Saturday, 11 June 2016

Hello Lamp Post, What Kind Of Day Have You Had?


        It seems that the citizens of the fair city of Bristol are to be part of a large and very expensive experiment. They are soon to be enmeshed in a web of connectivity, an invisible spider's web of waves and pulses. The City council with the help of hi-tec giants, universities and pots of money will be working together to create a magic world of an all joined up society. Lamp posts, bus stop and other inauspicious objects will become points of communication. The latest face recognition and crowd analysis will be employed, the powers that be boast of the wonderful benefits, stating that it could mean that if there was an accident, the emergency services could be notified before you can reach for your phone. Of course they don't mention that with all that face recognition and crowd analysis, that other service, the one with the riot shields and truncheons could arrive before you can reach for your phone. Another feature they seem to be getting carried away with is, you will be able to communicate with the said lamp posts and bus stops and have some sort of conversation, and others will be able to hear and see what has been going on there, swapping information. Doesn't it sound wonderful, you will be able to communicate with everybody without actually meeting anybody. So when you tire of watching crap TV or playing with your game consul, you can walk down the high street and have a conversation with a lamp post, or perhaps your fancy is a nice bus stop, this they say is connecting the city!! 
      What it boils down to is a super surveillance system where there is no hiding place, no need to came face to face with another human being, or are you naive enough to think that all this money and effort is being spent for the benefit of the citizens of the fair city of Bristol. If it is successful, in the eyes of the powers that be, it will be rolled out across the country. The perfect controllable society, where people can function in isolation, always being observed and recorded, a system where decisions are made by algorithms, computers and faceless individuals. Welcome to the world of connectivity. 
       City authorities and allied technological entrepreneurs are working to kit out Bristol with a city-wide ‘digital fabric’ of the very latest in sensor and connectivity technology, to make it the world’s first open ‘programmable city’. A high-speed fibre-optic network (making use of disused cable ducting owned by the council) is being combined with a new ‘city operating system’ that will power an experimental network. In the coming spring of 2016, 1,500 sensor-equipped lampposts are being launched around the city; the vast majority of Bristol will be covered in a Radio Frequency (RF) mesh. This is predicted to revolutionise the way that emergency response, traffic management and other municipal services are handled, and track certain vehicle locations, with eventual alleged trickle-down ‘benefits’ such as informing residents of parking spaces and air pollution (ahem, from those parking spaces) in an increasingly mechanised and technified environment.-------
And there is more:
---------The sensors will collate vast amounts of raw data, which the council is already equipt with various ‘Big Data’ processing platforms to analyse; Bristol has already opened up almost two hundred of the city’s data sets on traffic flows and energy use, crime trends, targeted advertising, generating new innovative businesses, as well as encouraging citizens to interact with the city in new, digitalised ways. ‘Acoustic detection sensors’ have also been mentioned; similar uses have been made of microphone-equipt lampposts in major cities of the United States, with audio recording and gunshot detectors linked straight to police targeting ‘high crime areas’, to be combined with surveillance video. As opposed to the reactions which their use in obtaining convictions have earned across the Atlantic, as a precursor to the Bristol Is Open initiative the PAN innovation team began a four-week project in Bristol during 2013 called Hello Lamp Post, to introduce smart-city technologies more ‘softly’. The project’s co-creator, Ben Barker, was featured in media at the time. “Smart cities, where technologies play an important role, tend to be perceived as high on efficiency yet low on warmer, human elements, Barker explains. “Our starting point was a desire to use the city’s existing infrastructure to encourage human interaction through storytelling and story sharing.” ” In a bizarre mix between Artificial Intelligence and a chat forum, users were offered the opportunity to ‘communicate’ with street furniture like lampposts, postboxes, and bus stops via text message by using the repair numbers found on these objects as SMS codes. The object would “wake up” and respond in kind with a series of text messages, “sharing interesting content about that specific location left by others who’ve come before”.
The full, well worth reading article, can be found HERE:
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