Ambient Monitoring Project History and Status
by Thomas Deuley, MUFON
The Ambient Monitoring Program, AMP for short, was a scientific research project that the MUFON fully supported as a one third member of the UFO Research Coalition. The other members of the coalition are the Center for UFO Studies, and the Fund for UFO Research.
The AMP originally stood for Abduction Monitoring Project, but the early days of dealing with equipment and parts suppliers and after some consideration we changed the name, and I noted that I got better and more serious attention when I used the term Ambient instead of Abduction. In actuality the term Ambient Monitoring is probably the more precise term, so it was adopted as the operative word in the title for the project.
The overall idea of the project was to place a data collecting sensor system in the home of a repeat abduction experiencer. We did this with great success and learned many valuable lessons along the way. The experiment allowed us to collect very large amounts of physical data that may or may not correspond to the abduction phenomena.
For five years the UFO Research Coalition actively operated the project with basically two years devoted to instrument development and to three years devoted to data collection.
In the past, and as it may still be heard today, it has been alleged that attempts at physically monitoring abductees has failed in one way or another. Often the failures have been attributed to some outside force causing the device to either quit working all together or to work so badly that no new information has ever been collected. In the process of working this experiment we attempted to track some of these alleged situations down, but never found any more than anecdotal information about such interference, and no documentation for such. The one good report we did get, however, was from researcher David Jacobs, where there was an attempt to use a video camera to monitor an abductee, but the subject reported that just before the abduction was about to occur, they got an overwhelming desire to turn the camera off, but here again there was no physical act from the outside.
From the beginning, in our design, we attempted to build a unit that would get around some of these problems. First of all our device, when in use, is on all of the time, even when the subject does elect to turn it off, it does not turn off all functions and some data continues to be collected. In particular it continues to record the time, by the second, so that we can see when it is turned off or when it looses power. We could also detect if someone, or something, if you wish, attempted or did get into the interior of the device. In such a case that particular case would come under very special scrutiny and would have had have been handled with special provisions and special precautions. This was never necessary.
In all of the cases we never saw any signals that would suggest that anyone or anything had attempted to so much as touch the sensor unit. On occasions, when it was touched out of necessity by the subject or someone who lived in the same house as the subject, we found an explanation in the subjects Journal, or we sent a message to our installing researcher to go back to the subject to find out what the problem was: and there was never anything out of the ordinary. On one occasion it was the subjects cats walking on the unit that caused very unusual signals, and on another occasion the subject had spilt a glass of iced tea that required the monitoring unit to be moved to clean up the mess, after which the monitor was returned to its original position.
The AMP project started out several years before it actually began as 28th Proposal that had come before the CFM Coalition. The basic idea had been around for a long time, but was now in writing.
The CFM was made up of the Center for UFO Studies, The Fund for UFO Research, and, the Mutual UFO Network, the same group that later became the URC. The coalition was started up with the help of the Bigelow Foundation. However, the CFM coalition did not get to present this particular research proposal to Mr. Bigelow, since the CFM broke off its relationship with him on the very same day that we were ready to make the presentation the project.
After the loss of that opportunity the proposal was held for about one year while the coalition was realigning and while we were looking for sponsors and donors for this and many other projects. All the while the initial project idea, which was somewhat simpler than what I will be presenting here today, was being groomed and perfected into a much larger and a much more formal scientific effort than what we had started out with.
The proposal was in essences given off to the Fund for UFO Research, a member of both the old and new coalitions, with intention that they in turn offer the idea to some prospective donors, whom they were aware of, and whom they thought might be interested in this project.
Over time the Fund's efforts got a positive responses which eventually lead to sufficient funding for the work. In the meantime the CFM Coalition had become the UFO Research Coalition or URC, and was now wholly on its own and no longer associated with Bigelow.
I might point out here that the Bigelow Foundation was never and is not considered any form of enemy or adversary or anything like that by any one of the groups that make up the coalition. Our separation from Bigelow was strictly based on business and management practices. He then opened the NIDS organization, wherein all three groups that form the Coalition had a good relationship with NIDS, and in general, supported the work of NIDS, just as they supported our work.
With a good prospect for a sponsor the URC continued to make changes to the proposal that had been recommended by the prospective financing organization, and then resubmitted the proposal. After several rounds of changes and negotiation the proposal for the Ambient Monitoring Project had been accepted.
