Date:16 January 2013
A safer option for police, other first responders
Picture this: police are called to a bank robbery in progress and arrive well in advance of the SWAT team. Do they charge into the building and hope the bad guys don’t open fire with AK-47s, or do they first toss a very smart, baseball-sized orb through the front door to “case” the joint?
A nifty device developed by an MIT student and a US Army Ranger would allow soldiers, police officers, firefighters and other first responders to remain out of the line of fire while its six wide-angle cameras capture images of its surroundings. At the same time, an array of built-in sensors detects air quality, temperature, radiation and other hazards, then beams the data to smartphones or other mobile devices.
At the time of writing, US company Bounce Imaging was about to enter field testing with several police units in Massachusetts. It also envisages useful applications in the field of firefighting (the throwable smart balls transmit relevant data such as temperature and oxygen levels) and military excursions (modern soldiers face a range of threats and situations in which they need to see around a corner, inside a compound, or down a tunnel or sewer system).
The rubber-shelled ball incorporates a gyroscope, accelerometer, infrared LED lights, and a microprocessor that stitches the images together to create a panoramic view of its environment. A Homeland Security version of the ball will reportedly incorporate a Geiger counter and a CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) detector. The company expects prototypes to be ready for field testing sometime this month, estimating a retail price of about R4 000 apiece.