequently skirting laws or federal grant guidelines requiring competitive bidding.

Motorola officials acknowledged that the company’s seemingly ubiquitous sales force has wined and dined some government officials where state laws allow, but Schassler called that “a very, very rare occurrence” that is first approved by a company attorney.

However, two government officials who lacked authorization to speak for the record said the company has hosted state or local contracting employees in some of Las Vegas’ priciest restaurants .

Despite its scant experience in broadband, Motorola has been fastest out of the gate in applying the technology to public safety. In 2010, the company entered an eight-year partnership with the Swedish colossus Ericsson, a leading supplier of broadband equipment, especially the cores that serve as the brains for each network. Motorola also has partnered with cellular industry giant Verizon Wireless, and it has developed a handset that can both receive broadband data and enable voice transmissions over a standard two-way radio network.

The Schaumburg, Ill.-based firm has secured contracts to assemble four of eight federally funded emergency broadband pilot projects – in Los Angeles County, Harris County, Texas, the San Francisco Bay Area and Mississippi, though the latter two later collapsed because of negotiation impasses for leases of frequencies on the federal wireless spectrum. Motorola also is among five vendors approved to sell equipment for New Mexico’s statewide pilot project.

The company’s early success in the pilot projects has been controversial:

  • An official of Harris County, Texas, sent gasps through a hotel conference room in May 2011 when he said he handed Motorola the $7.5 million first stage of a pilot broadband network because the company told him “a great story,” according to two people who were present. Both insisted upon anonymity for fear of reprisals. The award in the county surrounding Houston drew protests from two major competitors because they weren’t invited to bid, even though most of the financing came from a Department of Homeland Security port security grant. Motorola and county officials contended the contract was competitively awarded, because it was written as a modification to a 2007 radio contract for which Motorola won the bidding.
  • In San Francisco, Motorola won a $50.6 million Commerce Department grant in 2010 to build the first metropolitan-wide emergency broadband network – a deal arranged by former Motorola sales executive Laura Phillips in her new job overseeing public safety grants to the region. Phillips was later fired amid outrage that the grant was awarded without approval from any of three major cities and 10 counties involved, said several current and former government officials who spoke anonymously because of the matter’s sensitivity. Phillips pointed to a Commerce Department audit that cleared her of improprieties.
  • Former San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore said he implored Motorola’s No. 2 executive, Mark Moon, to wait until a regional board approved the grant to avoid city and county protests. He said Moon responded: “I’d rather take the $50 million and bad publicity than not get the $50 million.” Motorola spokesman Ebenhoch said Moon doesn’t recall making such a remark and “strongly believes the statement to be inaccurate and false.”
  • While a joint authority representing Los Angeles County and more than 80 cities reviewed bids in 2011 for twin public-safety radio and broadband networks, Motorola added William Bratton, a former Los Angeles police chief and currently the New York police commissioner , to a lucrative post on its corporate board. A team led by Raytheon Corp. won the bidding, but Motorola threatened a suit, and a county lawyer urged nullifying the award because it might violate an arcane state law. During two more rounds of bidding, Motorola slashed its prices and ultimately won both contracts, worth a half-billion dollars.

FirstNet officials did not respond to requests for comment about Motorola’s dealings.

JOHN FITZHUGH / SUN HERALDMSWIN land mobile radio system at MHP Troop K headquarters on Wednesday Dec. 11, 2013.

Some members of Congress, including Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, have said a major reason they voted for a 2012 law allotting a bloc of the spectrum for public safety and financing a national broadband network was their hopes it would smash Motorola’s near monopoly in two-way radios.

Yet some say that Motorola is fighting for survival, especially if broadband handsets that sell for $500 to $1,000 can replace the pricey, more lucrative emergency radios. Already, spinoffs and layoffs have shrunk the company’s payroll from over 20,000 to 15,000 employees.

“The change that Motorola is getting hit with is no less substantial than what hit IBM or Kodak. It’s a technology wave,” said former Charlotte consultant Koman, referring to technology advances that overtook IBM Corp.’s mainframe computer franchise and Kodak’s film empire.

The company’s predicament “is actually life or death in this transition” because of its huge infrastructure, said a former senior Motorola executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid harming relationships.

If so, Motorola executives sure don’t seem panicked.

Schassler said he expects Motorola to accrue incremental gains from broadband projects while continuing to serve most of the nation’s 60,000 public-safety agencies with radio equipment for 10 years or more.

The reality is that Motorola, with tentacles reaching virtually every emergency agency in the country, may be miles ahead of the government in its planning.

