Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Have it Your Way - Burger King

What better way to convey "your special - just like your burger" than to have a customized wrapper on your no mayo, hold-the-onions Whopper. Kudos to Ogilvy Brazil creating brilliant buzz from this fresh Burger King campaign. Check the video out at creativity-online.com. I wonder how many follow-up Whoppers were sold so the customer could get a better photo?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Facebook Finally Trumps Google

So what's driving Facebook's incredible traffic? Traffic monitor Hitwise, has announced that Facebook has usurped Google for the first time in the company's traffic counter for single individual days.

According to Hitwise research director Heather Dougherty in her blog, Facebook was the most visited website in the U.S. on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day as well as the weekend of March 6th and 7th. But those were just individual days. Now Facebook has officially surpassed Google in overall traffic for the week ending March 13. At least according to Hitwise.

Granted, the two offer wildly different services, but traffic is traffic. And new unique users are like gold. Facebook managed to add 100 million users between September and February, to a swelling 400 million active users. Traffic is up 185% compared with this time last year, whereas Google's traffic has risen by only 9%. Seems there are a lot of wanna-be farmers out there.

Casual gaming, or facebooking, is a driving factor in the remarkable success. Leading the tractor parade to greener pastures in the "farm with your friends" game Farmville. Gaming is the vehicle to engage, connect and disconnect from the troubles of the world.

I'm of the opinion that internet holdouts are finally seeing the light. Too many conversations at the water cooler or with family during the holidays has spiked the numbers. When family is together, they talk about life. Those not on Facebook realize they're missing out on the connectedness of family, friends and fun. Holidays are the perfect down time to hook up relatives and add them to the growing network of users. Farmville is a hook that drives traffic and entice users to give more information about themselves - deep linking them into the system in a fun way.

My dad, a reluctant professional that probably didn't trust the Web that much, joined after I posted updates and photos on Facebook after one of my son's had an accident and was in the trauma unit receiving care. We are social creatures that care about loved ones and friends. Facebook was the easiest way to get updates out to the people I cared about most.

Combine that with the popularity of mobile devices, improved newsfeeds, casual gaming, the impressive ability to connect with high-school classmates, and you can plainly see why Facebook is luring in many hard-core holdouts.

Monday, March 15, 2010

More Fun 404 Code Copy

Saw this doing research on a 1975 electrical system recall for the AM General Jeep DJ-5E.

First Electric Jeep DJ-5E

So ugly it's cute. That's the way Glen Burgess describes his restored Jeep® Electruck, or DJ-5E. Glen has a great Jeep DJ-5E restoration project, of perhaps the last surviving model of the 352 manufactured, one of five sold to Canada Post. The 1976 factory original electric postal truck was found by Glen in a farmers field in Ontario Canada. The restored Electruck weighs nearly twice the weight of a gas-powered Jeep DJ-5 because of the heavy lead-acid batteries. Interestingly there was a recall on the 1975 model.

AMC worked with Gould on a 20-horsepower compund wind DC Motor and two 27 volt batteries for a total of 54 volts. The vehicles were capable of attaining 4o mph for up to 29 miles. The United States Postal Service (USPS) ran a Route Profile Analysis to determine suitability of electric postal delivery vehicles and it was favorable. Interestingly Taylor-Dunn company already has an Electruck® that can reach speeds of up to 25 mph and provide over 40 miles in range. Taylor-Dunn trademarked the Electruck name in 1994. We'll have to see if the next generation of Jeep Electric Vehicles are able to find their way back into the service of the USPS.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Paul Gilbert - Jackhammer

Michael Madill, owner of Madsound, LLC and former Sound Designer at Organic sent out props to this video on YouTube. Wicked tight. Possibly the best 7/8 time ever?

Monday, March 8, 2010

World Record Fuel Economy

Have we reached the plateau of fuel efficiency? Turned the last screw in our push toward the envelope of known technology? At first I couldn't believe the claim: over 12,000 miles per gallon. Now I can't believe it hasn't been improved upon.

The Guinness World Record for fuel efficiency was awarded in 2005 to a Swiss team with a PAC-Car II hydrogen-powered car. Lino Guzzella and his team at ETH Zurich recorded an astounding 5,385 km per liter of gasoline (12,666 mpg!) during the Shell Eco-marathon in Ladoux (France). The vehicle weighed a feathery 60 pounds and had an aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.075.

