IEEE Network magazine published an intriguing paper in a recent issue entitled “A wireless biosensor network using autonomously controlled animals.” (An earlier version of the report is available here). The authors envision using rats for homeland security-related search & rescue options, giving them instructions via autonomous control algorithms and creating a wireless sensor network among multiple rats wearing backpacks. This would in theory make it possible to search a rubble-strewn disaster site (perhaps after an earthquake) in a rapid manner and quickly pinpoint any survivors. The report contains this amusing chart that shows what this network would look like:
Is this idea feasible as a tool for practical homeland security applications? As is the case with any single research effort like this, it’s difficult to say. Although I have a high degree of confidence that collectively R&D efforts like this will lead to real improvements in the nation’s homeland security capabilities over the coming years.