Smart street lights that “track everything we do all the time” are on the horizon according to a CBS News report which touted the environmental benefits of new LED systems that also feature an array of surveillance capabilities.
The lights are being marketed as a fantastic energy saving device because they have motion sensors which detect foot traffic, allowing them to switch on and off only when required.
A CBS News report showcases the smart lights in action at Newark Airport and at an underground parking lot, while imagining that all 4 billion outside street lights may eventually all be “connected in one global network.”
A “seamless grid” of smart lights networked with surveillance cameras also provides security for a parking lot outside a Silicon Valley building, tracking an individual’s “every move” while also utilizing license plate recognition technology to store data about vehicles.
“The future is limitless for this technology,” asserts Shorenstein Engineering manager Kevin Kirk.
“In the future, the smart network could track every place we go, everything we buy, everything we do all the time,” states reporter Bill Whitaker.
Responding to the charge that such a scenario “sounds Orwellian,” Hugh Martin, Chairman and CEO of Sensity Systems, cited the necessity to protect schools by using the smart system to detect guns, while denying that the technology was racing ahead of policy makers’ ability to control its reach.
What the CBS report failed to mention is that some of the “high-tech add ons” being included in smart street lights include technology that can record conversations.
Last year we reported on how Illuminating Concepts, the company behind Intellistreets, bragged on their website that their smart LED system, which is being rolled out in major cities like Las Vegas, has the capability of analyzing voices and tracking people, features that will aid the Department of Homeland Security in “protecting its citizens.”
A page on the Intellistreets website (since removed) which highlighted “benefits and applications” featured a section on security admitting that the hi-tech system includes “voice stress analyzers,” amongst several other sophisticated sensors that “assist DHS in protecting its citizens and natural resources.”
Authorities in New York City announced last year that they would be replacing the city’s 250,000 street lights with new LEDs by 2017, although it is not known how many of these will feature “smart” technology.
While the CBS report raises a few token privacy questions, the tone of the piece is undoubtedly positive, touting the brightness, longevity, security and environmental benefits of the new street lights. At the end of the report, one of the studio anchors alongside Charlie Rose glibly exclaims, “Big Brother is watching,” as if it’s a good thing.