Already, the Motorola-Ericsson combine has planted broadband network cores at Motorola’s Schaumburg headquarters, at Texas AM University to cover the Harris County system and in Los Angeles County.

New Mexico officials, whose network layout can easily be extended to the Mexican border, has requested permission to use the Texas core as part of its statewide broadband network. Because Motorola writes the software rules that determine what equipment can be used on that network, the company could be positioned to be the logical broadband provider for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency on the southern border.

To put that in context, if a Senate-passed immigration compromise became law, the number of border agents would soar over the next decade from 20,800 to 38,000, each needing a handset.

At a recent conference of financial analysts, Motorola CEO Gregory Brown sounded more eager than worried about broadband. He called the new emergency communications technology “the single best opportunity we have in front of us.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/static/features/Motorola/Index.html?brand=sta#storylink=cpy

Nedaa and Hytera Provide World-Class TETRA Radios for Dubai Tour 2015

Nedaa, the sole and largest TETRA operator in Dubai proudly teamed up with Hytera Communications, a world’s leading Professional Mobile Radio communications solution provider, which offered reliable and smooth communications support to the grand cycling event Dubai Tour 2015, which kicked off on Feb. 4th and is to complete on Feb. 7th.

The inaugural Dubai Tour was held in 2014, and the race expanded and hosted 16 World Tour teams in 2015. From the very beginning, Nedaa was officially chosen as the communications solution provider by the organizing committee for its excellence in technical planning and service.

For the 2nd Dubai Tour, Nedaa integrated Z1p, Hytera’s latest handheld TETRA two-way radio, into its network, which offers full coverage of the 4 tracks measuring nearly 700km in total. Hytera Z1p was developed in complete correspondence with the open ETSI standard TETRA. Its military-standard ruggedness and public-safety level functionalities come with an ultra-slim full-keypad body as thin as 23mm. The site survey executed by Nedaa shows that its system and Hytera Z1p synergize very well in skyscraper-crowded downtown, open terrain and hills.

During the Tour, the radios were intensely used by the staff from the organizer and Dubai Sports Council to ensure smooth collaboration among different work groups. Nedaa’s network also offered cross-department communication to the police and other institutions. “Nedaa is very proud to be the official communications provider for such a powerful event. Hytera Z1p TETRA radios are well designed for mission critical communication during events like Dubai Tour in terms of both functionality and usability. It has great potential of serving our customers. We look to provide services according to the highest international standards and the best practices in the field of public safety and telecommunications security in order for Dubai to rank amongst the most prominent countries in the world in this field,” commented Mr. Mansoor Bu Osaiba, Deputy Chief Executive Director of Nedaa.

About Nedaa

Nedaa is a Dubai Government-Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC). Established in June of 2008, the company made significant waves as it became the first in the Middle East to implement the Terrestrial Trunked Radio Network (TETRA). To date, Nedaa’s services are tied up with Dubai Government’s Strategic Plan, which aims at setting plenary plans and potential scenarios for crises and catastrophes. The company’s list of clients include RTA, Dubai Police, Dubai Municipality, MAF Group, Dubai Investment Park, The Address Hotel, G4S, Dubai Health Authority and Dubai Aluminum, to name a few.

http://www.nedaa.ae

About Hytera

Hytera, a world’s leading Professional Mobile Radio (PMR) communications solution provider, promotes major open standard technologies, including TETRA, DMR and PDT, and endeavors to ensure smooth technology migration to LTE broadband for its customers. Founded in 1993 in Shenzhen, China, Hytera became a public company in 2011 at Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

http://www.hytera.com

What Is Audio Surveillance?

This was originally posted on http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-audio-surveillance.htm, credit should go them as this is a interesting article.

Audio surveillance is the act of listening to third-party conversations and recording them. This technique is frequently used by law enforcement, private detectives and government spy agencies. Most audio surveillance consists of either bugging a room, wearing a wire, tapping a phone or distance listening. Each provides distinct advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation.

audio surveillanceWiretapping is one of the most common and simple form of audio surveillance. This is preferred because it is highly inconspicuous and allows for two sides of a conversation to be clearly recorded. Small audio devices, commonly called bugs, are attached to the internal circuitry of a telephone to pick up a conversation. A signal is wirelessly transmitted to another device that records the conversation. The drawback of this method is getting access to a subject’s telephone to properly wiretap it.

