City lights spy on Farmington Hills, Michigan
All the townspeople have to do in return is give up their privacy.
Farmington Hills just became the first city in America to host a state-of-the-art system of lampposts that make up something called the Intellistreets system. Farmington Hills native Ron Harwood worked over ten years to make the project a reality, and as of Friday his dream had fully come to fruition. For his neighbors that dream of a future where their every move won’t be monitored, however, they might want to think about heading out of Michigan.
Simply put, the Intellistreets project is a system of Internet-connected luminaries that communicate with one another across the city. In addition to lighting the area, they can broadcast verbal and written messages, monitor rainfall and give directions.
According to their own website, the system is also great for “data harvesting.”
Not only does Intellistreets offer information about the neighborhood and provide light, it also monitors the conversations of pedestrians, records video, monitors foot-traffic and counts heads — all of which is recorded and stored for possible analysis. And according to Harwood, the tiny 80,000 community of Farmington Hills isn’t going to be the only town using his technology — Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh have placed orders and the inventor claims that he is in talks with the Department of Homeland Security.
“This is not a system with spook technology,” Harwood tells WXYZ News. To placate that argument, however, one must be comfortable knowing that their every move and whisper is recorded and monitored by a network of computers between posts that can be controlled by a central hub, iPhone or tablet.
Harwood’s cohort, Illuminating Concepts business development director Jeff Stribbell has the same thoughts. At the unveiling of the system in Farmington Hills last week, Stribbell acknowledged that the posts do make recordings — but that doesn’t mean you should be scared.
"These issues of security don't always mean that you're being videotaped. They mean, in some cases, that you're being informed,” said Stribbell.
Harwood himself adds that he thinks airport body scanners are more invasive than his own system. Regardless of which one he favors, it is no lie that the two are totally on par with one another. And although a festive media event accompanied the ribbon-cutting last week, outlets are quickly ignoring Harwood’s claims of using the technology to better the community and are dismissing them for the sneaky truth.
"The transformation of street lights into surveillance tools for Homeland Security purposes will only serve to heighten concerns that the United States is fast on the way to becoming a high-tech police state,” Infowars reported recently. Even abroad, London’s Daily Mail has singled out the project for infringing on civil liberties.
As a backlash began to hit Intellistreets, the company removed a YouTube video that offered an eerie insight into the surveillance capabilities, touts itself as “The solution for all college campuses” and discusses the system’s ability to store and analyze data. The video was also quick to once again note the Homeland Security features which have the potential to link up to government agencies. Infowars has since responded, asking, “If Intellistreets is such a cutting-edge concept that presents an array of wonderful benefits, as the promo video claims, then why remove it from You Tube?”
“Now that the company has tried to hide the video, it will only generate more suspicion about the true purpose behind Intellistreets and the level of involvement on behalf of Homeland Security,” reads a blog post on the site.
At $3,000 a piece, IntelliStreets luminaries have the potential of lowering energy costs by adjusting brightness to match the appropriate atmosphere and location. Additionally, the company says it has an endless number of entertainment options and can serve as a public address system of sorts and offer advertisements up to passersby. That’s right — it records video, counts heads and spews propaganda! When you put it that way, it’s no wonder that Harwood is in cahoots with Homeland Security.
As of Friday, Farmington Hills has nearly a dozen of the posts, which was afforded through $791,300 in federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funds the city was awarded in 2009.