From the initial idea being presented to the sponsor, to the beginning of the first work was nearly three years. Finding a project and someone willing to support the work is not as easy as it may seem.
Project Start Up
The project got under way with me quitting my engineering job in May of 1998. At that point I picked up the full responsibility of getting both the AMP project underway and carrying it through to completion.
Because of the long lead times necessary to design and build the custom electronics the first thing needed was to find someone capable of the work. Over the time period from the initial idea to the approval to go forward we had developed a good idea of the shape of the sensor unit and the number and kind of sensors we wanted in it, so, based on that very soon after the start up of the project a contract was let to a small research lab for developing the electronics to our specifications and for building the first prototype. To our surprise it 6 was only weeks and that we were shown the size and shape of the electronics package that had been developed, and a recommended container. We approved both and told the contractor to proceed with the building of the first trial unit, show below as picture No.1. That same lab eventually built four prototypes for us, and then, later on, supplied the electronics for all of the final design units, which I designed and built up. The lab remained a consultant through out the run of the experiment, should we have needed to go back to them for any level of assistance.
Picture No. 1. The URC AMP Project’s first prototype shown closed.
The electronics package consists of a custom electronics board for the ambient sensors, a special power supply and a separate power supply to keep the batteries charged. The electronics board has a sensor for light level, which only measures the amount of light in the room; and a sensor for sound level, which only measures the instantaneous volume and does not record any voice.
Picture No. 2 Prototype 1 open. Batteries, power supply, and data logger are under the electronics board.
Then there is an array of electromagnetic sensors and there is a basic weather station inside that peeks out through the back of the unit, and measures temperature, humidity and barometric pressure.
Once the sensor unit was finally and properly placed in the home of a subject it took a set of data every second, 24 hours per day, and recorded this internally to be downloaded daily and then available to us for storage. I could also monitor the data real time.
The electronics board feeds its readings to a purchased item known as a data logger. The data logger is a device that is specifically designed to collect electric signal data. Some data loggers simply graph, real time, the information put into them by sensors. Some data loggers take in the sensor information for storage in its memory for later extraction and use. Our particular data logger is of the second type, and has the ability to be talked to through telephone lines and a modem, so that we can call it up and download the data on a periodic basis. We can also call in and watch the data accumulate in a real time mode and make adjustments to parameters and reading times.
There is also an auxiliary memory module built into the package so we can collect more information than the data logger alone can hold. Power is supplied from the subjects household power but is backed up by a battery system in the sensor unit. It can operate in the passive battery mode for over 24 hours in case of a power failure.
After a couple of months, and several meetings with lab personnel, the first prototype unit was delivered. The first unit was built into a women's make up travel case which had been hollowed out and had a small window in the back for reading the light, plus a small box mounted on the back for bringing in power and the data line.
Pictures of the first unit are shown above. Note that the carrying strap is taken off for this picture. This unit weighed nearly 23 pounds. Most of that weight was from a gel cell lead acid battery that supplies the back up power.
This first unit was tested for several months working towards calibration methods, sensitivities, ruggedness, and EMI/EMC, that is (Electromagnetic Interference and Electromagnetic Compatibility) considerations. A great deal was learned from this testing but only a few changes had to be made when we built the second prototype.
This first prototype unit was used for the first live test with real subjects. The first test with subjects was used to iron out the "in briefing" process, data collection methodology, "out briefing" process and for trying out the various documents used in the study. The documentation package for one case consists of some 30 pages.
The first test case ran for 3 months with the electronics unit never failing and holding up through one power failure. This first test, however did result in several changes in the documentation used for the cases. This first unit did have some minor problems. First of all it did not dissipate heat well enough and was causing the temperature to always read higher than it actually was. The temperature build up was due to a lack of ventilation. The second problem was with the case, in that it was too heavy, and very expensive for us to be ripping apart inside. The case alone cost right at $300.00. Lighter, less expensive make up cases, of a similar sort, were not found to be substantial enough for the weight it had to carry. While this first box was being used in the first live testing, ideas were kicked around on how to get a design with more ventilation.
As a result a second design, using an identical electronics package, was agreed to and was built into a medium size boom box.
Picture No. 3 Prototype 2.
This design was used to gain the openness necessary to have sufficient air flow to keep the electronics cool. In this respect it worked very well.