Hydrogen power is impressive, but it still doesn't compete with the sun-fed system of solar vehicles. The solar car can travel an indefinite distance without using any fuel at all (provided sun is readily available). I was shooting the event for The Macomb Daily newspaper on July 19, 1990 as the University of Michigan Sunrunner crossed the finish line and won the first GM Sunrayce. It was a memorable event seeing the maize and blue solar cell-covered car stealthily cross the finish line with a a cheering team in tow at the General Motors Tech Center in Warren, Michigan. The Sunrunner electric car weighed a heafty 500 pounds and had an aerodynamic drag coefficienct of .108.

Solar powered vehicles have matured and improved at an astonishing rate since that momentous event in 1990. The race to higher fuel efficiency with hydrogen powered vehicles is sure to follow a similar path, albeit not as dramatic. The fact that Hydrogen became a recognized official fuel in 2004 like gasoline and petrol helped with the path to world records.

So why hasn't another team broken the record since? Have we reached the epitome of drag coefficiency. Has the tire technology reached its limit? Or is it just that the students at ETH Zurich are taking a break for a while as everyone else catches up?

(PAC-Car 2 photos courtesy ETH Zurich)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Suburu Spreads its Wings

Suburu Spreads its Wings
Originally uploaded by lee.ekstrom
The Suburu Hybrid Tourer Concept uses twin gull-wing doors and steeply raked front windshield for a spectacular display at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit Michigan. Look for future Subaru vehicles to take on the new front grille design.

The Hybrid Tourer was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2009. Nice wide-open door to the interior. I'm not sure how this would work in Michigan with snow, sleet, rain and other nasties.

The Hybrid Tourer will use a 2.0 litre turbocharged boxer engine along with two electric motors. Suburu is planning on using a Lineartronic Automatic Transmission (actually a CVT) and utilizes a rear motor that can be used at start up or during acceleration. A front motor would be used as a power generator and aid in acceleration.

Reminds me of a fresh vehicle that could easily be used in "Back to the Future X."

Toyota "Baby Prius" FT-EV II Concept

Lot of weird stuff happening here. Funky in a freakish kind of way. Love the graphics on this EV concept. Not so sure about the drive-by-wire joystick control that replaces the steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals.

Reminds me of the song we sang in Junior High about how things are interconnected, called Dry Bones:

"The ankle bone's connected to the leg bone,
The foot bone connected to the heel bone,
The heel bone connected ot the ankle bone,
Now hear the word of the Lord... "

Most vehicles on the road today are using drive-by-wire technology. Even vehicles you think of as mechanical in nature like the Jeep Wrangler use the linkless pedal. But a decoupled steering wheel is a whole 'nuther ball of wax. Toyota's version of the campfire song:

"The steering wheel's not connected to a steering column
The steering column's not connected to the the track rod,
The track rod's not connected to the tie rods,
Now hear the word of the Toyoda..."

Are American's ready to trust Toyota's trick technology?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Toyota FT-CH Concept Car

Toyota FT-CH Concept Car
Originally uploaded by lee.ekstrom
Toyota's Hybrid Concept vehicle debuted at the 2010 North American International Show in Detroit, Michigan. Toyota is gunning for a price-point lower than the Prius to lure a younger, hipper audience. The dedicated compact hybrid will be aimed primarily for the urban environment. Drop the wheels, replace the interior floor mats, fix the drive-by-wire electronics and it might actually sell.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tantalizing Tango

I couldn't believe this vehicle was legit when I saw it at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit Michigan. The more I researched this vehicle - the more it grew on me. At first glance, the Tango looked too tall and seemed like it might tip over on a windy day.

Rollover Potential:
Not to worry, remember this is an electric vehicle (EV), with the 988 lbs of Hawker batteries under the floor. This allows for a low-center of gravity, with go-cart like-handling and NHTSA 5-star equivalent static rollover threshold rating.

OK, but what about the thin shell? It looks like it's made of cardboard! Slow down, and you'll find out the Tango team's outlandish claims appear to be legit. Underneath the 100% carbon fiber/epoxy panels is a chrom-moly steel race car roll cage. According to Tango engineers this roll cage meets or exceed both SCCA and NHRA regulations. There are four times more side door protection bars than found in the largest SUVs.

This part blows me away. Tango can rocket down a 1/4 mile track in 12 seconds at over 120 mph and blast you from 0-60 mph in a mere 4 seconds. That's mind-bending speed. How does it accomplish this extraordinary feat? Torque. Lots of it. The two electric motors in the Tango EV have more torque than a Dodge Viper V10 engine. Racing slicks and proper gearing help too.

