Following the Boston Marathon bombings almost one year ago, the Boston Police Department started looking toward more high-tech means of securing the city against future attacks. They found the solution in the form of an artificially intelligent, self-learning surveillance network that now watches the entire city, and all of its inhabitants.
The Texas-based Behavioral Recognition Systems, Inc. (BRS Labs) headed by former Secret Service special agent John Frazzini has a reputation for developing advanced, AI-based surveillance platforms. The system the company built for Boston after the bombings is on the bleeding edge of such technology, and not only watches and analyzes human behavior, but learns from it to identify suspicious or abnormal activity.
It actually predict threats by itself, completely free of additional human programming, guidance or monitoring.
“Our system will figure out things you never thought of looking for,” BRS Labs chief science officer Wesley Cobb said in an IT ProPortal report. “You never thought to look for a car driving backwards up the entrance of a parking garage, for example. Our system will find that and alert on it, because it’s different from what it usually sees. It’s taught itself what to look for.”
AISight’s analysis of human behavior based on surveillance footage “promises to change the way humans conduct their surveillance of other humans,” and is already being adopted in Chicago and Washington as well. The company is also working on a similar system for organizers of the World Cup.
The system starts out by simply monitoring its environment, which is recorded through a closed-circuit television network of high-quality surveillance cameras spread throughout the city, and builds up a profile of normal behavior.
After accumulating enough data, AISight draws upon its “artificial neural networks,” which are designed to mimic analytical human brain functions, to recognize, learn and permanently register abnormal behavior without any additional pre or post-programming.
The core of the system itself needs surprisingly little installation and additional hardware, and can be attached to huge, sprawling networks of outdated cameras already present in any city. After a few days of hardware and software installation, AISight can begin “autonomously building an ever-changing knowledge base of activity seen through every camera on your video network.”
“We can recognize a precursor pattern that could be associated with a crime before it happens,” Cobb said. “In a lot of cases, you can see someone casing the joint, poking around the back of buildings, going where they shouldn’t be.”
Though BRS Labs states it’s “concerned about the privacy rights of individuals everywhere,” its easy to imagine the potential for abuse such systems could create, especially following the year-long leaks of highly classified bulk surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency.
Such programs were also justified and staunchly defended in the name of national security and born out of terrorist attacks like the Boston Bombing. Furthermore numerous government officials, congressional representatives, national security experts and even the White House have alleged and admitted such surveillance has done little to nothing to prevent potential terrorist incidents.