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Transform Cellphones Into a CCTV Swarm 106

Posted by Zonk
from the now-how-to-interface-your-brain dept.
holy_calamity writes "Swiss researchers have developed java software that has bluetooth-capable camera phones form a distributed camera network. Each phone shares information on visual events with its neighbours and can work out the spatial position of phones around it (pdf). The software will become open source sometime next year, and the creators say it could be used to make a quick and dirty surveillance system. 'The phones currently use the average speed people walk to guess the distances between themselves, based on how long people take to move from one phone's view to another's. In testing, the system determined the distances between each phone with about 95% accuracy. They were placed 4 metres apart, making it accurate to about 20 centimetres. In future, recording the speed at which objects pass by would make more accurate judgments possible.'"
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Transform Cellphones Into a CCTV Swarm

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  • now every time i visit someones house and see a cell phone just lying somewhere im gonna wonder....
  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Smordnys s'regrepsA (1160895) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:02PM (#21199765) Journal
    ...now stalking my favorite celebrity can be a group event!
  • Does the fact that this will be an open-source application compensate for the fact that this introduces yet another method of surveillance into society?
    • by Aladrin (926209)
      It'll depend on how instrumental it is in bringing about Skynet. Personally, I think it'll be pretty useful for it, so it goes in the 'evil' bucket. (Despite how unutterably cool it is.)
      • Human nature is finally recognized for what it is. If given the opportunity, any human being would exercise supreme authority over other human beings.

        Downmodding posts is like destroying bugs; it is an admission of guilt.
    • by facon12 (1128949)
      yes, it may be used to invade privacy, violate civil rights if used by the government, and for stalking, but everyone can do it equally, and that makes it ok.
    • by edunbar93 (141167)
      And more importantly, pervasive surveillance. Just you wait until they make public displays of affection illegal.
    • by jibster (223164) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:24PM (#21200037)
      Maybe the glass is half full.

      Think of a peaceful protest group using, an admittedly far superior, form of this to camera swarm the police. The perpetrator of any action, a policeman clubbing an innocent citizen for instance, might question their actions if they knew they were surrounded by this swarm.
    • by ackthpt (218170) *

      Does the fact that this will be an open-source application compensate for the fact that this introduces yet another method of surveillance into society?

      First single nanotube radios, now this. We're gonna need more than one tin-foil hat.

      Be glad they are colour CCDs, the B/W CCDs are about 4 times more sensitive and will pick up more detail in lower light. Should you see a cellphone which looks like someone has operated on it and sports a thermoelectric cooling unit, you should be afraid, very afraid.

      "lowlight sensitive and low noise, now just imagine a beowulf cluster of them!"
      "i can't, i'm thinking how in soviet russia cell phones will be calling o

    • Clearly we all need to start wrapping tinfoil around our cell phones as well as our heads.
    • by davidsyes (765062)
      And, you can bet that AT&T will dip their grungy fingers into the code and obsequiously supply the alphabet soup names agencies with code to throw off the positioning far worse than GPS. They'll supply them with real-time image detection and distortion capabilities. Maybe even bluescreen/reboot the phone as a mild warning, or outright cripple the service. After all, the government HATES competition...
  • by edunbar93 (141167) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:13PM (#21199913)
    it could be used to make a quick and dirty surveillance system

    Emphasis on "dirty". People take those things into their homes and leave them on their bedroom end-tables you know.
  • by blhack (921171) * on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:17PM (#21199963)
    But does it run skullbocks?
  • F&TF3: Tokyo Drift (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OctoberSky (888619) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:20PM (#21199995)
    Is this basically the last drive sequence of F&TF3: Tokyo Drift?

    Where all the kids are viewing/filming the race down the mountain as it goes by?

    I thought that technology (well, that CGI) was rediculous but maybe it's not that far away?

    (NOTE: Give me Karma, I admitted to watching that movie, that's gotta count for something).
  • I can see this being advantageous for single system, but for people in general? This just reeks of being impractical.

    For one, no one I KNOW walks with their cameras out in front of them, so the cameras would have setup such a way such that there is a single camera dedicated to capture the event. How do you know a camera is going to capture an event in the first place? Seriously, phones are for talking, not being your peeping-tom from afar.

    Now for virii spreading purposes, this sounds awesome. Just set a pho
    • by LinEagle (1180795)

      Now for virii spreading purposes should be... Now for virus spreading purposes

      There, fixed it for you.

    • by Troed (102527)
      Seriously, phones are for talking

      You must be a USian. The rest of the world moved on a long time ago. The "phone" is the mobile Internet and media companion in your pocket - the digital "you".

      • by Seakip18 (1106315)
        Actually, I use my phone for streaming media, checking email and goggle maps. The point I'm making here is that if you want a surveillance camera, your phone is a poor substitute for one. Just like it is a poor substitute for a web browser, video playback or a folded map(or does the digital age eschew all things dead tree based?). It'll get the job done, but not necessarily the best. What your does better than those previous devices, is handle phone calls.

