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DielectroKinetic Laboratories LifeGuard

A reader of the Skeptic's Dictionary, recently wrote:

It seems that the Quadro Tracker, which you have included in your Dictionary, has reincarnated (if not, then we have proof here that great minds think alike). A company named DielectroKinetic Laboratories has manufactured 3 versions of a remote heartbeat detector, the DKL Lifeguard, and is trying to sell them to various government agencies for the purpose of detecting the presence of humans up to 500 yards away. The cheapest model, at $6000, doesn't even require batteries or any power source! [Note: the most expensive model costs $14,000.]

 DKL Lifeguard $14,000

I saw and tested their products first hand at a government-sponsored exhibition last September, where hundreds of vendors came to demonstrate equipment that the government could buy for force protection. I immediately recognized their equipment as the "high-tech" version of the dowsing stick. Each has a box which swivels on a pistol grip and has an antenna pointing out the front. You swing the antenna back and forth, and the device is supposed to generate a tug on your hand whenever the antenna is pointing toward a person. The answers they supplied to our questions were typical of scam artists' talk, and would have been very entertaining if not for the fact that a lot of people there actually believed them.

My supervisor, who is a world-reknowned expert on sensor technologies, pointed out to them that the antenna was an omni-directional antenna, and they are pointing the null (its weakest direction) at the target. And their answer was: "Well, yeah, the antenna IS omni-directional, but the ELECTRONICS are directional." Total nonsense to an electronics engineer.

The scientific gobbledygook used by DKL is overwhelming and could easily dupe the untrained with their talk of electrostatics, electrodynamics, electromagnetics, dielectrokinetics, and dielectrophoresis. But the focus here will be on what they claim their product can do, not how it does it. According to DKL,

DKL's new line of LifeGuard instruments can locate and track any living human being more than 500 yards away in the open and at shorter distances through concrete walls, steel bulkheads, heavy foliage, earthworks, or up to 10 feet of water. All three LifeGuard models can detect and lock onto a person in three to five seconds, and they can distinguish a human from any other animal, even a gorilla or an orangutan.

One wonders, however, how this amazing device tells the difference between the person who is operating it and any other person. If this thing really works as specified it should be useless because the person using it would always set it off. After all, DKL claims that

DKL's detectors locate and point toward a small irregular electric field generated by a human heart. And because the heart generates its electric signals at ultra-low frequencies, less than 30 cycles per second, they travel right through barriers that absorb or reflect higher frequency energy.

Why would anyone want such a device? It could be used to find lost children in the forest or who wander into the gorilla or orangutan area of a zoo. It could be used to locate criminals who are trying to hide from you (assuming no one else is around and you can somehow turn off your own heartbeat while you use the LifeGuard). It should be a big seller with the same crowd who bought the Quadro Tracker: local, state and federal police agencies with lots of taxpayer money and little accountability.

note: the DKL LifeGuard was tested by Sandia Labs in April1998. The device failed to perform any better than expected by chance. In October 1998 Sandia took a DKL LifeGuard apart and found that the electronic components could not possibly function as advertised.

Whether in response to the Sandia tests or in response to increased criticism of their claims, I don't know, but DKL has changed its claims on its Internet site. It no longer features a collapsed building with the message that a DKL product would save the lives of those trapped inside. The featured come-on now is that the LifeGuard can detect stowaways on a truck. Also, the ads now say that the products can detect people, rather than heartbeats. It has removed some of its so-called scientific tests and replaced them with others, including one regarding the detection of stowaways on trucks. 

Is this a major problem in your neighborhood?

further reading

reader comments

"Dowsing for Dollars: Fighting High-Tech Scams with Low-Tech Critical Thinking Skills" by Robert Todd Carroll

Mass Media Bunk

Mass Media Funk

Dr. Keith Conover's DKL Page

The DKL - Electroscope Connection by Sam R. Scafferi

What's New by Bob Park, American Physical Society and more What's New

more Too Good to Be True
Last updated 12/09/10

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