DARPA recently organized a city-wide scavenger hunt to test its SIGMA program, which aims to develop networked sensors that can detect radiation in large, urban areas—thus preventing possible terrorist attacks involving the use of radiological or nuclear materials.
During the test, several hundred volunteers, each one carrying a smartphone-sized radiation detector in a backpack, walked around the National Mall, searching for clues about the whereabouts of a fictitious abducted geneticist. This, of course, was orchestrated so that the SIGMA research team could evaluate how well the toted devices functioned as mobile nodes on a city-wide network that stretched to about five square miles.
“The SIGMA system performed very well, and we collected and analyzed a huge amount of streaming data as we watched in real-time as participants covered a large portion of D.C.,” said Vincent Tang, DARPA program manager. “The data collected is already proving invaluable for further development of the system, and we’re excited that SIGMA is on track to provide U.S. cities an enhanced layer of defense against radiological and nuclear threats.”
SIGMA began in 2014 as a way to develop and test low-cost, high-efficiency radiation sensors that can detect gamma and neutron radiation. These devices are networked via smartphones to provide real-time location data of potential threats, such as traditional nuclear weapons or dirty bombs.
Earlier this year, DARPA deployed 100 SIGMA sensors in conjunction with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, making this “whodunit”-themed test the largest to date. Next steps include increased city- and regional-scaled tests in 2017.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)