Use GPS Devices For Pets to Track Your Lost Animals

27 Feb

There is no worse feeling for an animal lover than looking around your home and suddenly realizing that your furry little friend is nowhere to be found. Cats, in particular, tend to wander, and even though they likely just want to get outside and experience the best that Mother Nature has to offer, it’s still a harrowing experience for their owners.

Dog Tracking

Instead of worrying yourself sick, printing up “missing” posters, and offering a reward to a potential good Samaritan, you can go a long way towards making sure that you don’t find yourself in this situation ever again by using GPS devices to track your lost animals. There are a few key devices that are built with pets in mind that you’re absolutely going to want to know about.

PetTronix RoamEO

The PetTronix RoamEO features a rubber collar with a built-in GPS unit and battery compartment. You attach it to your pet the same way you would any other collar, only this one is constantly communicating your pet’s location to an associated handset at all times. It doesn’t require cell phone service or any other type of subscription. If you’re curious about where your pet is, all you have to do is turn on the handset and the RoamEO will take care of the rest.

The range on the RoamEO is roughly half a mile and it features a 24-hour battery life.

 

Tagg Pet Tracker

Unlike the RoamEO, the Tagg Pet Tracker is a separate device that actually clips to your dog or cat’s existing collar. Once activated, it connects to a cellular network and allows you to instantly track your pet’s location from either a smartphone app or from any Web browser.

Thanks to the fact that it uses cellular service for GPS, the range is unlimited – your pet could somehow wander halfway across the country, and you would still be able to track their every move down to a range of just a few feet. The only potential downside is that the device’s “minimum zone” is roughly four acres in size, so it isn’t necessarily the best option if you’re just trying to keep an eye on your pet around the house.

 

The Gibi Pet Locator

Another worthy addition to the list is the Gibi Pet Locator, a highly durable and waterproof device with a number of sophisticated features. It’s another GPS tracker that uses a cellular data network, allowing you to track your pet using a smartphone app, your Web browser, your mobile device and more. One of the more valuable features that the Gibi Pet Locator brings to the table involves letting you create pre-determined “safe zones” for your pet.

Based on your preferences and your pet’s habits, you can specify where your animal usually plays. If they ever wander outside of the boundaries of those safe zones, you can be instantly alerted – making sure that precious time is always on your side when it comes to locating a missing animal. The Gibi Pet Locator is also natively compatible with Google Maps and can be attached to any existing collar that you have.

 

Tractive GPS Tracker

Finally, we have the Tractive GPS Tracker, a real-time GPS tracker designed for animals that weigh 10 pounds or more. It comes with a battery life of between two and four days, making it perfect for long-term use. You can use the device to instantly get accurate GPS coordinates for your pet from the associated Android or iOS apps or right from your Web browser.

The only potential downside is that the Tractive GPS Tracker currently requires a $9.95 monthly subscription outside of the original purchase price. As it does allow you to instantly find the current location of your pet at any time of day or night, that investment may be more than worth it depending on your preferences.

 

The Most Horrifying Elevator Prank Ever? You Be the Judge (But Yes, Yes it Is)

22 Feb

Since hidden cameras and other types of surveillance equipment have both become more advanced and more affordable than ever, two unique things have happened – only one of which could have been predicted. People regularly use hidden cameras to do everything from protect their homes while they’re away to record traffic accident footage that can then be used to their benefit in a court of law. At the same time, prank shows from around the world of seized hold of this technological revolution to their advantage – as one show in Brazil recently proved.

Elevator Prank

Programa Silvio Santos

“Programa Silvio Santos,” a variety show based out of Brazil and airing in that country on a regular basis, has long been known for its elaborate hidden camera pranks. If you’re familiar with viral videos like “Pig Grinder” or “Magnetic Soup,” you’re aware of the content being generated by these mischievous performers whether you realized it or not.

Recently, however, the show runners at “Programa Silvio Santos” seemed ready and willing to up the ante – much to our delight and the terror of some unsuspecting victims. Though the show’s hidden camera pranks have always been lighthearted in nature, this latest – dubbed “Ghost in the Elevator” is anything but.

