Archive for February, 2009

Drones and Surveillance

February 27th, 2009

Image of new Police CCTV gear.

Remote-controlled drones are already used widely by the military. And they are coming to a city near you.

Now ministers believe they are likely to become ‘increasingly useful’ for police work. Armed with heat-seeking cameras, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles would hover hundreds of feet in the air, gathering intelligence and watching suspects.In theory, their advantages are clear. They are cheaper and quieter than conventional helicopters, can circle their target for hours without refuelling – and they don’t get bored on long surveillance missions. The plan to deploy ‘spy in the sky’ planes is outlined in the Home Office’s latest Science and Innovation Strategy. It says: ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are likely to be an increasingly useful tool for police in the future, potentially reducing the number of dangerous situations the police may have to enter and also providing evidence for prosecutions and support police operations in “real time”.Two years ago, Tony McNulty, then a Home Office minister, acknowledged that scientists were exploring the use of UAV technology for a ‘range of policing and security applications’. But the document cautions: ‘We need to investigate how such vehicles could be used, and their ability to provide high-quality evidence for convictions.’ There are also safety concerns surrounding the planes. Those used by the military are prone to crashes on takeoff and landing. Many have been lost over battlefields.

A trial by Merseyside police, of £30,000 ( not inc training costs)  remote-controlled miniature helicopters with still, video or infra-red cameras, highlighted more mundane problems related to battery life and the effects of bad weather on flights. Mark Wallace, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘I think a lot of people would be concerned at the Home Office looking to use technology more generally associated with the tribal borders of Pakistan and the fight against terror over British towns to watch the British public. The flying robo-constable is also “almost silent” in use, and “allows entirely covert operation”.The distributor spokesman said the aircraft are “military derived…obviously I can’t talk too much about that particular use…they are essentially reconnaissance tools.” Since the microdrone isn’t listed among those used by the regular military, this might indicate that the British special forces have taken an interest in the diminutive stealth-chopper, perhaps in a counter-terrorism role.

This would fit in with the Merseyside police reported plans to test it in firearms operations, as well as for more mundane tasks such as monitoring traffic congestion and crowds. So the CCTV revolution continues unabated. Liverpool has gone from Jamie Bulger ( CCTV abduction)  to aerial surveillance and still big brother and the mother of big brother uses money that  could be better spent elsewhere.

Still, as with all things wireless there are workarounds and if you have to  find one lying on the concrete in Bootle its sure to fetch a nice price on Ebay.

Interactive LEDS…say something please.

February 22nd, 2009

Sometimes I get all excited about leds, responsive architecture and sometimes I just think where is the depth of thinking in the current crop of publicly funded artworks. Maybe architecture need to shout and scream to be heard, maybe we need to re-discover the hidden parts of the city….. but, this isn’t art….it something else….

In an age of environmental and economic uncertainty, why is it there is just so many flashing eye candy architectural projects. We have Lab AU, Jason Bruges, Cinomod Studios, United Visual Artists…even Soda…..come on guys say something real about the world with some cultural relevance; or say anything beyond; hey it a playspace and you can control the lights by moving about……I  think Martin Creed did this one the best already)…

Parting shot: Graffiti is better in an underpass than this sort of thing….http://dobpler.com./images/front.jpg. The work appears seductive, technology does that all by itself, but where is the depth in this work. But maybe it will make the kids put the spray cans away….so it pleases the funding bodies. I personally hope its ‘sorted’ out at street level within the week.

I like the sentence about no “intrusive surveillance” involved (from  their website) , maybe thats fence sitting Scandinavian speak to get the commission in the bag, but if your going down this route don’t be afraid to ask the questions.

How to  make more than just flashing lights. The image below shows a proposal to use the CCTV images inside the building on the outside of the building. Presented to Colston Hall 2005.

Copyright Image by Stanza CCTV feeds 2005.

Stanza artwork, a proposal to use the CCTV images inside the building on the outside of the building. Presented to Colston Hall 2005.

Image above copyright Stanza. Live data tracked from CCTV system.

Sensing people indoors.

February 19th, 2009

I  have been looking at different solutions for sensing people indoors so I have pasted this in below.

