Technology Innovations Past & Present

Technology lurks somewhere in each of Ian's thrillers. The storyline of Eavesdrop, for instance, has radio technology at its core, an area close to Ian's heart after many years working in the high tech electronics industry where he specialised in the design of radio equipment.

This page shows the sort of cool technology that fascinates him. Perhaps some of it will inspire the next thriller.

Swimming robot checks for ships' smuggling compartments

underwater robot

This is a good example of how technology can be transfered from one field to another: originally designed by MIT to find cracks in nuclear reactors, this robot is being now adapted to search ships for the false panels and secret compartments used by smugglers.

The football-sized robot swims around a ship's hull and uses ultrasonics to scan its surface, mapping any hidden areas within. Experts envisage shoals of about 20 of these at a time secretly scanning complete ships.

The remaining challenge is to give them a method for stripping barnacles, which stop the robot getting close enough to the hull's surface.


A self-destructing computer chip

high-tech electronics

America's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has given IBM a contract to make a range of silicon chips that can self destruct. The aim is to ensure any sensitive electronics that falls into enemy hands can be destroyed using a remote signal.

The method basically works by building the chip on a thin glass substrate into which a tiny fuse is embedded with a receiver. Sending a signal to the chip causes the fuse to blow, shattering the glass, and returning the chip to silicon shards. I guess it's a bit like a suicide pill for silicon chips.

A soldier's boot that can detect landmines

Soliers boot that can detect a landmine

Here's a great use of technology: this soldier's boot includes sensors that can detect landmines up to 6 feet away. That will save lives in places like Cambodia where landmines are rife. Surely one of the best bits of tech this year.


A beautiful 1940's spy radio

A 1940's spy radio

Isn't this one of the most beautiful bits of technology? It's a spy radio from the 1940s. That's true technology, when you could really see the electrons doing their job. Modern tech is never quite as thrilling as coils and valves and moving meters.


Will James Bond's 007 spy tech ever become reality?

James Bond's Vanquish

Ever wondered how close to reality some of the James Bond gadgets are? In this blog article, thriller writer Ian Coates explores some of the gadgets to see whether there is any science or engineering around that could help to turn them into reality.

X-ray glasses, invisible cars, jet packs, cigarette guns, and more...

Read the blog article

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