DARPA’s Automated Video Surveillance Will End Public Anonymity
By Evan Dashevsky
o be in public is to be on camera, but most video footage is discarded, as only so much can be sorted and analyzed — until now. DARPA has created a technology that can index and analyze video in real-time, marking the end of anonymity in public places.
In 2008, DARPA, the US military’s elite group of pocket protector warriors, began soliciting the tech industry to develop technologies that would allow computers to sort through and index surveillance footage from the military’s fleet of drones, satellites, and miscellaneous other super secret spy cameras. This was all part of the Agency’s proposed Video Image Retrieval and Analysis Tool (VIRAT) that would be able to describe specific human activities in real-time. This automated index would allow for searchable queries (i.e. “how often did an adult male taller than six-foot get in a car in the early morning between November 1st and December 22nd in this compound in Abbottabad?”) or flag behavior such as when someone carries a large package towards a car on the side of a road in Basra, but walked away empty handed.
And it appears that DARPA has had some success to this end. Earlier this week, the military released a mandated contract announcement describing how the VIRAT system will be deployed into various military-intelligence video archives and systems. The contract will be fulfilled by Lockheed Martin for an unspecified amount. We haven’t been given any detailed information on how this new technology works or how accurate it is, only that a belt-tightening defense industry is willing to invest in it.