“Some suggestions for indoor sensing. Each team must build a sensing system that can perform dead reckoning as people walk through a 10m x 10m arena, which will be located in the poster/demo session of the conference. The goal is to estimate the final position of the person given the initial position. Teams can use up to 5 body sensors, which may include accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, etc. Each team can also setup at most 2 sensors in or around the arena, but predefined paths must remain unobstructed for people to walk, as shown in the diagram below.  The predefined paths will not be revealed until the day of the competition, and will be marked with tape. Examples of sensors placed in the arena might include passive infrared motion sensors, active infrared break beams, ultrasound, dopplar radar, weights sensors, etc. These sensors can be useful for on-line calibration of the body sensors. The sensor systems have three restrictions: 1) no system may have data cables more than 12 inches in length* 2) no system may impede the motion of the person being sensed, and 3) no system may use more than 7 pixels in total, eg. no cameras with more than 7 pixels, and no more than 7 single-pixel** sensors. Signal emitters will be permitted, as long as they do not interfere with other teams’ sensors and as long as they do not help the system emulate more than seven pixels (see below*). Each time a person walks a path with a team’s sensors, that team will be required to update a server with its current position estimate at least once per second. The path estimate will be visualized and projected onto a wall.”

REF: http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~whitehouse/ipsn09competition/

Tracking Robots

February 15th, 2009
Copyright Image by Stanza

Copyright Image by Stanza.Tracking robots over time in my studio. 2006

I have twelve robots now with gps. Here is a camera tracking experiment using max to  following the traces of the robots.  I am now using gps on the robots  via the motes to  track them in real time outside.

Sensity contexts: Data and pervasive media.

February 6th, 2009
stanza

Sensors in The city. Data and pervasive media.

I was looking for works  predate my “Sensity” project (above)  and came across this: –  Toyo Ito completed his Tower Of Winds in 1986. A soft skinned exterior on a concrete tower represents the “visual complexity” of Tokyo filtering air, sounds, and noises of the city. ( I would like to  know if its real time and what technology what used). Either way this is a decade or two ahead of most of the development s in this field. The work uses over 1,000 lamps, twelve neon rings, and thirty flood lights, the last situated on the ground and directed upwards within the tower. The work, “reflects the complexity and nature of the city and its inhabitants.”  These works might concerns how the observer “maps relationship between in put and output as Lucy Bullivant expresses it. ( p9  Responsive Environments).

Sensity.

A series of artworks based on sensing the environment. The results are the visualisation and sonification of real time spaces.

http://www.stanza.co.uk/sensity/index.html

Networked Cities By Stanza. Sensity project.

February 6th, 2009
Copyright Image by Stanza

Networked Cities By Stanza. Sensity project.

Copyright Image by Stanza

The ‘environment’ in these projects is created from a wireless multi nodal multi sensor network that is in place. The network emits live data via a proxy server and the online xml data gateway represent a live communication flow of the city space. This impression and this part of the work is what I term asset gathering and in this case they are constantly gathered into an online system ready for interpretation.

The online interfacing of live real time sensors networks allows a communication with environment, with real space in the present. Control mechanisms of ownership and rights access are opened up my making the data available in the public domain. These real time impressions can be modulated from online interfaces to physical sculptural interpretations.

The data is remade real again as physical objects interpret the virtualized readouts. The analogue is made digital and the digital can be formed into a variety of output devices. The data can be represented as online interfaces like I have made (Sensity , House, both online), or by triggering the technology in the physical world, ie sensors, Leds, displays, robots etc. Sensity can trigger buildings relating to whole cities, or vice versa. The flow of the data can be set to affect the behaviour of the output environment.
The data environment that is created is a mapped on top of the space, a virtual data map or the real world.

Other artists are also allowed access to this “back end city, real data city and they can make their own “Sensities”. In this way the data is open sourced. From any Sensity network numerous artistic interventions can take place. In fact the whole city can be represented, and all artists can make multiple work from this “The Emergent City”.  A city of sculptures re-presenting  real time space.