If you’re a horror film fan, you’re no doubt familiar with the trope of “the scary little kid.” It’s something that has been commonplace in both American and Japanese horror in particular since Stanley Kubrick tore apart the genre and built it back up again with “The Shining.” It’s also something that some unaware victims got to experience up close and personal.

“Ghost in the Elevator” begins fairly normally, with people getting onto an elevator and hitting a “floor” button – something they’ve probably done hundreds if not thousands of times before in their lives. Soon, however, things take a turn.

The elevator stops – a malfunction, perhaps? These things happen. Then, the lights begin to flicker. An electrical surge? Maybe it’s related to the elevator stopping. None of this is exactly out of the ordinary and maintenance workers will probably be along to fix the issue shortly.

Then, however, a little girl appears OUT OF NOWHERE. In reality, she’s a performer who appears out of a trap door built into the side of the elevator for this specific purpose, but our would-be horror movie victims don’t know this yet. She appears silently in one corner of the room, as if she were conjured there, clutching a doll and looking precisely like something out of the famous Japanese horror film “The Ring.”

About three seconds later, it finally hits these people that they are literally standing in the first act of every horror movie they’ve ever seen and they react accordingly. If you’ve always watched these movies and thought beyond the shadow of a doubt that you’d be able to keep it together were you to ever find yourself in a similar situation, you may want to watch this YouTube video and think again.

To be fair to the victims, the staff at “Programa Silvio Santos” really do go all out. What makes the video extra creepy is that this is ostensibly supposed to be a comedy show, meaning that the most terrifying moment of these people’s lives is played out under a laugh track that sounds like something out of old “I Love Lucy” episodes. The juxtaposition alone is enough to take this out of the realm of simple variety show and into the arena of terrifying performance art.

Yet none of this would be possible without the types of high quality, cost effective and covert hidden cameras that have quickly become the new norm throughout our daily lives. If this is the type of thing that “Programa Silvio Santos” is cooking up, we can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future.

Or, on second thought, we can. We definitely, definitely can wait.

 

Meet the Man Who Builds Secret Spy Gadgets for a Living, Just Like Q From James Bond

20 Feb

Everyone loves the “James Bond” franchise – as evidenced by the fact that it is still going strong for over 50 years. Though James Bond himself may change to reflect the world around him, going from a suave product of the 1960s to the post-Cold War patriot of the Brosnan era right up to the “blunt force instrument” that he is today, one thing has remained the same: everyone’s favorite part of the films is when Q shows up to give him some incredible new gadget that will probably come in handy during the third act.

spy-gadgets-for-a-living

Played for years by Desmond Llewelyn, Q was one of the few cast members who DIDN’T change – even as Bond himself did. Many people always believed that Q was pure fantasy – some byproduct of Ian Fleming’s wild imagination. Based on that, it might surprise you that there IS a Q in real-life and he’s probably out there building some fancy new spy gadget right now.

Meet Ralph Osterhout

Ralph Osterhout grew up loving Bond like just about everyone does. But the thing that separates him from those millions upon millions of other people is that after becoming obsessed with Fleming’s novels in particular, he dedicated his life to becoming a spy himself. He learned how to shoot like James Bond. How to drive like James Bond. How to fight like him. After studying the gadget-heavy films, he also learned how to build his own weapons and gadgets that would make the prop masters on “The Living Daylights” sit up and take notice.

When Osterhout hit is 20s, he decided to take his passion and his hobby to the next level and turn it into a career. He started his own business, first building state-of-the-art diving gear. He made such an impression on his clients that eventually, the United States government took notice.

The U.S. government was in need of specialty equipment for their Navy SEAL divers – the most elite of the elite. Because Osterhout had been spending some of his free time training SEALs, he seemed like a natural fit. He soon got to work and changed everything we think about real-life spy gear in the process.

First, Osterhout build closed-circuit rebreathers and other protection systems to help keep SEALs safe on underwater excursions. Then, he build a system that allowed SEALs to target nuclear submarines from the Soviet Union – all while going entirely undetected. More of his specially designed equipment was used by the government for the next few decades, particularly in Desert Storm and during the war in Iraq.

