November 2020

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Cameras are Watching

Let us make them watch the world for us to make our lives easier and more productive and fun

Sudha Jamthe is a Technology Futurist and CEO of IoTDisruptions who mentors business leaders with Capstone projects to solve industry AI problems at Stanford Continuing Studies and online at DriverlessWorldSchool.

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Cameras are watching malls, office buildings and grocery stores to check if people are wearing masks and keeping social distancing.Today, people are driven by fear to accept privacy invasions to let facial recognition AI make these checks remotely. What happens after we are done with this new Covid normal? The genie is out of the bottle and is not going back. Not willingly.

Malls are installing cameras with facial recognition to check if a person is wearing a mask. The mall company has installed cameras watching us and is collecting data and watching the dashboard of visitors flowing through their buildings. Facilities managers must have watched the initial pilots nervously to see how many people are turned away and how often the facial recognition technology fails for people of darker skin tone or wearing a different hat or glasses. Companies have gone past their reluctance to adapt technology and made the investment in the technology system and the edge device watching us. There are jobs and processes tied to these technologies working now during covid times.

What happens after we have covid under control? What can the cameras watch next once they stop tracking for masks? The double-edged sword of technology is that it costs money to get set up and it will cost money to dismantle it. Companies will find that it is cheaper to find new uses for the same technology systems in buildings.

After years of waiting for buildings to become automated, and watching their slow progress to do this with the right ROI focused on energy efficiencies and remote management of building logistics, Covid has justified the ROI and brought cameras and AI and data with it to buildings everywhere in schools, offices, airports and malls. All of this collects data and is waiting with technology systems deployed with compromised privacy and ethics.

If covid justified stopping every person to check for masks and watching employees to ensure social distancing, will the post-covid world accept being stopped and counted and watched inside buildings after that?

As Prof.Virginia Dignum says Responsible AI is about the combination of acceptance from technology, society and ethical standards. Technology is not going anywhere as the initial investment has already been amortized. The societal justification that we got from covid will be gone with covid. What will be left is questions about ethics before we find new applications of these AI technologies.

In the post-Covid world, the real question we should ask ourselves is how do we go from technology trying to find a new problem to solve after covid to adapting our decision making to be data-driven and ethical simultaneously.

I see this not just for technology and data but the infrastructure and mind shift when an AI is pushed back by regulation for being unethical. Is ethics in technology going to stay in this state of entropy led by regulation only? The never never world is calling us to embrace ethics in technology as we accelerate its adoption.

AI ethicists are growing in number and speaking about Ethical standards. There are several AI Ethics standards evolving, and many new job roles evolving for ethical and responsible AI globally. It is the perfect time for us to take a step back and re-imagine the post covid world and what being connected means for us. Can we build autonomous buildings such that we can be smart about our mobility and not be tethered to an office space while maintaining the social aspect of work? Can we use AI to serve us to reduce inefficiencies instead of automating to replace our jobs? Can we do this in a fair and equitable way?

"UIB and Bosch are 2020 Singapore International Chamber of Commerce (SICC) Awards finalists with their "Creating Connected Buildings with Conversational IoT” solution. This solution helps devices come to life by allowing us to chat with them using Whatsapp." One of their customer solutions was to get Bosch cameras in airports to watch lines (queues) outside coffee shops to tell us which shop will get us food fastest as we rush through transit in airports. Imagine what would you like to ask that camera watching your office or warehouse?

sudha source: Bosch.

Travel and socializing seems so far away today, but when covid is gone, those cameras are not going away. So instead of watching our faces, let us make them watch the world for us to make our lives easier and more productive and fun.

Author bio  Sudha Jamthe is a Technology Futurist and CEO of IoTDisruptions who mentors business leaders with Capstone projects to solve industry AI problems at Stanford Continuing Studies and online at DriverlessWorldSchool.


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