Big Brother Is Watching You, And You, And You... - Cameras That Know Who You Are
Woe is me. - Albert Einstein, hearing about the Hiroshima bombing.
My dynamite will sooner lead to peace than a thousand world conventions. As soon as men will find that in one instant whole armies can be utterly destroyed, they surely will abide by golden peace. - Albert Nobel.
The aeroplane has made war so terrible that I do not believe any country will again care to start a war. - Orville Wright.
There's nothing on it worthwhile, and we're not going to watch it in this household. - Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television.
One problem great inventors have is that they can become so immersed in how beneficial their inventions can be, that they fail to envision what normal people could do with them.
This could be the case with Drs Vivek Menon, Bharat Jayaraman, and Venu Govindaraju, who have been working together for several years on what they call biometrics driven smart environments. The three Computer Science and Engineering professors from SUNY University at Buffalo and India's Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham aim "to develop smart indoor environments that can identify and track their occupants as unobtrusively as possible and answer queries about their whereabouts." In other words, they want to be able to know where you are with as few cameras and as little human intervention as possible.
This is a great idea for the types of environments they're talking about - nursing homes and hospitals - but it's just the kind of technology that made Big Brother so pervasively successful in George Orwell's 1984.
How do they do it? By using what they term the Three R's of Cyber-Physical Spaces, namely recognition, reasoning, and retrieval. Starting with recognition, the cameras are used to identify a person's facial features, gait, and height. As cameras throughout the 'smart environment' continue to keep an impassive eye on proceedings, the software uses reasoning to 'follow' each individual as they move about the building in a not-so-random way. The retrieval bit is pretty straightforward: you are here.
To some, this kind of technology may seem ominous, but believing that could be a thoughtcrime. Best just accept the benefits, and learn to live with doublethink. After all, we're hardly in the setting of perpetual war, constant surveillance, and unrelenting mind control that Orwell wrote about, are we?