The Tango can charge to 80% of its capacity in just 10 minutes from a 200 amp charging station. Impressive. A full charge takes about 3 hours from a standard dryer style outlet.

Looks tiny. Not so say's Tango (well, maybe for Shaq). Comfort comes in many sizes - someone claimed it comfortable that cleared 6-foot 10-inches and weighed 325 lbs.

A whopping 10 cubic feet of space. Just a little shy of a 2006 Wrangler (11.6 cubic feet).

High-quality lead acid batteries (19 of them) made by Hawker. Cost to replace - guestimate is around 6K.

The Spec's are impressive:
Width: 39" (5" narrower than a Honda Gold Wing)
Ground Clearance: 4" (won't be seeing this clear snow on any dirt roads near my house in the winter)
Batteries: 19 Hawker Genesis G70EP lead acid batteries (list for about $435 each - not sure about long-term life-expectancy of lead acid batteries - one site says "GENESIS product will deliver up to 400 cycles")
Motors: 2 Advanced 9" motors, one driving each wheel with over 1,000 ft-lb of combined torque at low rpms (wow!)
Tires: Toyo Proxes T1R: 195/45R14 front; 215/45R15 rear
Range: 40-60 miles max with lead-acid batteries
Cost per mile: About 1/10 the cost of gasoline car for the average commuter (about a penny a mile)
Top speed: 135 mph
Emissions: It would be zero if it weren't for the tire smoke

Kind of reminds me of a pink panther cartoon I was watching recently. Waiting to see Chief Inspector Clouseau coming out of the vehicle in his original way. Much like Clouseau character, I want to see the Tango prosper - even as it defies the odds on its way to success.

Friday, February 19, 2010

1899 Electric Race Car

Camille Jenatzy, the Belgian race car driver know as the "Red Devil" thanks to his flaming red hair, set the first land speed record over 100 km/h on April 29, reaching 105.88 km/h (65.79 MPH) in the CITA No 25 La Jamais contente.

The "Jamais contente" (Never content), was originally built of an alloy of tungsten and aluminum. One hundred two-volt cells provided the spark and two 50kW electric motors helped propel the bullet-shaped race car into the record books. The contente is deceivingly heavy - 3,197 lbs. The same weight as a 2008 BMW 128i (which can go 0-66 mph in about 5 seconds.

This is a replica of the famous electric vehicle built in 1993-1994 by French students. You can can find it at the Le Musee de la Voiture National Museum when not on the Auto Show Circuit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Electric Anti-Terrorist Assault Cart

Can you picture this bullet proof golf buggy in a five-star Hilton hotel lobby? The Anti-Terrorist Assault Cart (ATAC) debuted yesterday at the DefExpo 2010 arms fair in India. The battery is said to last up to six hours, has a top speed of 15 mph, and will cost around $45,000 (two million rupee) if it ever becomes a reality.

The half-ton mini-tank has four firing ports, bulletproof windows and can carry two fully-armed personnel. No mention if the tires and front end are bullet-proof, what the armor can take, if the belly can take a grenade blast, air filtration system, or is actually field-tested.

The ATAC was designed in the aftermath of the Mumbai (Bombay) terrorists attacks in 2008 where 17 security personnel died. The mayhem occurred in two luxury hotels in a 60 hour stand-off. All told, 183 people were killed in the melee, including two NSG commandos and 15 Maharashtra police personnel. Metaltech managing director JB Sehrawat told the AFP news agency, "It's a product of our sense of helplessness over the casualties we took in the attacks. We put our heads and hearts together and came up with the ATAC."

According to some Israel Security Force officials, and the Rand Report, the Indian National Security Guard (NSG) and their "Black Cat" commandos engaging "Operation Black Tornado" were slow to the draw. Mumbai security forces had no local Hostage Recovery Team and equipment was lacking. To counteract that, Metaltech prototypes (a.k.a. Anti-Terrorist Assault Cats) will be offered to India's elite NSG units for testing as well as to the sponsors of the upcoming November 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in in New Delhi.

The stealthy-quiet armored attack cart was designed to fit in tight quarters found in airports, sports stadiums, hospitals, casinos, hotel hallways and other areas traditional security vehicles can't go. Metaltech claims it can even fit inside most service elevators.

