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January 6, 2006

Wired lampposts hit Scotland

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A company called "Compliance Technology" will soon install 4,000 solar powered lampposts in Scotland to provide not only off-the-grid light, but wi-fi wireless Internet access, as well. And there will apparently be enough energy left over to sell the excess to the national grid.

According to a news article at Dundee University, where the first lights are being installed: "It is envisaged that every street lamp in the UK could be changed to solar energy over a period of approximately 3-5 years. The impact of this is enormous....Every solar panel is also fitted with the latest WIFI or WIMAX technology, powered by the solar cell."

Of course, it wouldn't be hard to build RFID readers right into those lampposts, too. Already, solar powered street lights are being equipped with surveillance cameras.

Imagine the potential of electrical power and anywhere-placement combined with Internet connectivity and surveillance capabilities. Were it not for the camouflage benefits, a snoop might be tempted to dispense with the light fixture altogether and jump right to the chase. Authorities (or marketers) could set up wi-fi/surveillance-cam/RFID scanning anywhere there's sunlight.

In our book, Spychips, Liz and I discuss places where creative companies have hidden RFID readers, like floor tiles and picture frames. (Yikes! Could the Mona Lisa someday secretly scan your skivvies?) And the thought of of an RFID reader hidden in a lamppost has crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

When I was in England last year, I was creeped out by the thought that their RFID-rigged Oyster cards could be read right through people's wallets or purses to identify them anywhere British authorities had thought to place a reader. Of course, this could be a picture frame or a floor tile, but at the time the example that occurred to me was a lamppost. "What if I'm carrying this Oyster card in my wallet and the lamppost on the corner scans me as I walk past?" That day may not be far off.

Posted by Katherine Albrecht at January 6, 2006 7:11 AM

Comments

The thing I find amazing is that despite turning their country into a surveillance state, the british police completely suck at finding perps. If I were to debate the merits of camera proliferation, I would just try to make the point that increased crime detection wouldn't be worth the privacy violations that result. It wouldn't occur to me to argue that the cameras would be so ineffective but they sure are.

Posted by: Noid at January 30, 2006 9:00 PM

You can't be serious?!?

Posted by: Mary Box at August 19, 2006 3:19 AM

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