This boom box model was used for two more prototype tests with real subjects. This design, too, had problems. The biggest one, and a very important one, was with internal breakage during shipping, starting with the first shipment. The combination of the weight of the batteries and the weakness created by hollowing out the boom box left the unit too weak to handle the jolting of being shipped.
The make up case design just did not seem to be something that would be out in a room all of the time while the boom box did fit OK, in most rooms, but not all. So, all in all, a compromise design was needed for these and other reasons.
During the 4 or so months of live testing with the second prototype, knowing that they too had a problem, a final design was developed by me, which was settled on and was adopted by the URC Board. This final design was completely designed on paper before going out and building the first unit. The idea was to build the sensors into a fine finished wooden box of substantial strength, yet with sufficient ventilation to prevent heat build up. Like the make up case, having custom boxes made was going to be very expensive. I had shopped everywhere and had ran across several possibilities. The one wooden box I had found that seemed to fit the needs best cost a little over $80.00, while there was lessor candidates for comparably less money. Coincidentally on a trip to Sam's Club the perfect box was found and it only cost $40.00. One was immediately purchased and brought home. It turned out to be exactly the same as the $80.00 dollar box I had found at another store, but now at half price. It fulfilled all of the needs, so that is what we built up and used for all of the actual test units. This final design was engineered from the beginning to meet the needs of appearance, heat dissipation and strength for shipping.
Picture No. 4. Final design of the sensor unit.
This model, of which I built 6, completed 13 full data collections of 4 months or more. Data collection ended in June of 2003.
This final design was shipped in standard airline approved shipping containers which had proven far more rugged than the best cardboard box. In some 16 round trip shipments we did not have any breakage with the final design units.
Case installation and data collection
A new study case was started by finding a prominent and known researcher who had identified a willing subject. So it was researchers we went looking for and not subjects per se. We arranged with the researcher to have an extra telephone line put into the subjects home, if that was necessary. The researcher also arranged for a psychological evaluation of the subject. This was done for both the subject's protection and our protection. Lastly, we sent a predated Journal for the subject to use for each day the sensor unit would be in their home. The researcher would also run a set of tests in the home to help establish normal background readings and usual noise levels. Finally, the researcher makes a drawing of the room where the unit is located showing exactly where the unit was placed. Often pictures of the units location were taken.
Since the unit is extremely sensitive the researcher puts marks on the surface where the unit is sitting so that if it ever has to be moved it can be put back to exactly where it was originally placed.
The electronic data is collected each day from each unit. This was accomplished automatically by a collections computer in my office in San Antonio, Texas. The computer was programmed such that at a specific time each day it called out through the modem to each one of the units that were in the field. Each collection took approximately one hour. The long distance bill was quite high.
Each days data from each unit consisted of about 1500 or more 8 1/2 X 11 pages. All of the pages looked pretty much the same without close inspection. Here is a sample.
55,21,2354,40.37,292.7,337.1,.114,15.5,1.012,20.08,1.748,72.8,75.2,36.16,30.55 55,21,2354,40.37,292.7,337.4,.114,15.5,1.003,20.08,1.748,72.8,75.1,36.03,30.55 55,21,2354,39.7,293.4,338.1,.047,15.5,1.048,20.08,1.748,72.8,75,35.79,30.55 55,21,2354,40.37,293.4,338.1,.08,15.5,1.036,20.08,1.748,72.8,75.1,35.86,30.55 55,21,2354,40.03,294.7,337.8,.08,15.5,1.003,20.08,1.748,72.8,75.1,36.13,30.55 55,21,2354,40.37,295.4,337.8,.147,15.5,1.036,20.08,1.748,72.8,75,36,30.55 55,21,2354,39.7,294.7,337.1,.08,15.5,1.023,20.08,1.748,72.9,75.1,36,30.55 55,21,2354,39.7,294.4,340.8,.08,15.5,1.036,20.08,1.748,72.8,75.1,35.79,30.55 55,21,2354,39.7,295.4,340.1,.047,15.5,1.027,20.08,1.748,72.8,75.1,35.86,30.55 55,21,2354,39.7,295.4,339.4,.013,15.5,1.03,20.08,1.748,72.8,75,36.06,30.56
Picture No 5. Sample of data. 1500 pages per day, 6 megs or so.
