Sent: Saturday, November 02, 2002 9:21 PM
Subject: Viridian Note 00349: SensorNet
- Key concepts:
- ubicomp, cellphone towers,
anthrax alerts, public health, Oak Ridge
National Laboratory, biological warfare,
microbes, terrorism, 911.net scenario
- Attention Conservation Notice:
- It's very
I'm departing to Europe soon and won't be back for
a while. If you're around Milano or Amsterdam, send
Fantastic gallery of pre-modern attempts to
"make the invisible visible."
The very first Austinite just got diagnosed with West Nile
virus, that signature of the Greenhouse. Now comes the
suggestion that the virus may be sexually transmissible.
Esso/Exxon-Mobil accurately denounced as "number one
Not to worry, the fully-briefed right-wing wonks at the
Competitive Enterprise Institute have the planet's
atmosphere under control.
"The Oil Reaper" at the big Washington anti-war demo.
"Cell-phone towers could be armed to detect chemical,
biological or nuclear hazards
"The world's best architects probably couldn't make
cell-phone towers look pretty, but there is a plan to
elevate their importance. (((As Viridians, we have no
doubt whatsoever that the world's best architects could
make cellphone towers look pretty.)))
"Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are working
on a project that would adorn some of the nation's 30,000
cell towers with sensors to warn of chemical, biological
or nuclear hazards. It's called SensorNet.
"'If we had a biological attack today, we wouldn't
know until people were showing up sick at the hospital.
That's too late,' said Mike Kuliasha, director of ORNL's
homeland-security program. (((And besides, those 30,000
surveillance towers are just sitting there. On tall
hilltops. Sniffing the wind.)))
"The United States needs a detection-and-response
system right away to deal with terrorist threats, and cell
towers make good sense, Kuliasha said.
"'They already have power. (((And we want that!)))
They already have security. They already have
telecommunications. And, generally speaking, they are
where the people are,' he said. (((Terrific soundbite! But
then again, Dr. Kuliasha has been on television.)))
"The Oak Ridge laboratory has signed a memorandum of
understanding with American Tower Corp., which owns 10,000
of the nation's towers, to work together on the project.
"We Build Broadcast Solutions! Anticipating Tomorrow!"
"The cost of outfitting all of the nation's towers
might be prohibitive, at least in the near term, but ORNL
officials are discussing pilot projects with Atlanta and
New York City and hope to install experimental systems in
either or both in 2003.
"'Both are very, very interested,' said Jim Kulesz,
the laboratory's point man on SensorNet.
((("Cost" is "prohibitive"? Try the public wi-fi
approach! Saturate Manhattan with coverage before New
Yorkers even know it!)))
"Earlier this year, the ORNL team successfully tested
the concept in three Tennessee cities == Knoxville,
Nashville and Chattanooga == using simulants for chemical
(sarin) and biological (anthrax) hazards. ((("Ahmed, go
test out this fake sarin and... Oh wait a sec. Jim,
Charlie, you two guys better do it.")))
"'It clearly demonstrated a lot of potential in the
exercise I observed,' said Rick Shipkowski of the
Tennessee Office of Homeland Security. The test sensors
were networked to a command center set up in the state's
homeland-security headquarters in Nashville.
(((Yes there is indeed a "Tennessee Office of Homeland
"'There are plans to do additional testing in the
coming months at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak
Ridge and in Washington, D.C. The Washington test will
piggyback on meteorological studies by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is one of
ORNL's strategic partners on the project.
"Kulesz estimated it would cost $2 billion over four
years to implement the system in 120 major U.S. cities.
(((While you're at it, why don't you give us Americans a
decent cell phone system?)))
"Oak Ridge spent about $45 million over the past five
years developing an instrument that's able to detect a
wide range of chemical and biological hazards.
"The Block II Chem-Bio Mass Spectrometer was honored
in 2000 as one of the year's top 100 inventions, and
earlier this year a manufacturer began making a number of
pre-production units that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps
(((Here you go. Big ugly beige box. Definitely needs
a design overhaul.)))
"The ORNL device identifies atoms of various agents by
their mass-to-charge ratios and other unique markers. The
Block II is reported to be the first full-scale instrument
that can detect both chemical and biological hazards. A
downside is that the instruments are expensive, costing
about $200,000 each, although that price tag is expected
to come down in mass production. (((Moore's-Law it, MEMS
it, and then build it into the cellphone itself.)))
"(...) Speed is everything when responding to
terrorism, and the goal of SensorNet is to have
information to first responders in five minutes.
"A study found that if terrorists acquired 44 pounds
of anthrax and released it into the atmosphere at Dulles
Airport, outside Washington, it could expose more than
500,000 people to a potentially lethal dose within four
"'Early warning might save hundreds of thousands of
lives in that scenario,' Kulesz said. 'If you know you've
been exposed to anthrax, you can do something about it.'
"Quick treatment is effective, and an early warning
could help people take cover and perhaps avoid exposure
altogether, he said.
"In addition to the hazard sensors, SensorNet includes
meteorological equipment to help predict the dispersion of
agents in atmospheric plumes. (((New SUV bumpoer sticker:
"I'm Buying Weaponized Anthrax For Saddam Hussein")))
Computer codes can calculate the potential impact on
populations. (((How handy.)))
"The system would use encrypted data lines, and all
information should be in the hands of decision makers
within minutes of the detection, said Dick Reid, a
research group leader working on the project. (((How about
us "non-decision-makers"? Can we blog it?)))
"The Oak Ridge lab expects to get about $5 million in
federal funds in 2003 to expand the research. Project
officials are seeking other sources of money to conduct
"Among the supporters is U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga.,
who was briefed on the project this summer. In an Aug. 9
letter to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Cleland said
he was impressed with the system's potential and urged the
Energy Department to give SensorNet 'the ultimate
"(...) ORNL was working on an unnamed system similar
to SensorNet before Sept. 11, 2001. That system was
designed for the military to enhance capabilities to
detect various agents in the battlefield and predict their
dispersion and impacts.
"'Then when 9-11 came, the battlefield became our
homeland,' Kulesz said. 'SensorNet is really a strategy to
help protect the nation.'" (((And imagine the fun of
inflicting these hard-won skills on somebody else's
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O
LET'S FACE IT, OAK RIDGE HAS
BEEN ACTING JUST LIKE THIS
EVER SINCE 1945
O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O O=c=O