According to the Rand Report "Terrorists Can Think Strategically - Lessons Learned from the Mumbai Attacks" given to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in January of 2009, "Terrorist attacks on flagship hotels are increasing in number, in total casualties, and in casualties per incident." You may see this type of vehicle making its way into upscale hotels just for liability sake as well as perceived vulnerability and a security officers challenge of prevention, preparedness and response.

Just a hunch, but David "Brad" Bonnell, Director of Global Security for Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) may be in line for a few new ATACs. Two of the IHGs Mumbai properties were involved in the 2008 attack. You can read more about the legal and moral duty of a hotel concerning safety and security in Bonnell's well-written "The Mumbai Attacks: A Wake-Up Call for America's Business Sector." In it Bonnell states, "The threat of a terrorist attack against a hotel has now become a conspicuously forseeable and predictable threat, particularly in those parts of the world where a Jihadist threat exists."

Additional reading on the shift of terrorists to "soft targets" such as hotels - among the most prominent symbol of Western culture - can be found in the Stratfor Global Intelligence document "Special Security Report: The Militant Threat to Hotels."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Revolutionizing Rehab

Running can be brutal on muscles and joints. That's all changing thanks to the Alter-G M300-series treadmill. The special training treadmill has a sealed enclosure around the runners waist that uses upward air pressure to support the body for surreal anti-gravity workouts. The pressurized environment can take away up to 80% of the user's body weight, helping to reduce pounding on the joints.

The trainer was originally conceived for use by NASA for astronauts during space flight. Robert Whalen, head of the Musuloskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory in the Gravitational Research Branch at Ames Research Center, along with colleague Dr. Alan Hargens proposed the idea of using a special treadmill to add weight to an astronaut's body during low gravity exercise in space. Thankfully the opposite effect takes place on earth.

Athletes conditioning and speed training for the Olympics have been able to record sub world record times thanks to the leg-up provided by high-tech training machine. They say it's like running on air. The machine allows athletes to overcome chronic pain, push through injuries and best of all, helps runners regain their confidence in running again.

Professional sports teams like the Oakland Raiders and Miami Heat have used the Alter-G G-Trainer to fast track the recovery process from game-day battle bruises. Now they're being joined by the common man thanks to a huge price drop in equipment. The new Alter-G M300 treadmill has a starting price of $24,500. The a big drop from the original $75K Alter-G P200 treadmill used by the pros.

Two years ago the FDA approved it for medical applications. The M320 Anti-Gravity Treadmill is sure to become the standard in rehabilitation and training across the industry. Current uses of the trend-setting treadmill include:
  • Aerobic conditioning
  • Weight control, gait training for neurological patients
  • Rehabilitation after total joint replacement
  • Rehabilitation following injury or surgery of the lower extremity (hip, knee, ankle or foot)
  • Strengthening of elderly patients
  • Help amputee veterans learn to walk with prosthetics
  • Aid in relearning balance caused from traumatic brain injury
You're going to see more and more of these units in colleges, health-care rehabilitation units, nursing homes, and even leased-units in garages of high school athletes. The term "revolutionary" is often and freely used in relation to this training tool ... in this instance, it is wholly appropriate.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Top 20 List: Why Boy Scouts Camp in Cold Weather

Our Boy Scout Troop went cold-weather camping this past weekend. I posted a photo on Facebook. A friend asked, "Why on earth are you camping when it's so cold??"Good question.

It didn't take long to come up with my Top 20 List:
  1. Because it builds boys into men.
  2. Because your "100 craziest things I've ever done" needs improvement.
  3. Because it beats playing video games alone.
  4. Because your best buddies are doing it.
  5. Because you like it when your clothes smell like an oak-seasoned fire.
  6. Because you can sleep in a warm bed anytime.
  7. Because extreme anything is cool.
  8. Because microwaved s'mores just don't taste right.
  9. Because snow happens.
  10. Because jokes are funnier when your sitting around a fire.
  11. Because training for signs of hypothermia and frostbite in the summer just seems weird.
  12. Because life knowledge is different than book knowledge.
  13. Because there are no mosquitoes.
  14. Because surviving is fun.
  15. Because it tests what your made of.
  16. Because experience counts.
  17. Because being prepared is a way of life.
  18. Because it toughens the spirit.
  19. Because it invigorates the soul.
  20. Because it's what Boy Scouts do.
Boy Scouts of America is celebrating 100 Years of Scouting in 2010.

