The 9 Most Important Security Innovations Of The Year

These are the Best Of What's New

Knightscope K3: Autonomous Robot Mall Cop

Robotic guards already patrol empty lots at night, but navigating constantly changing indoor environments is trickier. The 4.3-foot-tall K3 robot uses multiple lidars (the laser range-finders on self-driving cars) and other sensors to build live maps and find its way around shopping malls, offices, and server farms. Soon this R2D2 of building security will get facial-recognition to compare suspects to a database of people it knows. For hire from $7/hour

Metasensor’s Sensor-1: Motion Sensors for Your Stuff

Most object trackers can help you find something you’ve already lost. The Sensor-1 lets you know when you’re about to lose it. Armed with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer, the quarter-size device alerts you to your gadget’s slightest movement. Connected to a phone or other device via Bluetooth, the trackers can catch snooping houseguests or stop laptop thieves while you’re getting a latte. $79

Scott Safety’s Scott Sight: Firefighter Super Vision

Hand-held thermal cameras have guided firefighters through smoke-filled buildings since the ’90s. Scott Sight moves the camera and display into a face mask, freeing first responders’ hands for more important things, like saving lives. $1,875

Roost Smart Battery: Not Just a Battery

Downed smoke detectors lead to almost 900 fire-related deaths a year. Roost’s Wi-Fi-enabled 9-volt battery will alert you when it’s about to die—no more annoying chirps. Plugged into any old smoke detector, Roost sends alerts to a companion smartphone app if the alarm goes off while you’re away. It can also talk to other smart-home gadgets, so it can carry out tasks like automatically unlocking the front door for firefighters. $35

Broadband Discovery’s Ronin, An Eagle-Eyed Checkpoint

Last December, New Orleans Saints fans passed between pylons embedded with security scanners that work faster and are more thorough than ordinary metal detectors. Adapted from military checkpoints, Ronin uses magnetic and pulse-induction sensors, which record minute changes in a magnetic field, to spot contraband and weapons. By reducing the need for pat-downs, Ronin could make lines at public venues move up to five times faster.

Red Balloon Symbiote Defense, Universal Anti-Virus

The more gadgets we put online, the more backdoors we give hackers into our data. The Symbiote Defense software protects anything—from printers to cars—regardless of their operating system. The program can spot malicious activity and remove threats continually. Developed with support from DARPA and Homeland Security, Symbiote debuted on HP printers this past fall, and more devices will roll out next year.

DARPA and Office of Naval Research: Sea Hunter, The Military’s First Drone Ship

The Sea Hunter warship is probably big enough for a human crew, but it doesn’t need one. It’s the armed force’s first ship designed to autonomously patrol the sea in search of submarines—a task too vast and tedious for even a ship full of trained human sailors. Sea Hunter‘s custom navigation algorithms ensure the 132-foot-long craft obeys maritime right-of-way rules to avoid collisions with other vessels. If a two-year trial is successful, the Navy might consider developing drone ships for other tasks, such as deactivating unexploded mines.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Sense ID, Unhackable Print Scanner

Hackers have shown they can trick common biometric scanners with faked fingerprints. The SenseID sensor makes that nearly impossible. It ultrasonically scans a fingerprint’s depth, reading a detailed 3D map of every nook, cranny, and pore.

Read about the other Best of What’s New winners from the November/December 2016 issue of Popular Science.

Kelsey D. Atherton

Kelsey D. Athertonis a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work on drones, lethal AI, and nuclear weapons has appeared in Slate, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.