Monday, December 3, 2012

Police "Automated License Plate Readers" - A Balance Between Police Intelligence And Privacy

Are automatic license plate readers a violation of privacy?

Technologically - "You ain't seen nothing yet" in regards to computer aided surveillance in the hands of law enforcement.

Take the modern day hand-held laser gun that the police must hold in hand by the side of the highway and connect it to a system with "Computer Vision" that captures a picture of ALL of the cars in the view of the camera and renders an individual speed measure upon the screen for the police officer to cheery pick his target.   Don't bother slowing down.  By the time you realize that your speed has been captured - it will be too late.  Prepare to pay your speeding ticket.

The pervasive scanning done by the actual subject of the story at the link above - Automated License Plate Reader - is a matter of strict policy.

The same police car that could scan for a car that has a driver with outstanding warrants (a good thing) is the same platform that could be mounted in various places around a city or highway system and monitor the movement of virtually ever single car on the road - for no other reason than the creation of a 'Big Brother' Tracking System.

The data handling policies associated with this movement toward ALPRs are key.
The police agencies should not be allowed to retain their data for more than a few days.   They should not be allowed to "sell" the data.  There should not be a massive national "data warehouse" where all of this data is aggregated.

Failing these policies the conditions in the movie "Gattaca" will be upon us.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Facedeals - Computer Facial Recognition Software

If there is an opportunity cost to my blogging activity it is this space. I was supposed to clear C++ and then C# in order to get into OpenCV.

People are using the Microsoft Kinect hardware and SDK along with OpenCV to do some pretty amazing things with computer vision.

If you see my blogging activity taper off significantly - you should assume that I have changed priorities and focused upon this area.

Red Pepper Labs

Saturday, July 7, 2012

LevelUp - Mobile Payments Via 2D Barcode From Your Phone

LevelUp Mobile Payments Service

Level Up has an interesting angle on mobile payments.

Just as Near Field Communications (NFC) prepares to be rolled out by the major mobile phone operators and device manufacturers , Level Up has chosen to use a software client that generates dynamic 2D barcodes on the user's screen for reading by a cellphone that is affixed to the retail merchant's pay station.

This is innovative.

Where as NFC requires a device with NFC circuitry (a radio and a secure storage location to house the digital keys that associate your phone with the payment card account you wish to use), the use of 2D bar codes for transmission of customer identification is far more universal.  NFC is limited by the number of handsets in the field deployed with this feature.

Nearly every modern phone has a display to render a 2D bar code.

It is possible for a rogue 'man in the middle' camera to position itself behind the merchant's counter and take a picture of the customer's bar code.  The real question is:  Is the 2D bar code dynamically generated per transaction?  (and is there a PIN that must also be entered in by the consumer?)

In my opinion - the market should be open to a multitude of payment media.  It is far more important to achieve a critical balance of users of mobile payments than to have this genre (again) be slowed down as the oligopolists (banks, telecom companies, credit card processors, device manufacturers) pursue their own selfish interests by having their standard win out at the expense of others.

I am not sure about the 0% interchange fee charged by LevelUp.   They are about to receive some serious competition in the next 2 years.  They need to have sufficient financial resources to survive.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Raspberry Pi - A $35US Computer Set To Take Over The World

A dirt cheap, single board computer
A monitor
Some programming skills

This little board could be used as:

  • An embedded PC to add logic to a device that presently has little (ie: A web cam that is empowered to do facial recognition)
  • A low cost Internet access PC
  • An @home sensor network to do home automation and security

Monday, May 21, 2012

Microsoft Kinect Makes It Into The Operating Room

If there is one opportunity cost of my political punditry in my other blogs is it that I have fallen woefully short on my promise to go temporarily deep back into programming in order to understand the Microsoft Kinect (and Open CV - computer vision) on my way to developing practical solutions for the commercial markets.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tech Revenues From Lawsuits In Defense Of Intellectual Property

Oracle Sues Google For $1B In Stolen IP Used In The Android OS

Personally - I wish I had $2 billion in order to be sued for $1B.

From what I have read in the article - Oracle has a strong case.

The e-mail trail shows that Google officials were aware of how close they came to consuming Oracle/Sun's intellectual property from the Java programming language.  They took action to attempt to scrub overt use of Java technology but they leverage it as the development language for Android programs in the SDK.

I predict a negotiated settlement but Oracle has a strong set of claims.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Square Allows A Larger Array Of Retailers To Accept Payment Cards

The last time I went to my barber to get my son's hair cut I had to step away to get cash.   The barber informed me that he could now accept credit cards.

I was not sure of the method by which he would process the card so I opted to run out to the ATM for cash.

Upon my subsequent visit to the barbershop I noticed the "We Accept Credit Cards" sticker on his mirror along with the "Square" logo. 

He had purchased the Square service and the little magnetic card reader that plugs into his iPhone.

This innovation should exponentially increase the number of retailers/service providers that can offer payment card options to their customers.

Previously a merchant would need to go to their bank and apply for a "merchant id" and go through an extensive credit-worthiness check before being allowed to accept credit cards en masse.

It appears that Square merely extends the "person to person" payment system that we know from "Paypal", further into the commercial space.  

While this expanded window for merchants (easier establishment of an account) poses a greater risk for fraud I believe that it will be balanced out by the great increase in transactions to debt cards instead of cash.

Let's hope that Square has a sufficiently higher level of scrutiny placed upon exceptional transactions (suspiciously large or suspiciously frequent) and is more aggressive in shutting down rogue "merchants" than a bank with a more formal establishment with their merchant customer needs to be.

I believe that this is a net positive - as long as people use Debit instead of Credit.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Encyclopedia Britannica ends print, goes digital

Encyclopedia Britannica ends print, goes digital

The writing was on the wall for this one for several years now.

I grew up in an age where parents invested in an encyclopedia set at home to give their children an advantage when they were doing their homework.

Today the Internet and various tools have nullified the benefit of having a set of books on hand.

If anything static text can't keep up with the dynamic changes in this fast pace world.

At the same time - no printed book has ever gotten infected with a virus that kept it from booting up.