A room microphone is another audio surveillance technique that often is utilized. This involves planting a wireless microphone in a room to pick up conversations. Disguised room microphones are available to look like pens, clocks, stuffed animals and a variety of other covert forms. This microphone sends a signal to a receiver, just like a wiretap does, and the signal can be directly recorded. The disadvantage here is access to some rooms and getting only one side of a phone conversation if it takes place in that room.

Concealable transmitters known as body wires are well-known devices that have been featured in many television shows and movies. A small microphone and transmitting device are worn under the clothes of a person in order to send a signal back to a receiver and record a conversation. This allows the person wearing the wire to ask questions and get specific details that simply listening to other people’s conversations could not provide. The disadvantage of this method is getting access to the person needed to be recorded and also concealing the microphone in a way that hides it but allows for clear recording.

Long-distance microphones are another covert means of audio surveillance. A parabolic microphone, often called a shotgun microphone because of its long shape, has a powerful ability to pick up conversations up to 300 feet (91.4 m) away. Its main disadvantage is its high sensitivity. It can pick up other noises and cannot function if obstructions, such as trees and automobiles, are between the microphone and the conversation.

Martian Homes Could Be Built In Just 24 Hours

By the end of this century, it seems highly likely that people will be living on Mars. It sounds utterly mad, until you consider that there were only 66 years between the first powered and sustained Human flight and Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon…

However, a major problem with this idea (aside from the fact that no Human being has ever actually set foot on the red planet) is the difficulty posed by building habitation in such a hostile and extremely remote environment.

At the moment, even landing an unmanned rover on Mars represents a major scientific achievement, which makes Elon Musk’s plans to build a city there seem especially far fetched and ambitious.

Besides, at current costs, taking one kilogram of material to the moon costs between £61,000 and £122,000. That’s a lot of money, even for bare essentials like building materials and water reserves.

Now, however, one man thinks he may have the answer…

Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering is working on a groundbreaking new method of building that, if applied to lunar or Martian colonisation, could bring us all that much closer to seeing cities on Mars or the moon in our lifetimes.

Essentially, Dr. Khoshnevis has come up with a way to ‘print’ buildings.

The construction technology, called Contour Crafting, fashions an entire building, layer by layer, according to a predetermined outline. Khoshnevis initially created the technology in order to provide cheap, quick and safe housing for emerging nations, or victims of natural disasters.

It is hoped that such building methods will also lower the demand for wood, thus having a beneficial effect on the rainforests and other areas that are being aggressively deforested for timber.

In addition, the concrete walls built by the Countour Crafter are three times stronger than a brick wall.

Writing for Nasa, Dr. Khoshnevis said, “Automated building technologies will revolutionize the way structures are built on Earth, in dense urban environments, in difficult-to-build and difficult-to-service sites, or in remote and hostile regions of the globe. The technologies under development by our group have the potential to simplify construction logistics, reduce the need for hard physical labor by assigning humans to a strictly supervisory role, eliminate issues relating to human safety and produce intricate, aesthetically refined designs and structures at significantly reduced construction cost”.

Theoretically, these buildings could be described via a computer model and built remotely, using the Martian landscape in lieu of bricks and mortar. The buildings could be ‘printed’ in around 24 hours and would be every bit as strong, (or stronger) than the building you are currently living in.

Headphones As We Know Them Will Soon Become Obsolete

They’re a staple even on cutting-edge smartphones, televisions, and Hi-Fis, but the jack plug was invented back in the 19th century to route phone calls. Imagine hundreds of them being rearranged with swift dexterity by switchboard operators.

Has any technical standard ever lasted as long?

Despite the jack plug’s age, it will still come as a shock when it disappears into obsolescence. Especially to those people who have just bought an expensive pair of headphones.

The original design was a quarter inch in diameter, which is still used on electric guitars, but it shrank to 3.5mm for headphones. It is showing its age, though, and even the smaller sockets are now hindering the gradual de-thickening of mobile phones. Which is why they’ll soon be replaced.

There are basically two main ecosystems for mobile phones today: Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Both of them are well on their way to ditching the 3.5mm socket altogether.

At its developer conference last year, during a talk on designing accessories for the iPad and iPhone, Apple announced it was working on headphones that connect via the Lightning port. That odd, proprietary socket that replaced the original 30-pin iPod connector now provides audio as well as power.

Philips was first to develop a pair: the Fidelio M2L. So, just when you thought Apple couldn’t be any more of a walled garden, there now exist headphones that work only on its devices.

