With homeland security constantly on high alert, screening systems to search for concealed weapons are vital pieces of equipment. But these systems are often prohibitively expensive, putting them out of reach for large public spaces like shopping malls, train and bus stations or sports stadiums.

Now Dr. Eran Socher of Tel Aviv University’s engineering faculty is adapting existing complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) chips designed for computers and turning them into high-frequency circuits. The ultimate goal is to produce chips with radiation capabilities, able to see through packaging and clothing to produce an image of what may be hidden underneath.

Currently being developed through a collaboration between teams at TAU and Frankfurt University, the chip could be the basis of sophisticated but affordable and portable detection technology able to meet everyday security needs. The research has been published in IEEE Microwave and Wireless Components Letters and presented at the International Conference on Infrared, Millimeter, and Terahertz Waves in Australia.

Currently, advanced security technology is massive in size and comes at a very high price.

Such scanning systems are often developed for selected airports or used by NASA for space exploration, says Socher. “Our concept is different. For everyday use, security technology needs to be both small and cheap,” he explains.

By adding new capabilities to existing CMOS technology, already mass-produced for computers and other mobile devices, the researchers are producing new integrated circuits at an affordable price.

The chip, which measures 0.5 mm. by 0.5 mm., newly integrates antennas, giving it the ability to receive and transmit millimeter wave or terahertz radiation. When combined with either mechanical or electronic scanning technology, the resulting radiation can produce an image.

Unlike x-ray technology, which penetrates the body, the chip is designed to see only through objects such as envelopes, clothing, or luggage but stops at the human skin.

Because the chip works with radiation levels that are lower than those of a cellphone, there are no health concerns, the researchers say. And the chip can also produce a more accurate depiction of concealed objects, an advantage over common metal detectors which aren’t very specific or sensitive, says Socher.

Another application for the chips, which have a range of only a few meters but operate at high frequencies, is high-speed communications. The data rate can range from one to 10 gigabytes per second, explains Socher, so the chip could be used to transfer a file – like an uncompressed high-definition video from a mobile device to a screen or projector – wirelessly and within seconds.

Communications and software companies have already expressed an interest in this technology, he says, and the researchers have received a grant from the Broadcom Foundation in the US to support and further their research.

AT YOUR SERVICE

Israeli customer service personnel are definitely more pleasant and efficient than they used to be, but many used to be cold, arrogant and even unhelpful. Now a recent Canadian study has shown not only that positive emotion from sales staff is contagious to a customer, but that a satisfied customer also improves the salesperson’s mood.

The study, published in the journal Human Relations, was written by Drs. Sandra Kiffin-Petersen and Geoffrey Soutar of the University of Western Australia and Steven Murphy of Carlton University.

We often feel emotions in response to specific events, particularly social interactions. Affective events theory (AET) suggests that a salesperson’s thoughts about how they rate their interaction with a customer will then help determine the emotions they feel.

Until now, there have been few studies of how an individual’s positive emotion appraisals fluctuate in real life. Data from employees’ diary entries on their daily interactions with customers recorded 874 positive events over a five-day period.

Helping customers to solve their problem was shown to trigger positive emotions such as happiness and relaxation. Deal-making events where the employee felt the outcome was a result of his own intention and goal achievement elicited excitement and relief.

When employees believed they had the ability and authority to solve complex and sometimes ambiguous customer service needs, an initial negative feeling (usually emanating from the customer’s mood, or complexity of the problem), was shown to potentially lead to relief, satisfaction and excitement. Emotions were also shown to be contagious – so as well as a great sales interaction making for a happy customer, it was also demonstrated that customer happiness can “rub off” on the sales staff serving them.

“For employees in our sample, taking personal responsibility for the customer’s problem and using their skills and abilities allowed them to be more effective problem solvers,” says Kiffin-Peterson. “Solving a customer’s problem may be a positive experience because it enhances an employee’s sense of competence and achievement, as well as their self-esteem.”

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