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Top 10 High Tech Spy Gadgets

written by: Rebecca Scudder•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/2/2010

Plenty of top high tech spy gadgets debuted in the movies. Often they needed to be taken with a grain of salt, because current tech couldn't do what the movies did. Many of those gadgets, more than 10, are now available in stores, online or brick and mortar. High tech devices are used now every day.

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    The Last Action Hero is on hand - and arranging to equip you

    We’ve all seen those amazing gadgets used in the movies. James Bond is Mr. Gadget himself, whatever his incarnation, but those amazing gadgets are trickling down into daily life. Which are the wildest coolest most surprising high tech spy gadgets of them all? Did you notice some of them are around now?

    swiss agents knife by The Slushey One on Flickr I've been a gadget freak for as long as I can remember. These gadgets are dreams come true, and I enjoyed researching these real life high tech spy gadgets for this article.

    swiss agents knife by The Slushey One on Flickr

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    The multifunctioning pen

    10) Everyone has a pen. At least everyone who isn't on the spot at the grocery store ready to sign the credit slip. High tech spy pens have a number of functions besides signing checks or taking notes.

    Some spy pens not only take notes with ink, they record your conversation and even video tape it as well. But that is only the tip of the Ink pens by TMAB2003 - on Flickr high tech spy pen. Sign documents? Yes - in disappearing ink. Some can act as document scanners, motion detectors, bug detectors, and radios. One well equipped pen - which certainly needs a pocket protector before I carry it around - can function as a grenade.

    Ink pens by TMAB2003 on Flickr

    pen with built in flashlight by harry525 on Flickr 

    Need to see to sign in the dark? Take surreptitious notes without the light showing in your hotel room? Here is a pen that has an unobtrusive flashlight included.

    pen with built in flashlight by harry525 on Flickr

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    Sunglasses - a sight for eyes in the back of your head

    cheap sunglasses by Rennett Stowe on Flickr 9) High tech sunglasses have had roles in the movies - and not just spy movies. In X-Men, Cyclops wears sunglasses to protect the world from his eyes, and most of us wear them to protect our eyes from the sun. InA spy device by Uh Bob on Flickr  the movies, they have additional roles, and now those roles have taken on life in the world of gadget freaks.

    There are sunglasses that act as audio and video recorders, some with micro SD slots for additional memory. Some can act as binoculars, and others provide a rear view. There are rumors of sunglasses giving X-Ray vision - but I think those might be obtrusively bulky - even if they could work.

    cheap sunglasses by Rennett Stowe on Flickr A spy device by Uh Bob on Flickr

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    Flashlights with extras

    flashlight by S Diddy on Flickr 8) Flashlights have been around for a long time. For most of that time, they have been dependent on batteries.

    flashlight by S Diddy on Flickr

    Spies don't always have the room to carry replacement batteries - or rechargeables with cords. Windup lights are not extremely high tech, but they now come combined with two way radios.

    Flashlights can provide ultra violet light, laser pointers and laser sights. They can also be used in emergencies as sirens, blinkingIt s a flashlight - no- it s a radio - no- it s a cell phone charger Eton Radio by Thomas Rockstar on Flickr  lights and cellphone chargers.

    It's a flashlight - no- it's a radio - no- it's a cell phone charger Eton Radio by Thomas Rockstar on Flickr

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    New high tech spy gadgets come out all the time, and many of them have extra tricks. On the next page we look at watches which tell time as a cover for their other purposes, bug detectors and monitoring cameras.

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    That bulky watch on Bond's wrist has a lot of functions - and so does the one you can order online. Other movie props real life spies use are bug detectors and remote monitoring equipment.
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    Watch and see

    7) Your watch can tell time and much more. Record audio and video on it, with a micro SD card for additional memory. A garotte (for which I hope you have no need), a phone and a USB drive can all fit inside a bulky wrist watch. You can even play your recordings on the glow in the dark watch by SocialisBetter on Flickr screen which appears to be the face of your watch.

