Simple Sensors

In Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (with help from our old friends and collaborators The Incredible Machine) is experimenting with privacy-first data collection in public space with their Responsible Sensing Lab project Simple Sensors.

Privacy-first data collection is one of the essential building blocks that we need to get to any acceptable version of smart city, and so far this has been largely elusive.

With Simple Sensors, Amsterdam is prototyping privacy-first sensing for public spaces, including these sensors that can count people without compromising their privacy. They also show what data is collected, so folks can see it works, and when it’s uploaded. Citizens can adjust their own behavior in real time while also knowing that the system will not use it in real-time.

This project looks extremely promising for some types of application:

Cities are increasingly smart. Often this also leads to more data collection in public space. The Simple Sensors project investigates how cities can collect data responsibly. With sensors that show what is measured, who uses the data and for what purpose.
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The Simple Sensors embodiment of the mmWave technology conveys that this sensor only senses how many people are detected and not who these people are. It enables the City to measure crowds and movements of people while maintaining the privacy of citizens. Therefore, the mmWave sensor could be a privacy friendly alternative for cameras using object recognition, which is a common technology but with major privacy concerns.

For me, this hits all the right buttons: Empowering citizens without putting the burden of protecting their privacy against a city system.