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Innovative tech at Cambridge open day

From flying saucers to sniffer bees; an open day at Cambridge University gave entrepreneurs and start-ups the chance to demonstrate their ideas
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By Gemma Simpson on
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1 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

Search-and-rescue flying saucers, sniffer bees and mobile maps are just some of the inventions that were showcased at a Cambridge University open day.

The event was hosted by the St John's Innovation Centre, which provides support to businesses ranging from entrepreneurs who need office space to mature businesses seeking technology partnerships.

Held at Cambridge's Churchill College, the annual open day gives entrepreneurs and start-ups the chance to demonstrate their innovative ideas.

Pictured is a flying saucer, developed by Cambridge-based company GFS Projects, which could be used as a search-and-rescue alternative to a helicopter.

The saucer is also being trialled on farms for crop inspection and treatment.

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2 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

Pictured is the prototype unmanned flying saucer hovering over Churchill College, Cambridge.

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which is 60cm-diameter, takes off and lands vertically and can fly in winds of up to 10mph.

It has no exposed rotating parts and can hover over one place or move in any direction making it possible to take aerial photographs for surveillance.

The saucer also has military applications to help reconnaissance missions, with the Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defense both showing interest in the technology.

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3 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

This is software that reads text out loud almost instantly from any photographable source, such as a bus timetable, menu or street sign.

The mobile-phone application — called CapturaTalk — is a product from Cambridge company Iansyst. It aims to help dyslexic users who need easy access to written information in their daily lives.

Iansyst chief executive Tim Sutton said: "It takes a standard HTC TyTN smartphone and turns the inbuilt camera into a scanner, but a scanner which can be taken anywhere and used anytime."

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4 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

This phone is displaying a GPS-based technology that takes travel information, from sources such as AA Publishing and Ordnance Survey maps, and tells users where they are on a map, as well as providing other location-based information.

The mobile application can be downloaded or installed via a memory stick, with the first AA mobile travel guide for London now available.

Viewranger director Craig Wareham said most of the content is held on the phone, so users can browse maps and access information on areas even when there is no mobile coverage.

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5 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

This is a security system that can tell homeowners via text message, email or phone call if their burglar or smoke alarms have been triggered.

The Alert-me home-monitoring range (pictured) works wirelessly, is portable and can also tell householders if the front door has been opened.

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6 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

A new way to help people secure their gadgets was also unveiled.

Users create a pattern by choosing four squares on a grid (pictured), and it is this pattern that is then used to authenticate purchases or passwords, instead of a fixed PIN or password.

The grid is filled with random numbers every time a password or PIN is required. Therefore, a unique number is entered and not the same four-digit code.

When the GrIDsure system is launched in October this year, it could be used on computers, mobile phones, ATMs and to redesign the existing chip and PIN system, according to its inventors.

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7 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

A new approach to screening drugs for cancer treatment was also unveiled by Cambridge-based company Horizon Discovery.

The development could be used to personalise medicine to fight cancer more effectively with fewer side effects.

Pictured is a microscope demonstrating how cancer-causing genetic mutations can be identified.

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8 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

This Inkski print head (pictured) fires drops of ink that are being continuously created on the cylinder head, to speed up the printing process.

Daniel Hall, found of Inkski, said the company is aiming to produce cylinder heads that can print onto a sheet of 50cm by 5m paper every second.

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9 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

It may look like a form of insect torture, but these bees are being trained to identify a wide range of substances, from food contaminants to diseases and liquid explosives.

The "sniffer bees" are trained for a few hours to think certain substances are food — and when the bee thinks it has smelt the food, it sticks out its tongue.

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10 of 10 Gemma Simpson/ZDNet

The bees are then put in a box (pictured) for around two days to identify suspect substances before being reintroduced to their hives.

Included in the box is a video camera that uses software to identify when a bee sticks out its tongue.

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