Perhaps it was a deliberate measure by Apple to not be the first to launch such a product through its recently acquired Beats brand, to avoid the same accusations of profiteering that cropped up when it dropped 30-pin connectors for Lightning. Certainly, much of Beats’ $3 billion price tag could be recouped if every iPhone owner bought a new set of Lightning-equipped headphones.

The latest version of Google’s Android operating system, known as Lollipop, also includes support for USB audio. This is effectively the same thing as Apple’s new feature but with a universal USB plug rather than proprietary connector.

headphonesFlickr/Garry Knight

What do these features mean for audio? Unlike a traditional headphone wire, which carries the analog signals produced by a chip inside the phone, the new headphones will take digital audio and convert it to an analog signal only when it reaches the speakers next to the ear.

In theory, if you buy decent headphones, this will provide better quality: not only will that DAC (digital to analog converter) most likely be better quality, but there will be less degradation along the wire thanks to digital error correction.

It could also allow phones to be made even thinner, as the round headphone socket is increasingly the bulkiest component, in terms of width, in svelte handsets. Whether or not we really need thinner phones when customers are complaining that their handsets bend in their pockets is another matter, but it certainly makes for easy marketing.

Another benefit is that noise-canceling headphones could draw power from the phone over the wire, as Philips has already taken advantage of, eliminating the need to charge yet more batteries. There’s also the ability to have a microphone on the same cable, and all sorts of buttons to control playback. You could even have apps running on the phone that tweak settings on the headphones, adjusting bass or treble.

So the advantages are clear and numerous, but there are also downsides: how do you charge your phone and listen to music at the same time when your charger and headphones use the same socket? Not a deal-breaker, but still an issue.

Most importantly, your current and potentially new and expensive headphones will become obsolete. You could use an adapter, but that’s far from ideal and will cost you on top of your phone.

Thankfully, this isn’t going to happen tomorrow. Although there’s nothing to stop you splashing out on digital headphones now if you want to adopt early.

The iPhone, for instance, alternates between a partial refresh and a total redesign with each new model. We had the 6 and 6 Plus in September and will most likely get the refreshed “6S” this year, so it’s easy to imagine the “iPhone 7″ losing its 3.5mm socket in September 2016.

Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story, so we’ll have to speculate.

You’re probably more likely to retain a 3.5mm socket for longer if you use Android, as there’s a wide range of manufacturers on the platform, so you can choose the one that retains the plug longest.

The really interesting thing will be to see when manufacturers ditch the Lightning and USB ports entirely.

Wireless charging can already handle topping-up our batteries, and Bluetooth can deal with audio and peripherals. Losing the ports will also make devices sleeker and easier to waterproof.

So while it looks certain that the 3.5mm socket will become an anachronism within a couple of generations of phone, the USB and Lightning port may not be too far behind, and the headphones that you bought to replace the ones that became obsolete will also become obsolete. Such is the way of technology.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/headphones-as-we-know-them-will-soon-become-obsolete-2015-1#ixzz3Qb96ojii

Martian Homes Could Be Built In Just 24 Hours

By the end of this century, it seems highly likely that people will be living on Mars. It sounds utterly mad, until you consider that there were only 66 years between the first powered and sustained Human flight and Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon…

However, a major problem with this idea (aside from the fact that no Human being has ever actually set foot on the red planet) is the difficulty posed by building habitation in such a hostile and extremely remote environment.

At the moment, even landing an unmanned rover on Mars represents a major scientific achievement, which makes Elon Musk’s plans to build a city there seem especially far fetched and ambitious.

Besides, at current costs, taking one kilogram of material to the moon costs between £61,000 and £122,000. That’s a lot of money, even for bare essentials like building materials and water reserves.

Now, however, one man thinks he may have the answer…

Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering is working on a groundbreaking new method of building that, if applied to lunar or Martian colonisation, could bring us all that much closer to seeing cities on Mars or the moon in our lifetimes.

Essentially, Dr. Khoshnevis has come up with a way to ‘print’ buildings.

The construction technology, called Contour Crafting, fashions an entire building, layer by layer, according to a predetermined outline. Khoshnevis initially created the technology in order to provide cheap, quick and safe housing for emerging nations, or victims of natural disasters.

It is hoped that such building methods will also lower the demand for wood, thus having a beneficial effect on the rainforests and other areas that are being aggressively deforested for timber.

In addition, the concrete walls built by the Countour Crafter are three times stronger than a brick wall.

