Beware Wireless Surveillance Spray Paint

By John Honovich, Published Jul 21, 2013, 12:00am EDT

How does this sound?

"Need to transmit a camera wirelessly through a forest? No problem, simply spray a little paint on a few trees and instantly you will have a perfectly reliably wireless link. Line-of-sight could become a problem of the past if a coat of paint is all you need to relay signals through buildings, trees, and other obstacles."

Amazing? Perhaps too good to be true? 

Not for IFSEC Global who recently trumpeted the technology!

Here's the 'manufacturer', Chamtech [link no longer available], demonstrating it in action:

Unfortunately, not only is the technology likely flawed and the company questionable, IFSEC has completely misunderstood its real world application for surveillance.

Here's the manufacturer's promotional video / speech:

That's pretty much it for information on this 'technology'. The video appeared early in 2012. There has been essentially no new information or developments since (a huge negative to any real journalist or researcher).

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Across the Internet, technologists have pummeled this (from AnandTech [link no longer available] to PhysOrg to TheRegister). Comments include:

  • "Snake oil in a spray can."
  • "It's a scam, according to this danish professor"
  • "It is a scam. Antennas are more than just metal. Layout, material thickness, conductivity all play a role. No way is a spray going to give you 15-20db gain."
  • "Conductive "paints" for antennas and what not have been utilized for quite some time. You can actually make some fairly easily by using any sort of finely powered conductive material (graphite usually) and a binder (contact cement is often used)."
  • "The idea isn't new, it has existed since the 1950's. The problem is that they don't work as well as you are claiming. On the site you claim it works better than conventional antennas and that isn't true unless you can provide independent testing showing otherwise."
  • "I have a couple of 15dBi gain antennas on my test masts outside; the path loss between them is around 30dB (in the UHF band). If I could spray this stuff on them and get 100x the range (an extra 20dB gain) then I'd get 10dB (10x) more power out of the receiving antenna than I put into the transmitting antenna and would be violating several laws of physics"

IFSEC Insanity

The original manufacturer promotional video focused on 'simply' boosting wireless signal strength, with 'test' results only from the manufacturer / marketer itself.

Bizarrely, IFSEC's post not only cited those tests as proof but then took another huge illogical step that you could "relay signals through buildings, trees, and other obstacles."

Unfortunately, even if you had 'spray painted' antennas all over a forest, you would also need radios attached to them, and power to those radios, and you would need to deal with proper RF design, not simply letting those radios transmit all over the place.

Please Don't Try This

As another wireless manufacturer lamented to us:

"We have a hard enough time selling wireless technology with all these idiots out there, but this type of thing makes it so much worse."

So please, whatever you do, do not spray paint trees. Be more like Join Muir than Sean Parker.

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