Monday, February 8, 2010

GEM Green Police Superbowl Ad

Anyone notice Chrysler's GEM (Global Electric Motorcars) Superbowl commercial last night?

Audi of America's "Green Car" commercial produced by Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco was trying to highlight the Audi A3 TDI Clean Diesel. But you would hardly know it by screen time. The GEM "Green Police" vehicle was the star with 11 seconds of video time - the Audi TDI only 8 seconds.

Considering a 30-second Superbowl spot cost about $3 million - that's about $1 million of no-charge advertising. Not a bad showing for Chrysler's unsung neighborhood electric vehicle. Thanks Audi!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I love mechanical things. During my college days down in Detroit I would canvas the resale shops for old cameras. Some stores let you fill up a grocery bag for $5.00. The detail and workmanship on many of these vintage cameras is exquisite. There are still some amazing deals out there - including this wonderful site called shopgoodwill.com.

Goodwill Industries shops across the country offer up musical instruments, antiques, cameras and more to the highest bidder. Better yet - it goes to charity. Time.com rated this site as one of the best websites for 2009. There are some treasures that get passed along as well - and because there aren't as many people searching the prices are typically better than eBay.

Consider this beauty. It's a Zeiss Ikonta 521/2 Camera with Zeiss-Opton Ser. No. 35748 Tessar 106 mm lens. Bidding started at $5.00 and is now $45.00. Most likely it will go for much less than the going rate on eBay where a similar camera (Ser. No. 35518) has a Buy it Now price of $563. According to the eBay post - the Ikonata 521/2 camera with this 106 mm lens was produced in November of 1948 - and only a little over 200 cameras were produced with the uncoated Opton 106 mm lens before they switched to the coated 105 mm lens. Rare indeed.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

High Voltage Transmission Detail

Cutaway of GM's Two-Mode Hybrid transmission. Supplemental power comes from two 60kW motors housed within the electronically variable transmission. The two electric motors work in tandem with four fixed gears to distribute both gasoline and electric power as needed. The electric motors have two distinct modes of operation depending upon city or highway driving and can use the electric motors for boosting and regenerative braking. Claims include close to 40% fuel efficiency improvement in city driving. Chrysler and BMW Group formed a cooperative effort with GM called the Global Hybrid Cooperation, to help develop this next-generation tranny.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Let the takeover begin

e6 Front View
Originally uploaded by lee.ekstrom
If the Chinese business man Wang Chuanfu's goal is to lull us to sleep - he has succeeded. The styling is mundane and lackluster. But beware - under the hood of this dragon is Wang's deep desire to be China's top automaker by 2015. He plans on being #1 in the world by 2025. Unreasonable? Think again.

Build Your Dream (BYD) sold 450,000 vehicles in 2009 alone. China is pushing hard to "Go inland." That is - to sell in China first - then conquer the foreign lands. Vehicle sales are skyrocketing - The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported auto sales in second (41%) and third-tier (51%) cities surged for the first 9 months of 2009. Once fortified in China - watch out for the U.S. takeover.

BYD's display didn't have singers, dancers or any showstopping entertainment. But if there were one company to take note of this year - it is BYD. Sure they have to learn our culture and cater to our style and American needs (like large cupholders). But good design can be acquired as seen by Hyundai - when they hired Joel Piaskowski. In fact, Piaskowski was wooed away from Hyundai to Mercedes early last year.

BYD is the largest supplier of cell phone batteries in the world. Combine the worldly know-how with visionaries like Warren Buffet, who recently made a 10% investment in the nascent company and you can just see a glimmer of what's to come. When electric turns the corner in the states, BYD will be there.

There might even be an electric vehicle for sale by the end of 2010. With up to 205 miles between charges, and torque that rivals a Ford F-150 pickup truck, the e6 may have just enough performance for American's to overlook the dull appearance. Time will tell.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Electric / Hybrid Eye Candy

Love the deep burnt orange color on Canadian-made eVaro electric / hybrid made by Future Vehicle Technologies (formerly Fuel Vapor Technologies). This fully-functioning plug-in electric series hybrid produces no emissions for 90% of its time on the road. It has an unlimited range with FVT custom on-board high-voltage generator.

