recommended reading

London’s Pervasive Surveillance Can Now Help You Find a Bus Seat

A double decker bus passes Piccadilly Circus in London.

A double decker bus passes Piccadilly Circus in London. // Sang Tan/AP

There are some great things about London’s iconic double-decker buses, including the view, the sense of space, and the ability (if you nab the front row) to pretend you’re the one driving a giant hulk of metal through the streets. Less great is climbing up the stairs on a busy bus only to sheepishly lurch back down when you discover that all the seats are taken.

To prevent this indignity, Transport for London (TfL), the local transit authority, is testing a system that will inform passengers before they climb the treacherous stairs whether the effort is worthwhile, the listings website IanVisits notes. New screens will display which seats on the upper deck are occupied at any given time. “We hope to put the technology onto some buses used by passengers later this month,” a TfL spokesman tells Quartz.

london-buses-seat-info-ianvisits
A rare bus with plenty of seats.IanVisits

The technology that enables this is not, as in the smart-parking effort also underway in London, driven by sensors. Instead, “the ‘seats available’ feature uses CCTV data to inform passengers on the lower deck how many seats are available upstairs,” the TfL spokesman says.

As anybody who has ridden London’s buses and watched as the CCTV footage is relayed on the in-bus screens will tell you, the existing CCTV cameras do not have the best resolution. But this technology, in this case supplied by a UK company called Timespace, does not require fancy HDTV footage.

Similar technology has been in use in stores to track customer traffic and movement, and the way it works—again on existing cameras—is by creating a a very high-resolution base image from a series of separate images. This is known as “high-dynamic-range imaging” (HDR), which allows software to pick the best bits of different pictures to make one composite image. Even your iPhone offers HDR as an option. This video from the ominously named Prism Skylabs, which provides a similar technology for use in shops, explains it well:

Armed with the high-resolution base image, the software can figure out whether a seat is occupied based on whether there appears to be a person in it or notThis is fairly straightforward artificial intelligence stuff, and is no more an intrusion of privacy than the existing cameras themselvesIanVisits reports that TfL is also experimenting with a similar system to measure pedestrian traffic at crossings, in the hope that it can make foot traffic flow faster within the intricate dance that keeps London running.

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here. 

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.