Writing for Nasa, Dr. Khoshnevis said, “Automated building technologies will revolutionize the way structures are built on Earth, in dense urban environments, in difficult-to-build and difficult-to-service sites, or in remote and hostile regions of the globe. The technologies under development by our group have the potential to simplify construction logistics, reduce the need for hard physical labor by assigning humans to a strictly supervisory role, eliminate issues relating to human safety and produce intricate, aesthetically refined designs and structures at significantly reduced construction cost”.

Theoretically, these buildings could be described via a computer model and built remotely, using the Martian landscape in lieu of bricks and mortar. The buildings could be ‘printed’ in around 24 hours and would be every bit as strong, (or stronger) than the building you are currently living in.

Natural History Museum Replaces Dippy Dinosaur With Blue Whale Skeleton

Directors of the Natural History Museum in London have announced that ‘Dippy’ – the famous diplodocus skeleton that greets visitors in the museum’s iconic Hintze Hall – will be replaced by the skeleton of a blue whale by 2017.

The idea is to better convey a more modern feel to the museum, one that reflects the cutting-edge science being conducted by the institution.

“Everyone loves ‘Dippy’, but it’s just a copy,” NHM director Sir Michael Dixon told BBC News, “what makes this museum special is that we have real objects from the natural world – over 80 million of them – and they enable our scientists and thousands like them from around the world to do real research.”

At present, the 25m-long blue whale is hanging –in a flat position- in the ‘mammals’ gallery and is accompanied by a life size reconstruction of the animal.

The skeleton was acquired by the museum in 1891 and it originally cost curators £250. The massive animal was beached at Wexford in Southeast Ireland and its remains were immaculately processed and preserved. To date, it is one of the biggest – and best-preserved – whale skeletons in the world.

Over the coming two years, the entire skeleton will be taken down and each individual bone will be thoroughly cleaned and carefully catalogued before it is re-structured and placed in a dramatic new pose, ready to better symbolize the new science of the 21st century.

The massive remains will be placed in a graceful diving posture designed to impress visitors to the hall.

By virtue of being the largest animal to ever exist on our planet, the blue whale skeleton will likely present an even more impressive sight to behold than Dippy presently does. Its presence could also help to raise awareness for whale conservation and preservation of our natural heritage in general.

The conservation aspect of this move is an especially relevant point, as it was NHM scientists that first demonstrated that hunting of the blue whales needed to be stopped in the first place.

This move, whilst surprising, is not without precedent. In the past, the Hintze Hall has also featured a complete sperm whale skeleton as its main attraction, as well as carefully preserved African elephants – and other displays as well.

So where will Dippy be going once his replacement arrives? At present, there is talk about taking the iconic dinosaur on tour in order to bring the Natural History Museum to the people, by housing him in regional museums throughout the UK.

Before that happens though, he will likely still have pride of place in a dinosaur-themed exhibit elsewhere in the museum, so we’ll still be able to stop by and say “hi”..

Benefits of Two Way Radios to the Hotel Industry

Over the years, hotel communication has had to change and develop, becoming more and more efficient than it was. This is courtesy of the advancement in technology over these years. Passed are the days that two way radios were exclusively for police official use. Nowadays, these pieces of technology that have been improved and made even better are used for hotel communications. These state of the art technology have lots of benefits that any of us have been recipients of in one way or the other. Being in the hospitality industry, I can outline with ease some of the major benefits that these 2 way radios have brought into hospitality.

First and foremost, the service offered to the customers in the hotels has been improved. When taking orders in the restaurants back in the day, the waiters had to go all the way back to the kitchen to request for the order. Okay, this was not much of a problem for the small establishments. However, as the hotel grew and the number of employees grew, the kitchen area would get so crowded that out was difficult to get the job done. With the new Two-way radio technology however, all the waitress have to do is call out the order through the gadget and it is received on the other end saving on the time.

Also, being in the hotel business, I can testify that just like in any other business, there are major up and downs. However, unlike many other businesses, there is no space for screwing up. A single mishaps can cost you millions. The best way to avoid this from happening, is by communicating with the manager and airing out issues that might be there. Communication is key in this business and the sooner an issue is sorted out the faster you can move on and provide quality service to your customers.

Security. Do we really have to spell out the benefits that 2 way radios have with regards to security in the hospitality industry. The hotel industry harbors people of different kinds and who have different intentions. As such, the necessary measures need to be taken to ensure the security of the staff as well as the other peaceable customers. The rate at which the security personnel react to distress calls can be the determining factor to how the security emergency turns out. The Two way radios have greatly increased the speed in which the security personnel respond to security threats and also ensure that they are on top of every situation as every member in the hotel informs them when there is a security risk.

