Smart surveillance has alarm bells ringing

A surveillance system that singles you out if you’re acting suspiciously and alerts authorities so they can take pre-emptive action is being developed.

The system uses behaviour recognition software to identify unusual activity, such as shifting around on a bus. The system is based on computers learning what normal behaviour is, then looking for patterns of behaviour outside the norm. The system would then alert the authorities when it detects unusual behaviour.


The technology, still in early stages, isn’t designed to recognise fine detail, such as fidgeting or acting nervous. But it would detect more obvious behaviour. “For example, pickpockets have a very strange behaviour pattern on a bus compared to most people,” says Barney Glover, of Curtin University of Technology. “They generally move around from seat to seat to find a mark, while most people sit down and then depart.”

Roger Clarke, at the Australian National University in Canberra, says the technology would result in countless false alarms and constitute a civil liberties infringement. “It’s a horrendous proposition in terms of interfering with the way the world works,” he says.

Curtin University of Technology has also devised a system where “anxiety” levels are built into a house. “The house gets anxious if an abnormal event continues,” says Glover. “Eventually it reaches an anxiety level where it sends an SMS to a carer and says, ‘grandma seems to be sitting on the floor beside her bed and isn’t responding to the prompts from the house, please intervene’.”

The most sophisticated forms of the technology are expected to be available within the next 10 years.

Via ABC News.