Sport, security and surveillance

Jason Ford

News editor

Briefing starts the week with hearty congratulations to the nation’s paralympians, who this weekend nudged the UK to second in the games medal table.

Yesterday, ParalympicsGB won seven golds in five sports and 18 medals in all, with David Weir contributing to this tally with victory in the T54 5,000m wheelchair race.

This week sees Weir’s racing chair designer Dan Chambers pick up a prestigious award of his own from the Royal Academy of Engineering, which is to award him the Sir Frank Whittle Medal.

Chambers, co-founder and director of Draft Wheelchairs Ltd, is being acknowledged for his ‘outstanding and sustained achievement’ and will pick up his award as part of Dr Amit Goffer’s public lecture entitled Powered exoskeletons: overcoming vertical mobility impairments.

Goffer’s lecture forms part of RAEng’s Side by side: innovation in disability sport series of events that take place this week that will showcase engineering innovation in disabled sports.

Questions were raised over the weekend about the extent to which innovation should help athletes, with the Mail Online reporting accusations of ‘technological doping’ from a French paralympic official, who believes ParalympicsGB’s investment in advanced equipment is turning the event into ‘the equivalent of Formula 1’.

In the Mail Online report Rudy Van Abeele, the French Paralympic team’s deputy manager, was joined by Suzanne Harris-Henry, secretary-general of the Jamaican Paralympic Committee in questioning the costs of elite racing chairs, arguing that their price puts other nations at a disadvantage.

On a different level entirely, South African paralympian Oscar Pistorius has raised questions about the length of blades worn by fellow competitors in track events.

The Olympics and Paralympics have so far been a huge success for the organizing committee and everyone involved in keeping London moving.

One wonders how much work has gone on behind the scenes in order to keep the games safe?

In a related theme, the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) has issued a call for research proposals for security and intelligence applications.

The call, issued on behalf of MI5 and GCHQ, is keen to receive proposals from organisations – particularly SMEs – that have not previously worked with the security and intelligence agencies.

MI5 is said to be particularly interested in covert surveillance techniques and threat identification.

For example, when investigating a terrorist, what covert surveillance techniques could be employed to gain knowledge of the terrorist’s location and activities?

Similarly, once aware of a terrorist threat to a crowded environment – but without some of the specifics –  how could the threat be identified?

GCHQ’s focus is on online identity assurance and management, as well as open source analytics to help identify and classify different types of behaviours or significant events.

According to CDE, this call for proposals focuses on short three month proof-of-concept and/or demonstration-of-benefit studies that have the potential to lead to next generation solutions for a range of security challenges.

This could be partial demonstration of a new technology, or a theoretical or experimental approach that allows a better understanding of the proposed systems/techniques.

Subject to a successful security check, successful applicants will be invited to a half day seminar to launch the call on 3 October 2012 in central London. Find out the specifics by clicking here.

Finally, a survey published today shows that trading conditions remained tough for Britain’s manufacturers over the last quarter.

Issued by EEF and business advisers BDO, the survey shows a weakening in output and orders, with slower demand at home and abroad hitting order books.

According to Tom Lawton, head of Manufacturing at BDO, Europe continues to serve as a drag on exports and previously buoyant emerging markets are beginning to falter.