Traffic cameras may soon be able to connect to your smartphone

PHADE, a new technology developed by researchers at Purdue University, allows public surveillance cameras – such as the ones attached to traffic lights – to send personalized messages to civilian smartphones without knowing the address of that device.

GCN describes one possible scenario where PHADE might come in handy: “You’re about to cross a downtown street and your smartphone beeps to tell you that a text message has arrived.  As you pull out your phone to check the message as you walk, the phone receives an alert from your local police — you’re about to step into the path of a rapidly approaching SUV!”

GCN also explains that PHADE “digitally associates people in the camera’s view with their smartphones by using the subjects’ behavioral address, or the identifiers extracted from their movements in the video… With PHADE, a video stream tracks the movements of people within range, then analyzes and encodes those movements as an ‘address.’ At the same time, an application on a subject’s smartphone is doing the same analysis using the phone’s sensors.  When PHADE broadcasts a message it will be received only by the smartphone that has a matching ‘address.’” This bypasses the traditional requirement for an IP or media access control address to deliver messages, and protects individuals’ privacy.

If you’re not convinced about the privacy aspect, PHADE allegedly ‘blurs’ the data it uses after delivering a message, preventing it from being used to ever identify the user of the smartphone.

The main purpose of PHADE, assure researchers, is to enhance public safety. PhD student and PHADE researcher Siyuan Cao explained that, “For example, the government can deploy cameras in high-crime or high-accident areas and warn specific users about potential threats, such as suspicious followers.”

However, PHADE has many potential uses, such as being “used to provide tailored information to visitors at museums or historical sites.”

You might be thinking that while this is really cool, it is also kind of freaky. You’re not alone. GCN says, “the prospects get even creepier if entities — whether government agencies or private-sector companies — combine PHADE with other technologies, such as face-recognition programs.”

Do you think PHADE has more potential to be a tool for safety, or potentially unsettling behavior?

Source: gcn.com – A majority of U.S. teens are taking steps to limit smartphone and social media use
Published: July 2018