The University of Fraser Valley confirmed an amazing 275 mpg for city driving and an average 165 mpg for highway driving. But this is no slow-poke, eVaro has a top speed of 135 mph, and can go from 0 to 60 mph in a sizzling five seconds. Check out the eVaro testing tires on YouTube.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Detroit Electric Vehicle Circa 1922

This 1922 Detroit Electric Car was originally owned by socialite Mrs. Joseph Ballard of Binghamton, New York from 1922 until 1934. The $2,985 price tag is equivalent to about $38,000 today.

Mrs. Ford had an electric car just like this one - also on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. This car was on display at the 2010 North American international Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.

Electric cars were extremely popular with well-to-do women who had trouble, or didn't care for, the hand-cranking that was necessary with gasoline powered cars. One of the other key selling points: wealthy woman much preferred the electric cars roomy interiors that resembled parlors or powder rooms.

The performance wasn't bad for the day - top speed of 25mph and a range of up to 60 miles. In 1900 electric cars far outsold steam and gasoline powered cars, but that all changed with the electric starters on gasoline cars. In 1916, Detroit Electric made almost 1900 cars - that dropped dramatically to 143 cars in 1922 when this vehicle was made.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Eve of a New Electric Infrastructure

Ford HEV Plug In 120V
Originally uploaded by lee.ekstrom
Do a little research on electric cars and you'll find some interesting nuggets. One of the more startling facts: At the turn of the century, electric vehicles outnumbered gas-powered vehicles two to one! They had distinct advantages; they were easier to start, quieter, cleaner and required no gear shifting. That all changed with the advent of the electric starter.

The first self-starting ignition was used on a 1911 Cadillac and was invented by GM engineers Charles Kettering and Clyde Coleman. Bye bye hand cranking. The patent for the ignition coil was awarded in 1915. Kettering is best known as the founder of Delco (Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company).

But, even before Kettering was Nikola Tesla with his disruptive discharge "Electrical Igniter for Gas Engines" - awarded U.S. Patent 609,250 on August 16, 1898.

A. Atwater Kent patented the modern form of the ignition coil in 1921 along with contacts, distributor and single coil design.

Detroit Edison and MichCon have made an effort to steadily replace older supervisor vehicles with Ford Escape plug-in Hybrids. Ford recently announced in August of 2009 that they have developed an "intelligent vehicle-to-grid communication and control system for its plug-in hybrid vehicles that "talks" directly with the nation's electric grid." The new system allows the vehicles operator to program when to charge, for how long and at what utility rate.

Until the infrastructure of the country is upgraded, including electrical grid, car-charging outlets, battery swapping, etc. As reported in Green Tech, the California Bay Area along with Better Place is hoping to implement a massive $1 billion electronic infrastructure by 2012. Just like the advent of the electric ignition, this infrastructure will have to be easy-to-use, clean and convenient to succeed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

