Shuttercam is a project by Responsible Sensing Lab (RSL), a collaboration between the City of Amsterdam and AMS Institute. In essence, RSL is a testbed for conducting research and experiments on how smart sensing technologies in public space – like cameras – can be designed in a way that makes the digital city 'responsible’.
At the Lab we invite academics and practitioners responsible for digital systems in the city to explore how to integrate social values such as autonomy, privacy and transparency in the design of these sensing systems in public space.
How to know when a camera ‘sees’ you?
The Shuttercam project originated based on the notion that citizens currently can not directly know or see if and when cameras in public space are monitoring you or not. The project also questions the necessity for many non-security related cameras in the city to be switched on indefinitely.
“The ultimate goal is to design cameras that gather only the required type or amount of data necessary for the city to operate or perform that specific task to safeguard the right of citizens to walk around freely and unobserved.”
Program Manager Responsible Urban Digitization
Experimenting with 3 prototypes at Marineterrein
The Shuttercam project will test 3 prototypes. These are installed at Marineterrein Amsterdam Living Lab (MALL) in the upcoming weeks.
First and foremost, the cameras within this project are all part of the crowd monitoring system by the City of Amsterdam, which is a privacy friendly system. So what do these cameras record or see for example?
A crowd monitoring system works with a camera that has an algorithm read out and analyzes video images. In addition to measuring crowds and displaying those crowds in usable numbers, the algorithm can also determine whether people keep a distance of 1.5 meters. All this is done in an anonymous manner that naturally complies with all privacy legislation.
The video images are not watched by a human but are processed automatically. Only a few frames are saved with unrecognizable, blurred people's faces. Those frames help to "train" the algorithm. Furthermore, the images are not saved.
1. Scheduled Shuttercam
The first camera, positioned on the roof of Kanteen 25 monitoring the public picnic area, is equipped with a shutter operating according to the following set time schedule over the year.
SUMMER SCHEDULE: April 14th – September 30st 2021
- 3 PM - 10 PM shutter open
- 10 PM - 3 PM shutter closed
- 9.00 AM - 10 PM shutter open
- 10 PM - 9 AM shutter closed
WINTER SCHEDULE: October 1st – March 31st 2022
- The shutter is closed 24hrs
2. Opt out Shuttercam
The second camera is situated at the street light in front of the “Commandantwoning”. It is equipped with a shutter that is operating according to the same set time year schedule but has a large push button. When Marineterrein Amsterdam visitors press the button, the shutter covers the camera for 15 minutes, like an opt out.
3. Winding Clock Shuttercam
At the column in front of Gebouw 027 (AMS Institute Westkade), the third camera is situated. It is equipped with a shutter that can be controlled via a winding mechanism. This clock needs to be winded manually once a week to ensure the shutter continues to open and close according to the set time schedule. This winding clock increases the costs and effort to keep the sensor running.
The winding mechanism adds a layer of physical limitation in the operation of the shutter at the physical hardware of the camera assembly as an experimental safeguard against any possible hacking of the remotely operable control system.
This experiment comes from the critique that it is becoming all too easy for parties to install new sensors and just keep them in place indefinitely. One of the reasons given is that the costs to do so are rapidly going down. In public organizations, there are procedures that need to be followed to re-evaluate the need for a sensor after a period of time. But there is risk these are not are always followed.
“During the test phase of this project, Marineterrein Amsterdam employees will have to manually rewind this camera once a week in order to be switched on. Let's see if they will actually do so.”
Smart City, Civic Technologies, Urban Innovations, Architect
Testing hypotheses with experiments
With these prototypes in place at Marineterrein Amsterdam Living Lab, several hypotheses are being tested by the Shuttercam project:
- Are cameras operated with shutters and an opening-closing time schedule preferred over cameras without a shutter?
- Are cameras with the possibility to opt out preferred even better?
- Does an opt out button make passengers feel more comfortable about the camera?
- Do passengers take control over the operation of the shutters when they have the choice?
- Will cameras still operate when authorities have to put effort in keeping it running?
- Do these experiments raise awareness about the need for cameras in general or the variety of goals they serve?
We would love to hear from you
The Responsible Sensing Lab team greatly appreciates your opinion on these experiments. Please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback or questions or send us a whatsapp message +316 3888 4192.
Shuttercam is a project by the Responsible Sensing Lab, a collaboration between the City of Amsterdam and AMS Institute. It is executed by: Tapp, Life Electronic and Marineterrein Amsterdam. Our goal is to present the outcome of the experiment during the summer.