Remember those scenes in all the worst spy movies where security agents with electronic wands swept a room for bugging equipment in a few seconds before declaring it secure?

The action was spot on for cultivating the cloying sense of paranoia required but, the problem is, it was completely unrealistic. In the real world, such sweeps typically take several hours. Until now...

Radiation hunters

Japan's Taisei Corporation has come up with a smart new device that reduces the bug-hunting time to a mere 20 seconds by scanning not for hidden devices, but for the electromagnetic radiation they give off.

The unit combines a digital camera, display and computer with 16 electromagnetic sensors that can sweep a room instantly. The data from the sensors is analysed for telltale differences that indicate a hidden device.

Business applications

Once pinpointed, the bugs are illustrated on the display as red dots overlaid on photos of the room taken by the camera, all in just a few seconds.

Although it has yet to price the gear, Taisei says it hopes to find takers in both law-enforcement and the world of business, where a stolen secret could be a lot more serious than a little wasted time spent hunting for bugs.