    Watches go through fashions where they are more or less bulky - and the bulkier a watch is, the more can be crammed inside the case. While I did not see one in my research, I expect a bug detector will soon be added to the functions found in a high tech spy watch.

    glow in the dark watch by SocialisBetter on Flickr

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    Bug detectors

    6) Unfortunately, bug detectors don’t zap the bugs they find as easily as that gadget in the backyard. On the other hand, bug detection,What is this by Bekathwia on Flickr  done by scanning radio waves, is not as easy for the person listening to notice either. While government intelligence agencies have very sophisticated versions of bug detectors, some bug detectors can be purchased online from security sites.

    These bug detectors can only detect active bugs - bugs that send out information on radio waves. Passive listening devices are much more difficult to find.

    I’d also like to point out that useful bug detectors just have a LED light turn on or have another passive reaction, rather than emitting the high pitched noise which, while it might give the listener a headache, also lets them know their bug has been compromised.

    What is this by Bekathwia on Flickr

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    Web cams and monitors

    dog collar camera by Elsie esq on Flickr 5) Remote monitoring equipment has some very important uses. You can mount a web cam or a digital camera on your computer or somewhere else - and watch your child from anywhere you can access the Internet. Parents who can keep an eye on a sick child or see when their adventurous toddler has climbed out of the crib find them essential. Monitoring dangerous experiments from outside a lab allows testing that could not otherwise take place. Nevertheless, there are uses for these devises that place them squarely in the spy arsenal.

    Remote cameras have been around for a while, but the size has been dropping. Do you want to monitor your nannie when you are not home? There is a whole business niche supplying nannie cams - with cameras hidden in boxes of tissues or the clock on the wall. You don't need to hire that private eye, just go online and order yourself the equipment you want.

    dog collar camera by Elsie esq on Flickr

    Pinpoint cameras are so small now that they appear to be a fleck of glitter in the paint or plaster, and the wide angle lens can cover the whole room. My local locksmith has them in phone lenses by sara~ on Flickr 

    camera phone lenses by sara~ on Flickr

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    On the page of the top 10 high tech spy gadgets, we take a look at a high tech spy gadget that has become an indispensable part of our life, the mobile phone. We also take a look at keyloggers and a simple strategy that can outwit them.

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    Almost everyone has a cell phone, but we first saw them appear in the movies and on TV. Now we have mobile phones that do more than James Bond and Mulder ever imagined. And there is an insidious high tech gadget that isn't as pleasant a part of our lives - keyloggers. We also discuss a method to reduce that problem.
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    Don't call me - I'll call you

    4) Back in the days of Get Smart, Max had a shoe phone. Enterprising makers of novelty phones made and sold them, too, but they hadcamera phone by emrank on Flickr  no function other than that of a normal phone.

    We are now used to amazing phones. One of the Bond movies actually used a brand name cell phone as one of its gadgets for the film. In the last decade of the 20th century, satellite phones were at the front of technology for the X-files. They might have fit in a large shoe box, and reception was catch as catch can.

    camera phone by emrank on Flickr

    Cell phones, once esoteric high tech for spies, are in every back pocket, and we take them for granted. They can make phone calls around the globe, take digital photographs, text messages, act as a GPS, record mobile web africa - what is a cell phone by Marc Smith on Flickr audio and video, access the Internet, send and receive email, and when you are bored with every other function - you can play games on them. They can act as MP3 players (giving you the scoop on where the motion detectors are located around the embassy), hold micro SD cards for any memory needs, and act as eBook readers, so you can get the updates for the CIA Factbook as soon as it is released.

    While you can pick one up at the local Radio Shack or a kiosk in the mall, the same well equipped phone you use can be an actual spy's best friend too. And every neighborhood private eye will have the latest model.

    mobile web africa - what is a cell phone by Marc Smith on Flickr

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    3) Keyloggers were once found in movies and spy novels, capturing passwords to set off doomsday devices or the location of the subversive’s ammo dump. Now these can be purchased by companies who want to keep track of employee computer use, and spouses who want to spy on their other half. There are both hardware and software keyloggers. Hardware keyloggers are a device attached to the keyboard cable connector. Software keyloggers must work with specific operating systems.

