Innowacja Polska, a Cracovian company, has developed “Safetalk,” a system that can pinpoint previously undetectable spy devices. On the fast changing espionage market, the invention is one step ahead of all available systems.
If you want to covertly record a conversation, one thing you need to do is to smuggle the bug into the actual meeting place. The best way to accomplish this is to make the device undetectable for tap detectors, by simply turning it off and pulling the batteries out; this makes it invisible for the majority of detectors. Preventing people from doing this has been an issue for the secret service, as well as many institutions, especially when a diplomatic scandal is at stake, as searching a public official is considered rather offensive. Traditional bug detecting has sometimes been inefficient, as a recently cleared room can be instantly tapped again; what’s more, the system has failed to discreetly check a person passing by.
“Safetalk is a device designed to detect all available tap tools, even those that are turned off and/or those which are non-metallic or plastic” explained Anna Jabłonowska, president of Krakow‘s Innowacja Polska, and the coordinator of the Safetalk project. “It can be installed as an invisible system at the entrance to a room that would scan all passers-by and send the information to security. The person passing won’t even know he’s being searched,” she says, adding that this feature is particularly useful in public places such as airports, as terrorists often try to smuggle non-metallic fuses to detonate their bombs.
The system is based on a set of non-linear junction detectors; plainly speaking, it detects semiconductor devices and is based on microwave transmission. The pattern is quite simple: the gate emits microwave radiation of a certain frequency. When the microwaves hit a non-linear connection, they emit multiple radiation waves that can be detected. The problem was that the reflected radiation is usually not very big, and what’s more, the tap devices are usually located somewhere on a person, e.g. in his pocket. If the system was to use increased microwave power to catch the then reflected waves, a human might get injured, not to mention the potential harm of sitting around highly emitting devices for hours. Safetalk solved all those issues, developing a system so sophisticated that safe, low microwave radiation is possible. “Wherever there is an electronic object containing semiconductors, we are able to find it without any harm to people,” ensures Anna Jabłonowska.
Revealing more information about the system is prohibited for safety reasons. “We must not forget that this business is a constant war; whatever protection we design, somebody from ‘the dark side’ will want to break it,” says Anna Jabłonowska.
The idea of developing the Safetalk system had been abandoned earlier by a British company, who said the project was impossible to complete. Having acquired a grant of several hundred euros from the EU 6 Framework Program, Innowacja Polska has in two years acquired the necessary know-how and improved the system, becoming a leader of the international project.
The basic Safetalk product will cost 30,000 złoty, yet custom-made versions are also available. It will also be sold strictly to authorised entities, potentially government and secret service units.
“We need to remember that no security system can guarantee 100 percent safety; it can only lessen potential threats. To be really successful one needs to install other security systems to complement each other. Only a multi-source system is effective, as human inventiveness is hardly limited,” stresses Anna Jabłonowska.