By Leigh Howe

Big Brother.  Webcams, tracking devices, home security networks – and these are only the beginning.  In highly monitored London, England, criminologist Clive Norris of Hull University estimates that the average person is captured on film by 300 cameras each day.  The affordability and usefulness, especially to law enforcement, of extensive video-surveillance systems will encourage rapid proliferation. Innovative technological research is infiltrating not only the realm of security, but also the territory of privacy.  As long as corporations, governments, and people attempt to gather information, their counterparts will development systems to encrypt and disguise this information. 

Security vs. Privacy.  Given the threat of terrorism and the war in Iraq, people are demanding security.  However, is the world prepared for the consequences of all the surveillance technology that will be deployed in the next decade?  Will there soon be any unmonitored public space? Universal surveillance is possible given the technological advances of the last few years.  Once surveillance systems are highly networked, then the information becomes much more valuable and also dangerous.  The controversial Total Information Awareness program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is attempting to combine corporate, medical, retail, education, travel, and telephone information, as well as fingerprints, DNA, and facial characteristics measurements.  This will be an unprecedented collection of information about both U.S. citizens and foreigners.  The dangerous part comes with incorrect or “unclean” data, since invalid data can lead to people being unfairly labeled as criminals or terrorists.

Much More Than Video.  According to J.P. Freeman, a security market-research firm in Newtown, CT, the remote digital-surveillance-camera market will grow 40-50% annually for the next decade.  Incredibly, other non-video forms of monitoring will increase even faster.  Security and surveillance technology and applications are going to get attention in the government, corporate, and consumer arenas. How can you capitalize on this growth area?

Here are some examples of the technology in the works:

  • The use of “Biometrics” will explode from pattern recognition to iris identification to DNA.
  • The three major automobile makers plan to put special radio frequency identification tags in every tire sold as part of a federally mandated tracking system.
  • By 2006, the law will require that every U.S. cell phone be designed to report its precise location during a 911 call. 
  • Areas of government and military defense research are focusing on surveillance equipment and sensors, including primarily radar and electro-optic/infrared sensors and associated signal and image processing methods, activity detection technologies, tissue-based biosensors, etc.  The different programs and studies are too numerous to name. 
  • Wireless Sensor Networks is an emerging technology that consists of small monitoring devices called motes.  These motes have a radio transceiver just powerful enough to broadcast snippets of data to nearby motes and pass on information received.  These networks will observe just about everything, including traffic, weather, seismic activity, the movements of troops on battlefields, and the stresses on buildings and bridges—all on a far finer scale than has been possible before.

Sources and More Information.         

  • – MIT Technology Review Magazine
  • – Privacy Activism Organization
  • – Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)