Its 2014, thirty years on from 1984’s controlled society, and the world is going Orwellian. This July, Watchdog suddenly seems to be becoming true as Chicago will begin installing sensor-equipped lampposts - smart lampposts, if you will - that will track data about the city and its people.
But this isn’t just another infamous phone hacking scandal, its all in the name of data-collection. As well as measuring air quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation and wind, the lamppost sensors will be able to observe surrounding mobile phone traffic. Infrared technology will be used rather than recording sounds or pictures, in order to keep data totally anonymous. The project hopes to improve pollution and urban planning, by finding out in which areas air pollution is at its worst, and where the busiest parts of the city are. But there are already worries that the new additions to the streets will encourage a Big Brother-style system, and we should be wary of ‘the natural tendency that economics play’ when it comes to industries making use of the personally identifiable data that the lampposts collect.
But in a world where your walk to work is photographed by Google’s Skybox imaging and conversations with your friends are recorded by the new Facebook chat, whether a lamppost knows if your phone is in your coat pocket or not is probably the least of your worries.
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