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GCN : April 2013
34 GCN APRIL 2013 • GCN.COM "YOU ARE BEING WATCHED." That s the tag line to my current favorite TV show, "Person of Interest." The program features a crime-fight- ing duo who use a network of cameras and computers around New York City and a device called "the Machine" to predict and fight crime. The show is based on actual technology even if it works at a somewhat magical level. But I never thought that NYC would flip the switch on something that is just as impressive. In real life, the system is known as "the Dashboard" (formally named the Domain Awareness System) and was designed by cops working with Microsoft. It uses a lot of the surveillance infrastructure already in place in and around New York City and ties it together to create a situational- awareness picture in the com- mand center at police head- quarters. Eventually, the plan is to give individual o cers full access to the Dashboard via laptops in squad cars or on mobile devices for cops walk- ing a beat. New York City has over 3,000 cameras that watch everything from streets to al- leyways to federal buildings to parks. Cameras are mounted on light poles, rooftops and the sides of buildings. they are a ubiquitous part of the city now --- ever-present but mostly ignored. The Dashboard takes those video feeds and ties them to- gether with other data the city collects, such as arrest records, 911 call information, data from license plate readers and even sensor information coming from portable radiation detec- tors. It works by pulling all relevant data together in one place as a situation unfolds. During a shooting incident last summer at the Empire State Building, the system helped target the police response, according to CNN. With many 911 calls coming in about the ongoing incident, a dispatcher might have thought that multiple shooters were involved. But by using the sys- tem, police could instantly view all the cameras in a five-block radius, and rewind footage up to five minutes. They quickly identified a single gunman and could see that nobody else was involved. Other uses of the system, as pointed out by NYC o cials, in- clude instant access to location based 911-call records so re- sponding o cers can know the history of a caller, the ability to automatically spot packages that have been left in place for a long period of time and collecting the arrest records of suspects involved in crimes. Given the current capabili- ties of new technology, I sus- pect the Dashboard could also be programmed to use facial recognition to find any suspect with an outstanding warrant who strays in front of a camera (which is more like the "Person of Interest" show than reality at the moment). City o cials don t say that the Dashboard is being used that way, but the infrastructure is in place and analytics software is available, so it doesn t seem that far o . Some might say that this is a huge invasion of privacy; that nobody will be able to walk down the street without police monitoring their every move. Perhaps. But what do you think those 3,000 NYC cameras are doing right now? We already are being watched, especially those of us who live in cities like New York or London with high population densities and big security infrastructures. The Dashboard is just that, a way to e ciently manage all the data that s being collected from public safety sensors and feeds. It takes a somewhat disjointed, blurry picture and focuses all the resources needed, on the fly, to deal with almost any situation. Should it continue to have success in New York, expect to see ver- sions of the Dashboard in other places where the infrastructure can support it, or as justifica- tion for some cities to invest in more cameras and that can now be managed much more e ectively. • HOLLYWOOD HAS THE MACHINE, BUT NYC HAS THE DASHBOARD BY JOHN BREEDEN II EMERGING TECH New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces partnership with Microsoft to launch integrated crime video and data network. REUTERS