Friday, September 15, 2017

FutureWatch - Microphone with an Ear and Brains, or how to stay ahead of the bad guys...

Clients know how quickly technology advances, and they occasionally ask...

"Aren't you always one step behind the bad guys?"

I've heard some colleagues agree, and even mention it themselves as a pre-sweep hedge against failure, along with the idiotic statement, "All bets are off once we leave." Talk about defeatist logic.

The bad guys question is a good one, however, and there are several answers. All depend upon the mindset of the TSCM team...
  1. Yes, if you buy a detection gadget and only read the instructions.
  2. Yes, if you just surf the Internet for education.
  3. Yes, if you're getting your education from an annual TSCM seminar, or occasional training course.
  4. No, if you pay attention to research papers, newly developing electronic components and processes, before they are used in surveillance devices.
Here is a Number 4 example I came across this week... a very tiny microphone with an ear, a brain, and almost no need to be fed electricity.

Wake-On Sound - Piezoelectric MEMS Microphone
PUI Audio's ZeroPower Listening™ piezoelectric MEMS microphone designed for ultra-low power always listening solutions. 

PUI Audio’s PMM-3738-VM1010-R is a single-ended analog MEMS microphone with wake-on sound. The wake-on sound mode allows for detection of voice activity while consuming only 5 μA of supply current (9 μW of power). In wake-on sound mode, a sound in the vocal band above the level threshold instantly alerts a processor of an acoustic event. The processor (DSP or voice processor) then switches the PMM-3738-VM1010-R into normal mode, with full audio output within 100 microseconds. Fast enough for the microphone to capture the triggering sound and pass it along for processing. This is the system architecture for ZeroPower Listening. 

Wake-on sound delivers voice activation to battery-powered voice-interface consumer devices, such as smart speakers, smart TV remote controls, smart headphones, and IoT smart home products, while drawing nearly zero power. 

PUI Audio’s PMM-3738-VM1010-R, the first wake-on sound MEMS microphone, brings voice activation to battery-powered devices of all kinds. Drawing a scant 5 μA of current while in listening mode, PUI Audio’s newest piezoelectric MEMS microphone is the only device that uses sound energy itself to wake a system from full power-down. 

The PMM-3738-VM1010-R features a configurable voice zone, allowing voice in a 5 foot to 20 foot radius-zone to trigger the system and increase to a higher-power mode. When the environment is quiet, the system can enter the low-power ”wake-on-sound” mode. 

Imagine the new types of eavesdropping devices this microphone will make possible.

Combine this with a battery powered bug that recharges using ambient radio-frequency signals, and you have a sleeper bug that could (theoretically) last forever. 

The bad guys probably haven't built and deployed this yet, but when they do, it won't be a surprise to us.

The posts tagged FutureWatch you see in the Security Scrapbook are examples of Number 4 attention to detail. Here are some more...