Perhaps the high point of his career was when he designed a specialty dive vehicle for the United States Navy that would go on to be featured in not one but two James Bond films: “Never Say Never Again” (which marked Sean Connery’s return to the franchise) and “The Spy Who Loved Me.” In many ways, the circle of Osterhout’s life was now complete. He wasn’t just looking up to Q as he supplied high tech gear to James Bond. He had literally BECOME Q, arming not one but two different Bonds (including the original, and his favorite) with the tech they needed to stop the bad guy and save the world once and for all.

When the Cold War ended, Osterhout adapted – just as his idol James Bond had before him. He pivoted into toy development and was responsible for some of the biggest hits of the 1990s – the TalkBoy and the Yak Bak being just two examples.

The next time you watch a classic “James Bond” film and Desmond Llewelyn scorches across the screen as Q, just remember that while the character may be fictional and the gadgets may seem fantastical – they’re more based in reality than you might think.

 

Hidden Cameras: Finding Secret Dangers in the Most Menacing Places on Earth

15 Feb

Thanks to advancements in the underlying technology at play, hidden cameras have become a topic of significant discussion in the last few years. Decades ago, hidden cameras were essentially something only for the wealthy and government officials. Now, with just a few hundred dollars, anyone can purchase a device that records crystal clear audio and video in full high definition, catching everything from a negligent nanny to an employee who is stealing from their job in the act.

finding-secret-dangers-in-the-most-menacing-places-on-earth

This has obviously raised privacy concerns, as it should – this is an incredibly important topic. However, one of the issues that often goes overlooked is all the good that hidden cameras do BEYOND simple surveillance in your personal and professional life. Many groups are using hidden cameras all over the world, allowing them to shed light on the secret dangers that lurk in some of the most menacing places that exist across the globe.

Hidden Cameras and Videre

One organization that is paving the way with regards to using hidden cameras in a positive way is Videre. In a recent TED Talk conducted in November of 2015, Oren Yakobovich talked about how his organization uses the latest in surveillance and hidden camera technology to uncover, verify and publicize many dangers and other human rights abuses all over the world. As a leading activist organization that operates with an eye toward social change, Yakobovich believes that this is incredibly important. The people who commit human rights abuses want to “sweep them under the rug,” hoping that they can carry on with these activities without anyone becoming aware.

Hidden cameras, on the other hand, stop that from happening. They do a lot more than just uncover the truth behind a situation – they help people in important positions collect valuable evidence so the existence of these situations cannot be refuted. Thanks to the power of the Internet, this footage can also be shared far and wide making sure that there is no corner of the Earth that someone with malicious intentions can run to. At least not anymore, that is.

Yakobovich discussed a woman named Mary from a village in Africa. He discussed how Mary was called into an intimidation meeting ahead of an upcoming election, but also how she was not afraid. On that particular day, Mary was carrying a hidden camera in her dress. She was using that camera to expose the ruling party’s intimidation tactics, protecting not only herself but her entire village in the process.

During the discussion, Yakobovich also talked about many other examples of groups that are using hidden cameras to uncover everything from political fraud to violence to horrific instances of abuse. The key thing to keep in mind is that without the rate at which hidden camera technology has continued to advance, none of that would be possible. These issues would continue to go on unnoticed, away from the eye of the public. Thanks to hidden cameras, it is now possible for a few passionate issues to turn ANY instance of secret danger around the world into the true global issue it was meant to be.

Videre is just one of the many examples of a group that is using hidden camera technology to help make the world a better place. There are certainly others. Thanks to how far hidden camera technology has come in just a few short years, the good news is that these advocacy champions and rights defenders aren’t going away anytime soon. While it’s true that hidden cameras do present a privacy issue (or at least trigger the discussion) for some, their full power is and will always be in situations like these. Hidden cameras help people speak out for the people who cannot do so themselves. They allow people to champion and protect the people who need it the most. For that, we can all be grateful.

 

The HORRIBLE Cause of a Toddler’s Injuries Revealed Via Secret Nanny Cam

13 Feb

When people think about hidden cameras, the image they usually call to mind is one of the traditional “nanny cam” – a secret recording device hidden inside your average teddy bear. It’s a picture that has been painted for years not only in the news, but in film and television shows. Sitcom characters use those spying bears to get into all sorts of fun and wacky situations all the time.

secret-nanny-cam
Because of this, it’s easy to forget that even when hidden in something like a teddy bear, nanny cams DO still play a very important role in our society. The footage they capture is often anything but fun – oftentimes, it’s used to shed light on horrible situations going on right under our noses. Such was the case when one Connecticut teacher used a nanny cam to uncover the true, awful cause of injuries that her toddler had been developing.

