Technology is developing at an ever expanding rate, and have as much implications on fictional worlds as in real life. Here are eight new real world gadgets that you might see in thriller novels of the future, some of which appear in my novel when it is released later this year.
Every character in an espionage thriller runs the risk of taking a bullet. The gunshot wound syringe could be the new tech saving their lives.
This sponge-filled syringe is designed to plug gaping gunshot wound in 20 seconds. The cellulose sponges expand on contact with blood, blocking the flow from the body. This is particular useful when the wound is in an area where a tourniquet can’t be used, such as an armpit or groin.
The sponges are a temporary measure. It need to be removed at a hospital, so not a lasting solution. To ensure no sponges are left behind during surgery, each sponge is tagged with a radiopaque marker.
The syringe is available in both military and civilian models.
2. Nanoparticle sprays for drone tagging
Drones are proving a useful tool in modern day surveillance, but this new technique of spraying a fine mist of nanoparticles onto vehicles or people allows for great reliability in tracking. Targets can be discrete tracked from many kilometres away, via infrared scanners on a larger drone.
The technology is based on quantum dots, semiconductor nanocrystals less than 50 atoms across that emit light at specific wavelengths. When illuminating the target with an invisible ultraviolet laser, the target can be detected by infrared cameras up to 2 kilometres distant.
The nanocrystal powder is delivered as an aerosol and adheres to metal, glass and cloth. The particles are so tiny you won’t know you are covered in them.
3. Robotic surveillance insects
Scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) are working hard to develop tiny robotic wings 3 to 5 centimetres in length, ultrasonic motors 2 to 3 millimetres in diameter, and sets of tiny robotic legs for a millipede-like propulsion.
The long-term potential is to create fully-functional robotic insects used for surveillance. They will be designed to fly virtually unhindered into enemy facilities, conduct surveillance on rallies and protests, and even deliver coded messages when other forms of communications are not possible.
The technology, however, requires at least 10 to 15 more years of development before it becomes fully functional. Much of that development relies on coding algorithms correctly to simulate a flying insect stabilizing itself against external forces, such as wind or rain.
Micro-drones, however, will likely be in espionage novels and movies long before then, such as in the 2016 film Eye in the Sky.
Intelligence agencies everywhere expend significant resources in encrypting and protecting they own data while simultaneously investing equal funding in breaking the encryption of enemy organisations. This approach is not going to change anytime soon, but the challenges look to become far more complicated.
Until recently, coding has been reliant on mathematics, but this is all changing. With the introduction of quantum cryptography, which uses physics rather than mathematics to protect the data, hacking secret data becomes far more difficult.
A single particle of light, or a photon, can be sent as part of a coded message. Because of quantum mechanics’ observer theory, anyone who looks at the photon changes it into a slightly different photon. The intended recipient will then know that the photon has been changed, alerting them that someone has been snooping. The weirdness of quantum mechanics strikes the espionage world.
5. Handgun safety built into a wristwatch
Not exactly the fingerprint signature gun of James Bond in Skyfall, this is the next best thing.
This new breed of handgun features an electronic safety that automatically disables the weapon when it is not within hand’s distance of the custom wristwatch that comes with the gun.
While the gun receives the wireless arming signal from the watch, an LED on the back of the weapon lights up green. The weapon won’t fire without the proximity of the watch, and the LED will light up red instead.
6. Switchblade drone missile combo
Used on the battlefield, the switchblade is person-portable unmanned aircraft that can be carried in a backpack.
Fired from a launcher, the long range drone can fly like a plane or use rotors to fly like a helicopter. When the target is reached the operator arms the drone, the wings retract and it becomes a missile.
The weapon has the potential to protect ground troops from aerial attacks, or to take out precise targets. Very nasty in the hands of a terrorist, should they get their hands on one.
While there are have been successful documented cases of working 3D printed handguns, it is the general consensus amongst experts that such weapons are more likely to blow up in your own hands than fire effectively. Similarly, it is still cheaper and easier for criminals to steal or buy a weapon on the illicit market than print one. But these limitations exist only because the technology is still in its infancy.
It is inevitable that the technology will improve in coming years. Eventually intelligence officers and covert agents will be able to print weapons wherever they can access a reliable 3D printer, even when deep behind enemy lines.
These weapons cannot be traced because they have no serial numbers. The CAD files to print weapons will likely be easily accessible over the internet. Plus the plastic parts are not detectable by metal detectors. Tracing a murderer via the weapon they used suddenly becomes far more problematic.
8. The Dark Web
The Dark Web has been grabbing attention of late, with its customer-focused websites and user review heavy content for the sale of illicit drugs, mercenary services, assassinations and illegal firearms.
The Dark Web is a term for the collection of websites on the Internet that are publically visible, but which hide their IP addresses of the servers that run them. The sites can’t be found via search engines. Working out who runs them is extremely difficult, as the identities and locations of the webmasters are generally hidden by Tor encryption tools.
In espionage circles, the Dark Web will be used to conduct illegal activities in enemy territories, such as securing illegal weapons already mentioned, but also to pass on secret information, or expose enemy secrets without the source being traced.