Who watches the watchers? In the case of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, that would be 27-year-old Jon Gales.The local web developer noticed workers on cherry pickers installing high definition CCTV cameras downtown, and so decided to map them via a website, which can also be used as a stand-alone iOS application.
RNCCTV provides a geographic tag for each of the cameras installed — which include some 90 units, 63 of which have pan/tilt capabilities and a 20x optical zoom — as well as an estimated range of observation for each of the devices.
According to Tampa’s request for proposal, information from which is provided by RNCCTV, the multi-million dollar vendor contract with Miami-based Aware Digital includes a generous spread of surveillance technology and the inclusion of software monitoring designed to identify “abnormal behaviour.” What software is specifically being used is not disclosed, though the proposed contract called for functionality matching that of BRS Labs’ AISight product.
Tools like AISight are designed to mimic the human brain’s ability to make and associate memories — the software visually records objects and behaviours via video networks, compares them to existing instances,
and determines which of these are “unusual” enough to alert security personnel. BRS Labs calls this “artificial neural network technology.”
The technology is pretty fascinating, and BRS Labs provides several case scenarios to demonstrate the level of situational awareness that a CCTV network linked to AISight can provide. In the scenario entitled
“Rear Access Building 6B” (video is available [here] the software generated an alert when two individuals left unattended luggage in a populated area. While standing luggage in a trafficked street is certainly not an unusual occurrence, the software determined that the luggage itself was placed too far away from a vehicle — this, it determined, was a red flag that something might be amiss.
Similar demonstrations of the software, such as one entitled “Public Access PTZ Position 4,” can be triggered by situations such as individuals walking up to secure facilities on vehicle-only roadways, or trucks backing up to a an entrance door where the usual procedure might be to drive forward around a driveway.
As for Gales’ project to map out his city’s surveillance camera, a spokeswoman for Tampa’s police department stated that they are fine with it: “the locations are not a secret.” Gales for one states that he received no response from either Tampa’s mayor, city council representative, or the police department when he attempted to inquire about the surveillance cameras the latter only issued a response once contacted by the media.
Footage recorded by the CCTV system could be stored for four years, beginning on August 5th and running through September 1st. The money for the project comes from a $50 million federal convention security grant — based on information available at this time, it is not known what the city of Tampa intends to do with the surveillance hardware beyond the RNC.
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