The new neighborhood watch

A few years back, I attempted to build an arducopter with my daughter.  We didn’t quite finish that project before her school work lead her off to college.  Roll forward a few years, and 3D Robotics now sells the Iris+ (and a couple of others).  At the urging of a friend, and because it was my birthday/christmas, I purchased one of these newfangled flying machines.

Thus far I have only done a basic up/down forward/back test flight.  Then I mounted the GoPro camera, and started dreaming.

I had this conversation with my brother where we were riffing on the idea of overblown surveillance, and how the every day citizen might participate.  One of the themes was the transformation of neighborhood watch.

Our observation was that the local ‘security company’ could easily be replaced with automated machines (probably flying) wandering the streets.  It can be done without much invasion of privacy as well.  Let’s just imagine that I have an application where a machine launches from my front door perch, checks the mail box, and returns.  while it’s out and about, it looks around, feeding video back to my home computer.  And that’s that.  Alternatively, I could have the machine sitting on a perch, and once every 30 minutes or so, it does a circuit around my property, taking in video from top to bottom.

With today’s connectivity, such applications are easy to imagine.  At the very least, the video can be fed to my phone, and I can always see what’s going on.  It’s a simple extension of the fixed cameras that might already be doing surveillance around my property.  It can just get into more nooks and crannies without all the hard wiring required of the static system.

OK.  So, I’ve got my private property surveillance covered.  Now, what if my neighbors all do the same thing.  Every single one of us has a private machine that surveils our own private property, feeding video into each of our private homes.  Great, we’re the most surveilled neighborhood on the planet.  Now, I choose to share my surveillance data with my nearest neighbors.  Both houses next to me, the two behind me, and the two in front of me.  They do the same, so on and so forth, for as long as there is connectivity between close neighbors.  That gives me access to what I can see, what my neighbors can see, etc.

Of course, now the data is not just stored on my local machine, we probably cobbled together the neighborhood surveillance cloud application, so all the video feeds are probably sent up to Azure.  Well, of course once it’s up in Azure, I can apply Cortana to the task of keeping track of things.  ‘Cortana, how many times has that car circled the neighborhood?’  Of course it can get more interesting because all sorts of image processing and recognition can be applied with the infinite compute resources of the cloud.  ‘Cortana, dispatch the police to that house where the guys are stealing the tv’.

This is all technology that’s ready at hand today.  I would not be the least bit surprised if within 2 – 3 years there is a kickstarter for exactly this kind of application.  Perhaps 3D Robotics themselves will get into the act and provide such software for free.  Then of course the gov’t will come along and ask for the keys to access such data.  Such is the way of things.

These seem to be the times in which we live.  Technology accelerates the advancement of technology.  As things become less expensive, and easier to manipulate, there’s a certain ratcheting up of application capabilities.  At all times, scary, humbling, and empowering.


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