Page 66 of “Responsive Environments”, Lucy Bullivan. On talking about Usman Haque “he awaits the environment that is simply intelligent”. 1

 

Sensor on Google Maps 2006

stanza datacity

Networked Cities By Stanza. Sensity project. 2004 – 2010

Within Sensity there is now a loop from the real to the virtual and back to the real.  This notion of playing or manipulating with a malleable form (data) is made possible as each stream, each node, each sensor, or even the entire network can be communicated with using this xml online gateway.
We have seen rich shift in relational and responsive interactive works and the move away from gallery as a venue for art to the use of architecture and public domain space in the last twenty years….stanza

In an age of global warming, so many artists are still using the architectural space as a coloured light bulb. As we burn more fossil fuels the light are flashing on and off. Sensity be made more physical on output to represent of the growth of the city as an experience in the real world away from the screen. A city representation of the fabric of city space end the emerging patterns caused by these data flows. An art city can be made where the data powers the wind turbines, the data changing the solar panels that change the lights. Loops of real time data change the meaning all the while changing the  input and output  which is (e)merging into a new space.  Also  see my new works Tree, Sonicity and Capacities. REF.1. “Responsive Environments:  Architecture, Art And Design.”Lucy Bullivan. V & A Publications. 2006.

CCTV in the UK. Stanza 2006

February 6th, 2009
Copyright Image by Stanza

Copyright Image by Stanza 2007. Monument CCTV artwork.

Copyright Image by Stanza

We are becoming obsessed with spying on each and in the extreme maybe we have to be extreme. My Monument above is a sculpture, a robotic CCTV system for spying on us except its right in the middle of the city.

It’s interesting that CCTV in the UK has become so prevalent; however it’s strange it’s taken until now for the press to realize there is something to be concerned about.  [“Surveillance is Really Getting Under my Skin”…by Henry Porter 19.11.2006]  Up until recently this technology was mediocre at best.  The concepts that fuelled this infrastructure seemed to lean to Orwell and the deployment of all CCTV has been paid for by and large using public money which could have been spent elsewhere (housing hospitals schools etc)

We are becoming obsessed with spying on each and in the extreme maybe we have to be extreme. My monument above is a sculpture, a robotic CCTV system for spying on us except its right in the middle of the city.etc).

The question is, how are these new technologies being sold to government? Ie the hugely costly National Health database or ID cards schemes.  In both cases new technologies sold largely untested. In so many cases new technologies are bought by ministers who don’t understand the technology.  How could they understand these implications of these technologies?  They couldn’t understand that in the early days of CCTV most cameras would run out of tape and all of the rest would probably have such bad lenses that you couldn’t see anything anyway. However, it is their duty to understand the conceptual unpinning of the tech rather than how it works.  And the conceptual underpinning seems to have been ignored, or if it hasn’t been ignored then this has gone on unchecked and un-monitored.  Rather like a bush fire, once one system had been put in place by one council; they all followed suite. None of them really checked to see how these systems actually worked or where evaluated.  Plenty of people here have spent plenty of other peoples money fuelling a whole industry to watch us moving about just to spot a few criminals.) or has there always been a bigger picture , a master plan)

Despite ten years of poor CCTV and stories of people  getting attacked only to find  CCTV systems  not  working, the powers  that be,  have stuck  with this  agenda  and  now  the tech (  after  huge development and investment)  can read the time off your  wristwatch.  So know we have men sit in kiosks watching our movement through city space and software that can detect patterns on the flow, where you are going.

Now the technology has got interesting there are other considerations.  The patterns we weave through our urban infrastructure can inform us about our urban and rural environment.  But these systems should be used to watch people, we should trust our people.  The premise of all this current deployment is mistrust.  Ie these systems have been put in for the wrong reasons.

As  much  as people  watch and vet  criminal activity  for employment in schools  etc  who is  watching  these  people  watching  and monitoring  these systems.

Certainly data bases of information are growing and expanding and in theory the public think there are hackers out there using sophisticated techniques to get access to data.  By and large back doors  are like  all doors,  most  entry is  done because the doors  aren’t closed ie they  are  left  open . The idea of thinking about back doors is to  suggest that criminals are looking to  leverage there way in (  although this my be the case ) it its  too focused  of the criminal misuse  of collective  data and not focused enough on what value the data give the collective.