    Use of these is now so widely accepted that they are advertised to parents to track the sites their kids access on the computer.keylogger ad by thelastminute on Flickr 

    Keylogger ad by thelastminute on Flickr

    According to a white paper published by Cormac Herley and Dinei Florêncio of Microsoft Research, there is a low tech way to stymie keyloggers trying to get passwords, even at a public place like an Internet Café. Read the paper for a detailed explanation if you want to try this technique. They explain how to hide keystrokes for your password keyboard by Bull3t on Flickr among other keypresses, so the password string cannot be picked out.

    keyboard by Bull3t on Flickr

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    On the last page of this article, we examine microchips - a high tech invention that had positive and negative implications - and fingerprint readers. Remember all those villains who were caught when they spent too long trying to open the heroine's suitcase? A biometric lock is great security.

    And finally, there is a high tech spy gadget that has not made a real appearance off the TV screen, although there are non-functioning models ... and I really want one!

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    We have looked at 8 different top 10 high tech spy gadgets that are part of our lives now, and on the last page of this article we look at microchips- a double edged blessing - and biometric fingerprint readers. Finally- there is a high tech gadget I'd love to have- the Doctor's sonic screwdriver.
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    microchip scanner by Shmoomeema on Flickr 2) Microchips used to appear in espionage movies to trace the movements of the hero - embedded in the button on his tuxedo jacket or in the lipstick dropped inside the clutter in his girlfriend's purse. (A spy's girlfriends always have purses jam-packed with makeup)

    microchip scanner by Shmoomeema on Flickr

    RFID chip by Emmanual LATTES on Flickr 

    RFID chips let us use EASYPASS and smart cards to pass security at work. They are used in books and school ID.

    RFID chip by Emmanual LATTES on Flickr

    Californaia newt being microchipped by jkirkhart35 on Flickr While you still need specialized equipment to insert a microchip under skin, that equipment is found at most Animal Shelters. Studies are done with microchipped animals, to study them in their habitat. There have also been cases of parents chipping their children, so they can be traced if they are kidnapped - or run away. I don't know that I'd appreciate being microchipped myself.

    Californaia newt being microchipped by jkirkhart35 on Flickr

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    Fingerprint readers

    1) Remember all those secret labs that could only be accessed with the correct fingerprint? Those briefcases, safes and computers thatfingerprint biometric lock by Flick on Flicker  only opened to the press of one person's thumb? That clever bit of technology can be found on laptops made by well-known computer manufacturers. They don't add all that much to the price, either.

    fingerprint biometric lock by Flick on Flicker

    It is another brilliant idea dreamed up by some spy movie writer whose time has come. The security offered

    grocery store fingerprint reader by gruntzooki on Flickr 

    by fingerprint readers on laptops doesn't stop them from being stolen if you don't fasten them in place, but it will keep your data from being accessed by anyone with the wrong fingerprint. Doors to secure facilities also utilize this technology, and one FLICKR photographer found a fingerprint reader in a grocery store.

    grocery store fingerprint reader by gruntzooki on Flickr

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    A device that isn't here ... yet!

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    The sonic screwdriver

    You may have never heard the sound of the TARDIS landing yourself, but you've probably heard of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. The last few Doctors have had various incarnations of this versatile tool - and they are the Swiss Army knife of screw drivers. I covet one.

    I was waiting in line in the Sonic screwdriver collection - Wikipedia - by sfxprefects grocery store a few days ago, and found a handy little tool that could have been influenced by Doctor Who. While it doesn't hum, and can't unlock doors with sound waves, it has an LED light with a mount for one of four screw driver ends, and a level. Yes ... a level. I had hoped the level would glow green when the LED was lit, but it doesn't. However, the LED does shine directly on the screw you are trying to fasten into the shelf or wall. Not very high tech. Not very spy-like, but useful in my day to day life.

    image from Wikipedia by sfxprefects