Researchers at Purdue University have found a new way to get surveillance cameras to “talk” to the people they see. The system is called PHADE, which stands for “private human addressing,” and it enables cameras to send messages to people’s devices when they’ve entered a specific area without collecting their personal data.
Instead of using an IP or MAC address, cameras equipped with PHADE create an “address code” based on a person’s motion patterns when they’ve entered their field of view. PHADE builds a packet with a customized message linked to that address code, and then broadcasts it out. If a target’s smartphone has the other end of PHADE’s tech, it builds a second address based on a user’s movement, comparing it to those attached to any packets it receives. If the two address codes match, the message is delivered.
The researchers claim PHADE protects privacy by “blurring” distinguishing data linked to the address codes and never extracting any data from the phone itself. The researchers posted a video summarizing their findings, testing out the PHADE system by sending messages to different individuals based on where they were standing in a mock museum. They claim a 90 percent correct matching rate.
The researchers sent visitors information based on what artwork they were looking at, but another application could be in supermarkets. Imagine browsing through the aisles of an Amazon Go store and receiving updates on products as you browse. PHADE is still in research stages, but retailers are already exploring tracking shoppers as they move in their stores.
“PHADE may also be used by government agencies to enhance public safety,” Siyuan Cao, co-author and PhD student, said in a press release. “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.”
Although this application has great potential for people with disabilities, their are certainly privacy concerns if government agencies manipulate the technology.