        And sorry about the virii slipup. Damn flu shot I go
      • by Torvaun (1040898)
        You must be thinking of my PDA, not my phone.
        • by Troed (102527)
          The number of people willingly carrying around several devices so closely matched in size and features are so low that they're not an interesting share of the market.

          Q: Why did Apple make the iPhone?
          A: They knew mobiles (Sony Ericsson Walkman amongst others) would take over their iPod business

    • I can see this being advantageous for single system, but for people in general? This just reeks of being impractical.

      For one, no one I KNOW walks with their cameras out in front of them, so the cameras would have setup such a way such that there is a single camera dedicated to capture the event. How do you know a camera is going to capture an event in the first place? Seriously, phones are for talking, not being your peeping-tom from afar.


      It would be pretty easy to strap a cell phone to your vest, wou
    • by geekoid (135745)
      "Seriously, phones are for talking, not being your peeping-tom from afar."

      Thanks for the thought, gramps.

      Seriously though, when something that does happen people want to record, there will be several people recording it. That is when it is useful.

      The bigger the event, the more people will be recording it. Most of the time, the bigger the event the more important it is.

    • For one, no one I KNOW walks with their cameras out in front of them, so the cameras would have setup such a way such that there is a single camera dedicated to capture the event. How do you know a camera is going to capture an event in the first place?

      RTFA. The positions of the phones are assumed to be static. They use the motion of people around them to work out a few basic things about their relative positions, and that's really about it. The slash blurb makes it sound a lot more interesting than it real
  • I predict (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff@gind u l i s . n et> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:21PM (#21200009)
    That the police are going to really dislike this.
    • by poetmatt (793785)
      I always knew 360 degree camera porn was coming
      • Oh my.

        Bullet-time, swoop around come shots?

        Actually, in slow mo- people's bodies look disturbingly ripply.
        • by poetmatt (793785)
          Somehow I didn't exactly think my plan through that far. Definitely not. Something about "gettin jiggy with it" I have a hard time visualizing in this case, it seems more like T-Rex from Orgasmo.
    • by mpe (36238)
      That the police are going to really dislike this.

      Especially if there is no easy way to cause it to malfunction. As often appears to be the case with publically accessiable webcams near the site of any kind of demonstration. Even more so if the resolution is high enough to clearly see police officers faces and/or read their badges.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:24PM (#21200033) Journal
    I've spent some time designing and programming (but will never finish) something similar to this, just using cellphones' audio capabilities. Imagine getting twenty random people at a concert to call into a server and leave their cellphones running, recording the concert from twenty different points. From the overall stream, you should be able to derive an excellent, local-noise-removed bootleg, and from a bit of playing with signal intensities you should be able to figure out where the individual recorders were and do some nice sound balancing.

    We're all carrying these great little computers: we should start doing networked or collaborative stuff with them.
    • That seems really interesting but (Warning: non audio engineer question ahead) How would you deal with the distortion the audio goes through between transmission and general crappy quality input (ie microphones) on the phones themselves?

      I guess the little dinky mic may not be so different from a typical bootleg though...Still, neat idea. It makes sense that you could do that kind of manipulation, but I'd never really considered it (Signals *really* is not my forte)
      • Yeah, it'd be crap. My hope is that by using multiple microphones and relying on the fact that they're bad in different ways, you'd be able to derive a fair amount of quality. Obviously, information that none pick up is lost. But oversampling to partially compensate for poor signal/noise is done with a lot of other noisy signals.
        Signals isn't my forte either, by a long shot. It's just an idea I thought was interesting, so I started playing with using some dsp software mixers.
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      From the overall stream, you should be able to derive an excellent, local-noise-removed bootleg,

      Great idea. you are forgetting one small tidbit. Audio quality will suck because of 2 things you fail to consider. Microphone quality in cellphones is below dismal. Think lower than toy quality. Secondly the audio processing aspects of callphones is just as dismal. Unless you can get an open hardware platform to scab on decent microphones and decent audio circuits and encoders it will not sound any better th
      • by mpe (36238)
        Great idea. you are forgetting one small tidbit. Audio quality will suck because of 2 things you fail to consider. Microphone quality in cellphones is below dismal. Think lower than toy quality. Secondly the audio processing aspects of callphones is just as dismal.

        Actually they are both quite good for the intended purpose. Which is to pick up speach from within a few cm of the microphone.

        Unless you can get an open hardware platform to scab on decent microphones and decent audio circuits and encoders it
        • by Lumpy (12016)
          Actuayy it's a bootlegging hat. iRiver recording mp3 player and a set of binuaral microphones placed carefully in them so the audio hole is unobscured on each microphone. works exceptionally well. except when you turn your head so you need to be trained not to turn your head during songs.

