Researchers Study Adapting Cell Sites as Chemical Monitors

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Network of Antenna Sites Could Provide Early Warning of Terrorist Attack

Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are proposing the creation of SensorNet, a network of sensors installed on the thousands of cell phone base stations across the U.S., forming a grid that could detect and establish the size and extent of a chemical, biological or radiological attack.  

The proposed SensorNet network is the result of a meeting between Oak Ridge Lab's Systems Engineering and Technology Group and an unnamed wireless technology provider.  Because wireless base stations already exist across the country, there would be little need to spend time on zoning and land use issues, the researchers said.  Also, the sites keep very accurate time, and, therefore, could identify exactly when an event began, and, as the sensors on other sites pick up the problem, determine speed, direction and spread.

Though SensorNet is thought to be useful in some situations, it may not apply to all threats -- the release of a chemical agent inside a building for example -- and the effectiveness of the military sensors has yet to be determined, said a researcher at the Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute in Washington.  But SensorNet could be an effective tool in the case of an attack involving a radiological agent like a "dirty bomb."
 

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