Big Brother is watching your social-distancing! Over 1,000 AI scanners are monitoring how close pedestrians are walking to each other on streets of London, Manchester and other major UK cities
- Manufacturers Vivacity said data is used by officials to ‘inform policy decisions’
- Are now used to identify pedestrians from other traffic and work out distances
- In response to privacy concerns said no footage is saved or personal data kept
More than 1,000 AI scanners are monitoring how close pedestrians get to each other in London, Manchester and other British cities to supply the government with data on social distancing.
The sensors were initially intended to track the flow of traffic, cyclists and walkers to work out how roads were being used, but after lockdown in March were fitted with the new feature.
Manufacturers Vivacity said the data is used to ‘inform policy decisions’, and in response to privacy concerns said that none of the footage is saved, streamed or used for enforcement purposes.
A grab from one of the AI cameras, showing how they are able to pick out individual pedestrians and cyclists
Its CEO Peter Mildon told BBC Radio Kent: ‘They are not recording any footage, they are not streaming any footage and no one is actually watching it,’ he said.
‘We’ve trained an algorithm to be able to recognise what a pedestrian looks like as opposed to a cyclist or a van or truck.
‘We’re creating a set of statistics on how behaviour is changing in terms of how people are staying close together or apart.
A close up of one of the traffic cameras
‘And it is that data that is then useful for informing policy decisions on whether there should be a two metre rule or a one metre plus rule or whether local lockdown measures are having the impact they are envisioned to.’
The sensors are also in operation in Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham.
The issue of privacy was brought up at a Kent County Council scrutiny meeting on Tuesday after councillor Simon Jones revealed the cameras were ‘in the pipeline’ for the area, according to Kent Online.
Mr Mildon added: ‘Even if Kent Council wanted to use them for enforcement purposes they wouldn’t be able to
‘The [cameras] enable us to provide anonymous data on how the road is being used. There are huge benefits in understanding how that space is being used and how that can be improved or how it can be made safer.
‘The idea is to provide an evidence base to check that the interventions that are being put in and are having the policy benefits that the council envisioned in the first place.’
Aside from London – pictured – the sensors are also in operation in Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham
The Department for Transport said it receives monthly data reports from Vivacity to monitor the impact of Covid.
A spokesman told The Standard that no personal data is included in the reports.
The Department for Transport told the Evening Standard that the Government, along with a number of other bodies, receives monthly data reports from Vivacity which forms part of the department’s monitoring of the impact of Covid-19.
The information supplied to the department are aggregate findings and no personal data is included in these reports, said the DfT.