          I get recordings that are typically far better than the live albums you can buy. adding a 9V battery box increases the dynamic range even better. if you are at outdoor loud events, adding some attenuation also works wo
  • Little Brother? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So if you have a huge surveillance system that isn't controlled by anyone, is that the opposite of Big Brother?
  • It works in a lab but the real question is how well does this perform in the real world...
  • The Swiss team also found a unique characteristic of the network that it used to swarm around one of the nodes more often than not. Later they pinned it on the only hot blonde in the team.
  • How about combining everyones cellphone cameras into a large Telescope Array, or at least a very detailed camera?
  • Huh ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by ant-1 (120272)
    A CCTV system from BT cellphones ? Why, oh why ? Because boffins have time and my money to lose ?
    Somebody please explain the use of such a... discovery ?

    Ah.

    Surveillance.
    I get it now. The T word is about to be spoken, again. Great. I'm looking forward to BT-holding surveillance militia roaming the streets.
  • So now someone could be watching all those cell phone cameras everybody is so afraid of. If the phones could somehow figure out where they're pointing and stich the images together.. *shudder*
    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      So now someone could be watching all those cell phone cameras everybody is so afraid of. If the phones could somehow figure out where they're pointing and stitch the images together.. *shudder*
      No need for Google Street View?
  • Bluetooth is a big power draw as well as the camera. Also cell phone data costs alot as well.
  • sounds like it wouldn't run very long given battery life in phones, sounds more like just a neat idea that won't go anywhere...
  • Most people I know don't keep their cell phones in some snap-off carrier on their belt like a modern-geek pocket protector. They stay in pockets, where they can't see. And women keep them in purses. So only a few phones are actually going to be able to see without their owners holding them out on purpose.

    What's the point of this, again?
    • by T-Bone-T (1048702)
      That is exactly what I was thinking. How is this going to be effective if most of the cameras can't see anything?
      • by geekoid (135745)
        Becasue if there is something worth seeing, more people will take there cameras out of their pockets.

        You are also overlooking the fact that if Gollum had one, he would have know what was in Bilbo's pocketess
  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @02:48PM (#21200335)
    Good!
  • I think soon, the last thing most of the public cameras need to see is a paintball or the business end of a spraycan. Just remember to wear a mask, hat and cloak while doing it- since you are going to be surveilled by multiple cameras as you take them out. For irony, I suggest a "V" mask.
    • by superwiz (655733)
      There has got to be a Natalie Portman joke sitting somewhere in this comment.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Cameras in everybody's hand is a good thing. It levels the playing field.
      • Not if the government can monitor it and enforce arbitrary morality and political laws based on it.

        Only privacy protects that. Privacy comes with it's own risks and abuses but carries some ability to redress abuses.

        • by geekoid (135745)
          If everyone does it, it minimizes abuse of power.

          In '1984' monitoring was bad because the people couldn't monitor the 'government', and if they could they had no recourse.

          In the US, people actually do have recourse, and in fact have protection that help them.
          Do people try to over ride those laws for there own agenda? From time to time, yes. Inevitably they get slapped down.
          We also have the advantage of being able to remove someone from office.

          Plus your appearance on a public area is not private information.
          • I really think you don't get blue laws, the great enlightenment, the communist scare in the 50's, the popularity of slavery, killing people for committing adultery, or sharia islamic law.

            We need protection FROM the majority. For some seriously extended periods of history a majority of the population can get really weird. Sometimes only a tiny secret flickering flame of liberty remains.
  • by jpfed (1095443)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't CCTV mean "closed-circuit television"? As in, the camera is connected with a solid conductor to the display? If that's the case, then wouldn't a system that transmitted video over the air (at least, without displaying it locally first) be something other than CCTV?
  • Anyone else read Prey by Michael Crichton? It deals with swarms of miniature cameras and the havoc that ensues. Hopefully these people will be more responsible than the ones in the book. And hopefully the stuff won't go berserk on us and start killing us.
    • by KlaymenDK (713149)
      Granted, it's been a while since I read Prey, but I recall nothing about cameras. Swarms, yes. Miniature, yes: nanoscale. But cameras? Hmm.

      Scary book nonetheless, though.
  • This is alot of broadcasting for something that is slightly useful to the average person. What about those with phones in their pockets, now spamming your crotch with useless radiation.
  • A professor of mine is working on using swarms of cell phones as a distributed self organizing sensor and computing network. Part of the project involved a new programming language to specifically deal with the spatial distribution of the phones.
    Here's his page on the project: http://www.research.rutgers.edu/~uli/Sarana/ [rutgers.edu] (summary PDF at the bottom)
  • What someone should do is get mobile phones with cameras and bluetooth and when they're in a group surrounding some event, they make a 3d model that can be later downloaded onto the computer, so the viewer can change angle whenever they want. Much more interesting than surveillance!
  • This technology of providing cheap way to monitor environment present more harm than good. It's highly abusive especially in the hands of teenagers...

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