In addition to the above benefits, the Two way radios are cost effective and are also very easy to use. With the Two way radios, the management does not have to pay any network provider so that they can communicate. This reduces the cost of operation of the hotel by a great margin. To talk through to the other person on the other end of the line, all you have to do is press a button on the front and you will get through. It is as easy as that.

The benefits of the 2-way radios are numerous. This makes them a major asset to any hotel.

Whats’s a Covert Earpiece?

From wisegeek.com “What Is a Covert Earpiece?” (22 January 2009)

A covert earpiece is a miniature earpiece worn by an individual while being effectively hidden from plain view. It operates as a radio accessory in times when a user does not want other people to know she or he is communicating with others using radio earbuds. Also known as an invisible earpiece or a surveillance earpiece, a covert earpiece is often worn by government agents, corporate security personnel, undercover law enforcement officers and corporate as well as government spies.

covert earpiece

While many occupations require the use of a radio headset for communication, a covert earpiece is primarily used in instances where communication is of an extremely private and sensitive nature. This is common in cases of private security details and surveillance projects. Sometimes people also use a covert earpiece to defraud businesses and others. Examples of such instances would include someone using an invisible earpiece to cheat on an exam or to defraud a casino by receiving remote information while playing a game.

On-air television personalities may also use a covert earpiece, which is not distracting to viewers, but allows the person to hear relevant feedback from producers and engineers in order to make sure a taping or live appearance flows smoothly. Individuals may also wear a covert earpiece when making a public speech. By doing so, the speaker can receive important cues or changes in a speech without the audience even being aware that communication is taking place between someone located behind the scenes and the individual delivering the speech.

Some covert earpieces are accompanied by a discreet microphone, which enables two-way communication. These are commonly used by security forces with a need for such communication, particularly during surveillance operations. These types of accessories are not only convenient because they feature hands-free operation, but also because they allow undercover security forces to blend in with crowds without having to use a visible walkie-talkie system of communication.

A covert earpiece does not contain any visible wires and is designed to fit inside the ear without being noticeable to the general public. Some devices are even designed to fit on a pair of eyeglasses while amplifying sound inside a person’s ear. An inductive wire is sometimes worn around the person’s neck, but is covered by clothing so as not to be discovered by onlookers. This wire is not connected to the covert earpiece, but connects to a separate radio device that helps modulate sound.

Mars Rover Spots UFO…Or Does It?

After much global speculation, NASA has at last put out an official statement regarding the true identity of the ‘white spot’ or ‘UFO’ seen on Mars by the Curiosity Rover on June 20th.

…Sadly, the UFO in question turned out to be only as extraterrestrial as a camera glitch.

Interviewed by The Huffington Post, Justin Maki, the main camera operator for the rover, said, “This is a hot pixel that has been around since we started using the Right Navcam (…) In the thousands of images we’ve received from Curiosity, we see ones with bright spots nearly every week, these can be caused by cosmic-ray hits or sunlight glinting from rock surfaces, as the most likely explanations.”

As any photographer will tell you, ‘hot pixels’ sometimes occur during long exposure shots. Such glitches are usually caused by the camera’s sensors momentarily overheating (although they pose no danger to the camera equipment itself).

Amateur photographers occasionally mistake hot pixels for paranormal phenomena as well. In fact, the ghost website ‘Photographing The Paranormal.com’ actually has a section on these little buggers. It warns potential ghost hunters that,

“A perfectly symmetric small red dot in your picture is probably nothing paranormal, especially if it is at the same spot in most of your pictures. That’s actually called a hot pixel, if you spot one, don’t call the press!”

Older astronomy enthusiasts will no doubt be reminded of the discovery of the ‘Martian face’, a famous image captured by NASA’s Viking 1 orbiter in 1976.

Various theorists hurried to suggest that the ‘face’ was evidence of a long-lost Martian civilization (complete with ‘pyramids’ and everything), but it was actually just a large formation, captured by the relatively low-resolution cameras of the 1970’s, that looked a bit like a face.

Modern images, of course, reveal nothing so grand. The ‘Martian Face’ fiasco is now seen as an example of paraeidolia, a psychological phenomenon that sees people finding recognizable patterns in otherwise random sounds and images, examples of which include The Man in the Moon, Rorschach tests and those times when people see the faces of religious figures in ordinary household objects.

So it seems that there was no reason for us to get excited after all (except that pictures of Mars are unassailably cool).

…Of course, the conspiracy nutters are never going to buy it, but hey, what can you do?

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