The Connecticut Nanny: What Happened?

In 2015, a mother from Connecticut returned home from her job as a school teacher to see her biggest fear come to life. Though her toddler had been in the care of a nanny all day long, as she had so many days before, this time was different. The three-year-old was not only sporting a black eye, but she also had second degree burns on her hands and legs. The mother immediately turned to the nanny, a woman named Lidia Quilligana, to see what happened.

Lidia said that the three-year-old had fallen down accidentally, burning herself on the stop in the process. During her fall, she also hit her eye on a knob – thus explaining both the burns and the black eye. For the mother, however, this explanation didn’t make much sense. What was a three-year-old doing ABOVE the stove in the first place? What are the odds of getting both a black eye AND burns during the same incident? The nanny said that the toddler was helping her make pancakes, but again – something wasn’t right.

This also wasn’t the first time something strange had happened. Even before this incident, the child had begun to slowly developed bruising and other unexplained injuries all over her body. This activity is what led to the installation of the camera to begin with.

In a normal situation, these are the types of questions that would go unanswered. Unfortunately for Quilligana, she was already being watched without her knowledge. After Quilligana went home for the day, the mother downloaded the footage from the secret nanny camera in her home that she’d had installed. What she saw was every mother’s worst nightmare.

The tech-savvy mom had hours of footage of the nanny repeatedly taking the three-year-old by the wrist and forcing her hands onto hot stove burners. She had footage of the nanny jumping on the child while she laid on the ground. She had crystal clear images of the nanny pulling the little girl’s pants and underwear down and spanking her mercilessly, seemingly for no reason at all.

Further examination of the footage also revealed that the nanny was regularly force-feeding the three-year-old incredibly hot food, which led to blisters all over the inside of her mouth.

The mother was horrified, but she was also determined to make things right. She immediately called her child’s doctor, who told her to bring the three-year-old in for a medical examination right away. She also contacted the local authorities, who were quick to charge the nanny with first degree assault on the basis of cruel and unusual punishment.

Though this is undoubtedly a terrible situation, it is also one with a thankfully happy ending. The Connecticut mother was able to use modern technology to get to the bottom of something heinous and in the case of the nanny, justice was served. The three-year-old is also finally free from all harm, which is the most important benefit of all. None of it would have been possible without the mother’s secret nanny camera.

 

After Introducing Background GPS Tracking, Uber Faces Massive Backlash

8 Feb

In many ways, there is no better single example of the digital world that we’re now living in than Uber. At its core, Uber is a company that lets consumers order a car through a smartphone app. Not only was it the first of its kind, but it also caused a significant amount of disruption to both the taxi cab industry and to the entire economy. Originally launched in 2009, Uber is seen by many as directly responsible for the birth of the “gig-based revolution” we’re now all a part of.

gps-tracking

Uber has made headlines for essentially all of its existence for both good and bad reasons. Recently, Uber enjoyed a bit of positive press when it announced it would be turning its first self-driving fleet of vehicles onto the streets of Pittsburgh. On the other end of the spectrum is the recent firestorm of controversy the company suffered when it was revealed that a newly updated version of its app was actually tracking a customer’s location without their knowledge.

Uber and Background Tracking: What Happened?

In late 2016, Uber released an update to their flagship iOS app that changed how the location of a user was being tracked. Unlike prior versions – which only collected GPS and other location-based information when the app was open – the new version began collecting data from the moment a trip was requested until a full five minutes after the trip ended.

When asked about why the app needs to do this in the first place, an Uber spokesperson indicated that it was mainly used to help internal teams investigate any complaints, safety issues or other problems that occur before, during and after a ride. While this does seem legitimate, the way the situation was handled was less than satisfactory.

The major problem that Uber ran into was that they didn’t really tell anyone about this particular feature – it was something that was discovered slowly by the users themselves. It all hinges on a feature of the Apple iPhone called “Background App Refresh,” which allows apps to continue sending and receiving information “in the background” even if the user isn’t specifically interacting with them at the time.