There is  far  worse  response  it  the collective  abuse  by  the owners  of these  systems, this is what needs to  be monitored  Take the  national  DNA  database  which is owned by the forensic science department. Who owns this data, could it ever be sold. How else is the data being exploited?  Who owns each individuals data, surely we each and all own the copyright to our own DNA.  Why is the state taking our possessions, our DNA and re appropriating our data like another tax. Although they say they seek to protect us (ie the reason for collecting the data)   how are they actually protecting my data? How do they seek to exploit ‘ property’ which is mine that has a value?  Why do I feel abused?

More importantly in the systems data can be mined in ways that we cannot conceive. The development of new algorithms, data mining, and computer techniques can leverage and present new meaning from these systems in ways that we haven’t come close to guessing at.  These new  data  sets  can be  exploited  for  corporate  gain, even though  the  data  belongs to the individual.

This  data  can  also  be exploited to   track   patterns  that  we  have  spent  the  best  part  of the  20th C  trying  to   avoid, ie  totalitarian,  iron curtains,  Bentham observation  systems where everyone  is  spying on everyone.

Stanza London Art

Stanza London Art. Live CCTV visualisation. 2005

For example lets  get  complicated  and mix  your  tax  records  with  patterns  of spending  from your credit cards, and  your DNA type,  mix  this  up   with you  mobile phone  records  and  we  can probably  find  for  example  any man of Irish decent  who is married that might have bought a  condom….or  Muslim who travels regularly  or….

The  issue  with most  of  this  vulnerability  of new  technology is  that most  people who  want to  use  it have  no  idea  how  to   use  it,  or  no idea  that  thing  can always  be  used  for  others  reasons.  Example  mobile  phone  for speech communication  is  now  widely  used  as  typewriter text  editor for sending tested messages.  This is just an example of a ubiquitous technology that goes to market and the people that brought it to market aren’t even aware what it might be used for. (I mean who would have guessed it)

Now  with  CCTV  and chips and  data mining  of  databases  things  are  getting complex, without  some  ethical  monitoring  we  will have no   idea  what  is  being sourced  here  and how  its  is  being  used and  abused.  Nor will we have any idea how this data is being shifted around, cross referenced and exploited by companies and governments never mind terrorists and criminals.

Maybe the world is indeed full  of  criminals but  by and large we shouldn’t baton  down the hatches Let  the data be  made  public, open it up…..not  just one  gate  keeper. Everyone whose data is on the system should have access. Lets try another approach lets trust one another.

stanza

CCTV images are being recorded

I believe we should remove the passwords. What is the point of just trusting a select few people we don’t know we should trust everyone. It’s surely better to trust everyone than to mistrust everyone which is the road we have taken.

Surveillance State

February 6th, 2009

The proliferation of CCTV cameras and the growth of the DNA database were two examples of threats to privacy, the Lords constitution committee said.Those subject to unlawful surveillance should be compensated while the policy of DNA retention should be rethought. The government said CCTV and DNA were “essential crime fighting tools”.
“The huge rise in surveillance and data collection by the state and other organisations risks undermining the long-standing tradition of privacy and individual freedom which are vital for democracy,” Lord Goodlad added.
“If the public are to trust that information about them is not being improperly used, there should be much more openness about what data is collected, by whom and how it is used.” The government said CCTV and DNA were “essential crime fighting tools” but acknowledged personal data should only be used in criminal investigations where necessary.
“The key is to strike the right balance between privacy, protection and sharing of personal data,” a Home Office spokesman said.

“This provides law enforcement agencies with the tools to protect the public… while ensuring there are effective safeguards and a solid legal framework to protect civil liberties. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has rejected claims of a surveillance society as “not for one moment” true and called for “common sense” guidelines on CCTV and DNA.

She recently announced a consultation on possible changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, under which public bodies can conduct covert surveillance and access data, to clarify who can use such powers and prevent “frivolous” investigations. The Conservatives said the government’s approach to personal privacy was “reckless”. “Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing either its effectiveness or taking adequate steps to protect the privacy of perfectly innocent people,” said shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve. Ref…http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics

The image below show the artist Stanza’s DNA on the outside of a building made public for all too see.

Copyright Image by Stanza