Public surveillance may be a cause for concern to most people, but there are also some surprisingly useful ways that it can be applied. Take Placemeter for example, which is working to bring together video feeds from across New York City to try and create an advanced warning system that tells you exactly how busy your favorite destinations are in real-time.
In order to cover every inch (90% to be exact) of the city, the company would need 2,000 to 3,000 well-placed cameras, of which it so far has access to about 500. The system can track people and vehicles to figure out how many people are at a certain location, as well as follow them from one store to another. While it might sound a lot like the movie Eagle Eye, founder Alexandre Winter assures people that the company does not store any data or video on servers after it’s been analyzed.
Businesses will be keen to exploit this information, and Placemaker has already provided a low-resolution analysis of pedestrian counts by neighborhood for New York City’s new Business Atlas. It’s an interactive map of city data updated once a month that can help businesses plan their marketing strategies better. There are also plans for a consumer app to help NYC resident spend less time waiting in line, and more time enjoying where they live.
First things first for Winter and his small team, they need to focus on gathering more data and see if they are actually able to process all of it in an efficient way. Certain approaches such as crowdsourced video feeds could help, but it’s all a question of making sure the idea is scalable first.