While the debate over technological surveillance of public places rages on, additional ways of monitoring cities and their residents’ activities are quietly being developed.

One of these is EMPHASIS (Explosive Material Production Hidden Agile Search and Intelligence System), which is a comprehensive technological approach to sniffing out illegal drug and bomb-making operations – even in large cities – by monitoring chemical compounds in the sewer system.

Emphasis Concept

Emphasis Concept

According to a New Scientist article:

The sensors are designed to pick up signs of explosives precursors, such as chemical reagents and reaction breakdown products. Each sensor comprises a number of 10-centimetre-long devices called ion-selective electrodes that are submerged in the wastewater flow of a sewer. Only ions that come from the breakdown products of bomb-making chemicals can diffuse through the membranes in the electrodes, changing a resistor’s voltage in a telltale way. Software looks for patterns in the concentration of target ions. Above ground, an infrared laser carries out a sweep of an area looking for the spectra of target gas molecules.

EMPHASIS is a collaborative project involving partnerships between a number of private and public organizations, with overall coordination by the Swedish Defence Research Agency.

So, not only can a city be watched and listened to, it can now also be sniffed around the clock as well.

Have a great weekend!

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