Are there better spies out there than the dapper James Bond? Maybe. For example, cats would make absolutely adorable spies, but it took the CIA $20 million and five years to learn that cats’ interests lie outside gathering intelligence. This might be the reason the U.S. military has turned to a far more manageable medium: the trusty rock.
At first glance, rocks might not seem like great spies. They’re fairly immobile (unless thrown), not particularly suave, and as the classic English idiom goes, most rocks tend to be dumb as a rock. On the other hand, rocks are fairly ubiquitous, inconspicuous, and they don’t get hungry or chase after mice.
Lockheed Martin has developed surveillance tech called Self-Powered Ad-hoc Network or simply SPAN. It’s a self-powered wireless network that can provide surveillance and is so small it could fit into a rock-sized fake rock. We’ve all got that one friend who keeps his spare key in a fake rock in the back yard, right? Well, this is the U.S. Military doing just that, on a larger scale and with surveillance equipment instead of rocks. The sensors are self-organizing and can do a number of things when triggered, such as turn on a camera or alert a drone to activity in their area. And they’re cheap to boot, meaning the military could potentially spread a bunch of them out and forget about them (until, of course, they’re triggered).
While the prevailing thought is that unmanned aerial surveillance is the future of intelligence-gathering, what is more overlooked than rocks? Perhaps we could one day load up cockroaches with cameras and sensors, but until then, this would be the best way to monitor areas that we don’t have (or want to use) the resources to keep a close eye on.
It’s not yet clear how these rocks will be deployed. I’m betting on kids with slingshots, but my editor’s betting possible drone drops. However it’s done, it’s a terrifying prospect: a world in which we’re probably always being spied on. Good thing the old U.S. of A. has a good track record of respecting citizen privacy. Oh, wait… Yeah, these babies are set up for military operations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used for domestic surveillance as well. And once we start going down that road, well, we know where that ends up.