November 6, 2011 In one week’s time, Chicago residents have learned of new additions to the city’s already robust Surveillance techniques that will surpass George Orwell’s classic vision of the future in “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The latest innovative camera networks are evolving into a Orwellian 2.0 state.
The Illinois State Senate approved Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s request to expand the city’s camera network to include “safety zones,” where children are present, a measure meant to deter motorists from speeding near the city’s schools and park districts by clocking speed and mailing notices and fines to violators, much like the red-light violations.
Next, Chicagoan’s heard that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has been negotiations with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a couple of hi-tech drones to watch over the county of Cook which includes the entire city of Chicago. The latest word is that Chicago is on a company’s list for ‘Intellistreets’ light poles, capable of talking and listening to conversations.
The U.S. Department of Energy partially funded technology equips mundane street lights with public safety, homeland security, information and audio. The first high tech light poles are already installed and functioning in Farmington Hills, Michigan where the light poles are manufactured.
Illuminating Concepts President, Ron Harwood, and inventor of the ‘Intellistreets’ light poles told a local news station the company has orders from cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh and he’s also working with Homeland Security.
In a seperate inteview, Harwood said the installation will be used for sales as well. Representatives from the cities of Pittsburgh and Chicago plan to visit soon to see the system in action.
A compilation of news reports and information published on the Intellistreets official web site paints a potentially frightening futuristic portrait of a nation that once held freedom so dear.
The energy efficient streetlights, remotely controlled LED or LCD video screens and cameras once manufactured for entertainment only, now can (potentially) count people for the police, record conversations and detect everything from explosives to radiation gas leaks.
Harwood says the wireless mesh network capability means the streetlights could display – or tell – people bus or train schedules, information on Amber Alerts, that an emergency vehicle is approaching, or help re-route drivers during road closures.
“In each lighting fixture or each lighting pole, there is processor very much like an iPhone. And it takes inputs and outputs and talks back and forth. And the poles actually talk to each other,” said Harwood.
Illuminating Concepts’ business development Director, Jeff Stribbell says the wireless systems are protected from hackers with double encryption.
The company experienced a little ‘stage fright’ after landing on the 2011 Top 5 “Emerging Technologies Soon to Hit the Government Market” list brought attention they weren’t accustomed to – nor prepared for.
Media reports surfaced after the Govtech.com magazine’s August 30, 2011 publication top 5 list, in which the humble streetlight transformation made it to the number 4 spot. The list ranks the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) sought by the Cook County Sheriff as number 3.
A promo video for ‘Intellistreets’ was pulled from YouTube by the company just hours after an article that drew attention to the issue was linked to the Drudge Report website.
The move by Illuminating Concepts to remove the video in its entirety was seen by critics as questionable, many wondering what they were hiding? The company responded by saying they pulled the outdated video in order to update it. A UK news souce report suggests the You Tube video removal was a result of negative publicity about the ‘Homeland Security’ features.
The fact that environmentally friendly and affordable streetlights with the potential to videotape private conversations, to a shrinking number of American citizens – but still Americans – is still creepy. The technology clearly becomes a 4th amendment violation when the Department of Homeland Security rolls out the fully loaded streetlights on every street corner in America.
Illuminating Concepts released a lengthy official response to the item on the Drudge Report on the company website. In defense of the Department of Homeland Security, the company’s response clarified that they contacted Homeland Security about the technology, and not the other way around. However, DHS is intrigued by Intellistreets’ ability to adapt to infrastructure already in existence.
Additionally, the company’s response clarified that “to date, no funding from the DHS has been either offered or accepted by us.”
In defending their product, Intellistreets points to the benefits to society, giving government the ability to reach pedestians with warnings, emergency announcements and Amber Alerts.
“What the Intellistreets system is designed to do is simply make our streets safer, more energy efficient and smarter, while being informative and entertaining.”
The Intellistreets system intentions as stated indeed offer these benefits and more if the government employs the light poles as directed.
Harwood said the Intellistreet lighting at Disney and Universal parks “makes us feel not only safer, but happier.” It is not likely that in the manner in which the impressive technology is employed by the government will mimic the “Magic Kingdom.”