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Photos: Datacentres, drug-busting fingerprints and 3D gaming

British start-ups show off their tech
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By Nick Heath on
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1 of 11 Real-Status

British start-ups show off their tech

Computer gaming met corporate IT, while old-school mobile phones were given a touchscreen makeover at a gathering of tech start-ups in Cambridge last week.

The annual event showcased the latest technology to come out of fledgling companies in the east of England.

One of the companies, Real-Status, showed how it is harnessing the software used to create the photo-realistic battlefields of modern video games to map the make-up of corporate datacentres.

The company has created software that retrieves information on every server, virtual machine, router and network switch inside a company's IT estate and then uses a game software engine to render them in a colourful 3D map, as seen above.

The idea is that IT and business managers will be able to manipulate the map - zooming in or out, rotating it and scrolling around - to explore how effectively company datacentres are running.

Here you can see a representation of a company's entire IT estate, with the icons representing different servers, routers or network switches and the white lines indicating network links between devices, or links between a virtual machine and a physical server.

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2 of 11 Real-Status

Here you can see a zoomed-in image of the datacentre map that shows how Real-Status' system can be used to quickly identify issues within the IT estate.

Users of the system can set what percentage of each server's computer processing power should be utilised. The system then monitors processer usage in each server and colours the icon for each machine green, red or blue - with red representing an under-utilised server, green representing a server with adequate load and blue representing an over-utilised server.

The simple colour coding could help IT managers to better balance CPU loads within the IT estate or to see which parts of the estate would benefit from server virtualisation, which helps better balance workloads and guard against server over- or under-utilisation.

The system is able to help non-IT staff, such as business managers, to understand which part of a company's computing infrastructure is not being fully utilised or to determine IT usage in a pay-per-use computing model.

The map can be customised to show lots of different information - for example the thickness of the lines between the devices could be set to correspond to the amount of bandwidth available on that network connection or the amount of time that network link had gone down during the previous month.

Real-Status CTO Stace Hipperson said that the graphics used to represent the IT estate will be upgraded to produce even more visually striking and clear maps.

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3 of 11 Nick Heath/silicon.com

Fingerprints can already reveal a person's identity and now they can be used to detect if they have been taking illegal drugs.

Intelligent Fingerprinting, a spin-off company from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, has developed a system to analyse the sweat from a person's fingerprints for telltale chemical traces of drugs.

The system is able to determine if a person has taken illegal drugs within 15 to 30 minutes of them giving their fingerprint.

The system works by using a microscope attached to a computer that projects a blown up image of the person's fingerprint.

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4 of 11 Nick Heath/silicon.com

The fingerprint is treated with a chemical that will change the colour of the fingerprint if chemicals associated with an illegal drug are detected.

The test is designed to detect 'metabolites' of illegal drugs - the chemicals into which illegal drugs are broken down inside the body. Using metabolites means that somebody who has recently taken an illegal drug can't fool the test simply by washing their hands, as their body will constantly be producing new metabolites.

The chemical that is added to the fingerprint contains antibodies that will bind to the metabolites and change the colour of the fingerprint.

The change in colour can be detected by the naked eye or by standard image matching software that is already used within many police forces.

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5 of 11 Nick Heath/silicon.com

The system can detect a range of different illegal drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis.

The Intelligent Fingerprinting system is aimed at helping to detect illegal drug use, such as testing fingerprints left at a crime scene, prints belonging to criminal suspects, or in random drug tests on inmates in prison.

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6 of 11 Nick Heath/silicon.com

People suffering from mobile phone envy should take heart - technology is just around the corner that will let you turn your old brick into a touchscreen gadget.

InputDynamics adds touchscreen functionality to devices using the sound generated when the user taps the screen.

The system works in several stages, first it uses the phone's built-in microphone to pick up the sound of the user tapping the screen.

Next software matches the sound of the tapping with one in a bank of recordings of people tapping different parts of the phone case and screen.

Because the software knows what part of the phone was being tapped for the recorded sound it is able to work out what part of the phone the user is tapping to produce a matching sound.

It can also detect the sound of a user swiping their finger across the screen, allowing them to use gestures to scroll, zoom or pan around the screen.

Another potential use for the software is to allow people to interact with the phone by tapping on the phone case, as it is able to match sounds from taps on any part of the phone.

Mike Bradley, director of business development with InputDynamics, said the company is in talks with several "tier one" mobile phone manufacturers about its product.

"We can licence this for about one tenth of the price of adding a touchscreen, it can bring touch capability to devices that cannot afford a touchscreen," Bradley said.

At present the software is being run on a computer connected to a mobile phone, as seen above, but Bradley said the software will be able to run on any existing mobile phone platform.

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7 of 11 St John's Innovation Centre

Dubbed a "dashboard" for a horse - the Gmax is designed to provide horse owners with a wealth of information about the fitness and welfare of their animal.

The system uses a high tech belt, which is worn by the horse and measures its heart rate using an ECG, its speed and distance travelled using a GPS, its stride frequency and length using accelerometers and other data such as the horse's skin temperature and the atmospheric humidity.

The information is streamed to a computer or smartphone via Bluetooth, GSM or wi-fi where all the information can be read on the display, with the data also available via a web interface.

The system's developers, the Cambridge Design Partnership, say that it can help train horses by allowing their performance on the track to be compared with other horses, and to be tracked over time and in different conditions.

This is the Gmax software running on a smartphone, showing the heart rate of the horse pictured in the background.

The system has been trialled by riders at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

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8 of 11 Audio Analytic

With so many CCTV cameras deployed around the UK it is becoming increasingly difficult for human operators to monitor their output in real-time.

Software produced by Audio Analytic is designed to help CCTV operators to spot crimes as they occur by flagging up when a camera is filming a potential misdemeanour.

The software alerts the operator as to which camera they should be monitoring by automatically detecting sounds associated with crime, such as breaking glass, a gun shot or a car alarm.

An alert has been generated to draw the attention of the operator to the monitor at the bottom right of the screen, as can be seen by the red light above, after the system detected the sound of car alarm.

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9 of 11 Audio Analytic

Audio Analytic software works by monitoring the sounds captured by the microphones built into CCTV cameras for specific audio characteristics of sounds linked to criminal behaviour, such as the noise profile for a car alarm seen above.

If a "criminal" sound is detected then the system triggers an alert that is sent back to the CCTV monitoring centre.

The software only requires a very lightweight computer processor and is designed to run on the hardware built into modern CCTV cameras, allowing the audio to be monitored by the camera and preventing the need for audio to be sent back to the monitoring centre.

The software is designed to be sold to manufacturers of CCTV equipment and is in use at two sites within Europe.

Dr Christopher Mitchell, who developed the software while doing his PhD at Anglia Ruskin University, said the system could also play a role in automatically recording the sound of aggressive behaviour when staff are threatened by members of the public.

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10 of 11 Nick Heath/silicon.com

The company Visual Perception wants to transform the way we interact with the digital world.

It has developed Imagetrons, which offers an alternative way of browsing digital images on computers and smartphones.

Here you can see one of the Imagetrons called the double film roll, where picture thumbnails are arranged as individual frames on two spools of camera film, running on an Apple iPad.

Users can easily scroll through the images by swiping their finger left and right at the bottom of the screen, as well as zooming into individual images by clicking on the thumbnail.

Visual perception has several other Imagetrons designed to resemble patterns such as a double helix and quad spirals.

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11 of 11 Nick Heath/silicon.com

The Hauser Forum in Cambridge, home of the Cambridge Enterprise group, where the day for tech start-ups was held.

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