THE ART OF (Electronic) WARfare

Zhi xinxi quan (制信息) – establishing information dominance.
For the past 10 years the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has moved aggressively in the arena of high-tech electronic warfare. According to a report called “Capability of the People’s Republic of China to Conduct Cyber Warfare and Computer Network Exploitation” prepared for by U.S. defense firm Northrup Grumman and the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China is working to achieve information dominance in the “new strategic high ground.” The report states that China’s new doctrinal focus is to “establish control of an adversary’s information flow and maintain dominance in the battlespace.
I learned a lot about space warfare and the United States vulnerability to attack when working for Dawn Satellite. We sold satellite equipment to military and government institutions as well as other commercial agencies. The United States is so dependent on space and the satellites that provide our information that any successful attack would shock and blind us into a stupor. According to the Report of the Commission to Assess Unites States National Security Space Management and Organization, "the U.S. is more dependent on space than any other nation." This whilst China's capabilities have advanced exponentially since the late 1990's.
Much of our military machinery is dependent on the Department of Defense controlled Global Positioning System (GPS) which could be knocked out and affect everything from Wall Street and ATM machines to our high-tech air-defense systems.
Increasingly, Chinese military strategists have come to view information dominance as the precursor for overall success in a conflict. Accordingly the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is preparing to establish information dominance and control all adversary’s information flow which is considered a fundamental prerequisite for seizing naval and air superiority during a time of war. This mirrors the United States philosophy stated in the Joint Vision 2010 that states “information dominance” is the key to any military victory. U.S. Space Command (now US Stratcom) documents expound upon the United States desire to control and own space through space superiority. The U.S. does not want to participate in any arms control covering space – or reduction of space weaponization. In effect we are elevating outer space as the newest arena for military confrontation and setting the table for a new arms race of astronomical proportions.
If the U.S. satellite constellations in the middle Earth orbits (MEO) altitudes could be rendered unavailable by the Chinese we would effectively be neutered. To be sure, we are developing counter measures including the Rapid Attack Identification Detection Reporting System (Raidrs) Block 20 direct-ascent anti-satellite weapon. Whether jamming or disabling a number of GPS satellites, the U.S. dependence on technology could be its Achilles heel. China reportedly assisted in the development of the European Union’s Galileo satellite navigation system, a 30-satellite system alternate to the U.S. GPS system. Since the Galileo system is up and running the U.S. effectively loses a valuable strategic dominant high ground it alone has owned for over three decades. The U.S. pushed hard to see that China did not have access to the Galileo system. The Chinese Beidou Navigation System (BNS), also known as Compass, is scheduled to have all 35 satellites operational by 2015. If the Chinese Navigation system isn’t up and running yet – how do they guide their powerful Dong Feng 21 missles? The Chinese special "Kill Weapon" is designed to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers at a distance up to 2000km in less than 12 minutes. According to the United States Naval Institute (USNI), “China is relying on a complex guidance system, low radar signature and maneuverability that makes its [Dong Feng Missile] flight path unpredictable.” USNI states, “Supporting the missile is a network of satellites, radar and unmanned aerial vehicles that can locate U.S. ships and then guide the weapon, enabling it to hit moving targets.”
The U.S. Strategic Commandand Air Force Space Command just announced on 7 January 2010, the existing GPS constellation system will be enhanced with new GPS satellites to be placed in orbit and allow a reshuffling of the deck so there will be better worldwide coverage - including blind-spots in Afghanistan. This redundancy policy should bode well in the event of a Chinese attack on the existing system. According to USSTRATCOM, "the number of GPS satellites in view from any point on earth will increase, potentially increasing accuracy of GPS receivers."

China’s is actively researching and testing new technologies to thwart satellite transmissions including: jamming, use ground-based laser Dazzlers, launch an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT), use electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bursts, piggy-back sattelites, micro satellites, or spoofing (sending fake signals that appear authentic) is its ability to infiltrate and disrupt U.S. computer networks.

Which leads us to Google andthe tip of the iceburg. According to David Drummond, the company's chief legal representative, "In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google." Google went on to state that at least 20 other large companies were similary targeted. No direct accusation was made that attributed the theivery to the Chinese government, but if you read between the lines it is fairly evident Google thinks so since the targeted gmail accounts were tied to Chinese dissidents. New York Times interviewed Wengi Gao, the Chinese Consulate spokesman in New York who stated,"The Chinese government is opposed to and strictly forbids any cybercrime." Google has a little over 20 percent of the Chinese market share, so pulling out completely is saying a lot about the gravity of this incident.
GhostNet, a cyber-espionage network, hacked into government, corporate and private computers in 103 countries. According to Nart Villeneuve's "Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network" report, "Up to 30% of the infected hosts are considered high-value targets and include computers located at ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organizations, news media, and NGOs." Of key importance to U.S. intelligence is whether or not Chinese "black hat" programmers may be supplying or actively working for the Chinese government - giving them zero day exploit capabilities. Although the GhostNet report did not accuse the Chinese government of spying, the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory researches did in their Technical Report #746, "The snooping dragon: social-malware surveillance of the Tibetan movement." They state in their conclusion, "In this note we described how agents of the Chinese government compromised the computing infrastructure of the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama."
The Capability of the People's Republic of China to Conduct Cyber Warfare and Computer Network Exploitation report mentioned earlier states the Chinese strategy is characterized by the combined employment of network warfare tools and electronic warfare weapons against an adversary’s information systems in the early phases of a conflict. A one-two punch.

What we are seeing is the advent of a new spy regime digging in the trenches for a possible Cyber War. Strategically placed "bombs" are scattered in "blind spots" in key institutions and government agencies that PLA forces could exploit at predetermined times or as the tactical situation warranted.
According to the seminal "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu section 13 on the use of spies, there are five classes. The fifth class is surviving spies, "who bring back news from the enemy's camp." It is the surviving spy's information that can be used on appointed occasions. Finding the weakness of the enemy and exploiting it at the most convenient time. They say that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger. But, if you put a frog in a kettle that is filled with water that is cool and pleasant, and then you gradually heat the kettle until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until its too late. Things are heating up. And the way things are going, I'm more worried about China then the melting of the polar ice cap.