 

Also problematic was the fact that users didn’t have a way to opt out of this newfound tracking method if they were concerned with their privacy. The only workaround was to enter into the “Settings” app on an iPhone, navigate to the “Privacy” screen and turn off “Location Services” for the Uber app. This harms the app itself, as when a user is requesting a ride the app legitimately DOES need to know where they currently are to pick them up. The Uber app only gives you the option to turn on or turn off “Location Services” – there is no middle ground.

To top it all off, Uber insiders revealed that there was really no limit to who within the company could access that location information. It wasn’t just customer support staff and service technicians – drivers could see that information, too. For someone who has a legitimate reason for not wanting a record about where they go five minutes after their relationship with a business ends, this represents a serious concern and a potentially massive invasion of privacy at the same time.

In many ways, Uber’s recent controversy just goes to underline the importance of understanding exactly what information you’re giving up for the sake of convenience and modern technology. Everyone knows that a smartphone has GPS functionality built in from the time of purchase – but do they really know which apps have access to that data and which do not? As GPS tracking in general has moved from a novelty to a ubiquitous part of life, one can assume that situations like these will become more and more common as time goes on.

 

The NSA’s Secret Toolbox – All the Spy Gadgets You Could Ever Need

6 Feb

To say that there’s a lot going on at the NSA that the general public is unaware of is something of an understatement. As people like Edward Snowden have long proven, the NSA has its hands in just about everything. As the world’s leading most authority on surveillance, there is very little around the globe that they DON’T have their hands in at any given moment. However, the true extent of that reach has gone largely unnoticed – until now.

spy-gadgets
Over the course of the last few years, it has been revealed that the NSA actually has something of a “secret toolbox” that produces specialty equipment in nearly every category you can think of. From spyware designed to infiltrate even the most heavily protected computers to USB sticks that double as devices to siphon information from any device they’re connected to, this “catalog” reads like something out of a classic 1960s spy movie come to life.

The NSA’s Tailored Access Operations Division

Much of the gear in this “secret toolbox” comes by way of the NSA’s TAO, or “Tailored Access Operations” division. When an NSA official needs to crack an uncrackable security system or infiltrate a particularly sophisticated network, they turn to the experts at TAO to arm them with what they need. TAO is something of a “nuclear option” for the NSA – they’re who you turn to when conventional methods just aren’t cutting it.

In an internal NSA document obtained by Spiegel from 2004, a particular strain of spyware was described dubbed “VALIDATOR.” The purpose of “VALIDATOR” was to be able to provide a unique backdoor entry point into the personal computers (remember – tablets weren’t around in 2004, let alone smartphones as we know them today) of people who were of national interest. Most notably, the definition of “natural interest” is specified as “including BUT NOT LIMITED to targets of terrorism and related activities.”

What’s interesting is that many of the items in the NSA’s secret toolbox are geared toward specific types of devices and systems. The NSA doesn’t just have a specific strain of malware to break into a mobile phone – they have one for the iPhone, one for the Android platform, etc. This makes sense, as often everything from device hardware to the operating systems that power them can vary wildly from one model to the next.

Part of the success in this area comes down to the fact that the NSA targets products made by popular American manufacturers – the types of devices that the people they want to spy on are probably using – and finds a way to break into them directly. The NSA offers malware and other hardware-based spying devices for desktop computers made by companies like Dell or Hewlett-Packard, for example.

While many of the devices in the NSA’s secret toolbox are predictably sophisticated, some of them are downright simple. One item is a “rigged monitor cable,” for example, that replicates the information being displayed on the monitor of a person being watched onto a secondary screen manned by NSA personnel. Armed with only bare-bones technology, all one would have to do is replace a regular monitor cable with this facsimile, and everything they do online could be spied on – no hacking required.

Other examples include a base station that makes it possible to mimic the cell phone tower of a network that a target is using, allowing someone to see exactly what they’re doing on their phone at all times WITHOUT requiring physical access to the device.

At the end of the day, all of this goes to underline just how far surveillance technology has come in a short period of time. The next time someone tells you that a particular spying technique is “too far-fetched to really exist,” just remember – when it comes to the NSA’s secret toolbox, you don’t know the half of it.