There was a little over 6 megabits of data per day per unit. (If we were to print it out it would be three reams of paper for each file, each day) (Over a case and one half of paper every two days.) about 260 cases of paper per year. Needless to say - I didn't print it out, nor did I need to. Electronic storage makes much more sense here.
After each collection I converted the data into a graphic file and then I reviewed the graph for the entire day for each case looking for technical problems with the data and gross anomalies that may show unusual activity. After the review, both files, the data file and graphic file, were backed up to a Read / Write CD. A CD holds about 55 days worth of data.
A typical graphical presentation of the data looks like this.
The data graphical program was capable of showing however much data that was in a file, normally 24 hours worth, however if necessary only one minute could be looked at or if need be only two seconds at a time, maybe to see exactly when a sudden event occurred.
During the entire study, the subjects in their homes, kept a daily journal of their abduction experiences, if any should occur. Here is a sample of the top of the page. The bottom was fully lined for writing.
Each day they mark NO, MAYBE or YES at the top of the page. "No" means they do not need to go any further. A "maybe" or a "yes" requires some additional comment. If necessary extra pages are supplied at the end of the Journal for continuing a long entry.
At the end of the case the remote researcher removes the unit, debriefs the subject and obtains the journal. The researcher would then send me the sensor unit and would send the journal to Dr. Mark Rodeghier at CUFOS. I, in turn, created a permanent set of read only CDs and sent all of the electronic data to Mark.
When all of the data had been collected for all of the cases, the data and the Journals are to be compared by other third party researchers and a final report for the project is to be written. The data is being analyzed now.
The final results from the report will be published and available to everyone and if significant will likely be the subject of a paper to be delivered at some future MUFON Symposium.
That's the project, but before you ask any questions I'd like to answer some of the obvious questions first.
Q1). Could the aliens, if there are aliens involved, detect the box?
We were careful to engineer the box such that it is completely passive. It does not make any noise, electronic or otherwise, and it does not send out any form of signal except during data collection or when real time monitoring is occurring. It would, however, be detectable with most any non sophisticated "bug" detector. This would be particularly true during the time the box is sending us data. But that only occurs one hour per day and when possible that was when there is was no one home. Any piece of wire with a digital signal on it is easy to detect. Also there is an electronic clock running in the unit at all times that has an extremely low signal that could be detected by a more sophisticated detector.
Q2). If the box is detectable can it be fooled?
Yes, but we don't know how it could be "frozen" without us knowing it. It would probably quit working all together if it was "frozen". Also the data collection is a very specific number of data bits and if it was completely "turned off" for some period of time the clock would be wrong, with a gap in the time and the number of data points would be short. If this occurred this would be very telling for us and very exciting. This then would tell us much more than we know now and would call for a new approach. If they could turn off the unit and leave the clock running we would then have a clock signal but all of the data would be gone - again a very telling situation that would be important to us.
Q3). Can the unit be turned off if the subject feels the need for complete privacy?
Yes. There is a switch on the back of the unit that allows for privacy, but the subject is told that if it is turned off too often or for long periods of time they would be voiding the experiment and we would probably stop the test.
A word about our scientific approach.
In a good scientific test, the test is conducted in a double blind fashion. That is, one subject is tested with a real test unit, and one is tested with a false test unit. In this case, an abduction situation, this would require a false test unit in the home of a close neighbor with very similar family and work relationship profile. We concluded that this would make it nearly impossible to conduct the study.
We have instead opted for a separation of duties. I as the data collector was to never know the name or address of the subjects. I was to only know the name of the researcher for a given case. All of my correspondence is through a third party. Likewise the subject never knows who I am. I also was to never have access to the subjects journal so I can not make changes to the data to match something the subject has reported. Lastly, as mentioned above, after all of the data was collected, some third researcher who has had nothing to do with either the Journal or the data, will do the comparing of the data and the Journal and write the case report.
A final comment:
Part of my purpose was to try to get some interest up for additional researchers. MUFON provided three researchers and we would have liked to have had more. Harry Wilnus from Michigan, Craig Lang from upper Michigan and Beverly Trout from Iowa handled cases for us. In addition Dan Wright and Dave Jacobs have conducted cases with us. We negotiated with Budd Hopkins for doing a case with him but he never felt like he had a case that fit with our needs.