Big Brother, a.k.a. Video Surveillance, Is Watching You in Chicago

Operation Virtual Shield may serve to recognize suspicious behavior.

Chicago is developing a futuristic video surveillance system designed to scan city streets looking for everything from bombs to traffic jams.

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For the past few years, the Windy City has been rolling out thousands of video surveillance cameras linked by fiber-optic cables. Called Operation Virtual Shield, the system is intended to give the city’s emergency response coordination agency the ability to keep track of emergencies remotely, in real time.

Now, with the help of IBM, Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) is looking to expand the system’s capabilities so that IBM’s software can analyze the thousands of hours of video recorded by Operation Virtual Shield’s cameras.

“I think what this software might be able to do is recognize suspicious behavior and alert our people as to what it sees,” says Kevin Smith, a spokesman for OEMC.

According to Smith, the software could recognize a package that had been left in a public place or a car parked where no car is supposed to be.

IBM is talking to a number of cities about rolling out similar projects, but none is as advanced as Operation Virtual Shield.

OEMC’s Smith would not say how much the city is spending on the project or when it expects the video analytics capabilities to go live.

“The challenge is going to be teaching computers to recognize the suspicious behavior,” says Smith.

So when you’re visiting the City of Broad Shoulders, don’t do anything in public you don’t want anyone to see. Because soon someone will be able to.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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