In Watch Dogs, our hero Smartphone Punisher, er, Aiden Pearce uses the infrastructure of Chicago — which has all been wired together into a massive network designed to track citizens and measure the probability of events — to kill gangsters, troll coffee shops, and generally blow stuff up real good. But, of course, that’s a complete fiction. The city of Chicago doesn’t yet have tools to monitor citizens built into its very infrastructure. Notice our use of the word “yet.”
That’s because they’re actually working on it! In fact, they’re going to start this year, with a set of sensors built into street lights, according to the Chicago Tribune:
The smooth, perforated sheaths of metal are decorative, but their job is to protect and conceal a system of data-collection sensors that will measure air quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation, and wind. The sensors will also count people by observing cell phone traffic.
The people installing the sensors, the University of Chicago and the Department of Energy, claim that they won’t collect any identifying data and are just interested in counting pedestrians. Certainly they wouldn’t scan your phone for any identifying information, like your phone number. Oh, and if you were wondering, yes, the plan is to install these across Chicago in the coming years.
To be fair, the only thing odd about this is that it’s permanent; cities have been collecting data on how people move throughout it for years and that data has become more fine-grained and precise over time. Many cities need this data to retime traffic lights, choose new pedestrian crossings, and set up the background for enormous privacy scandals.
So far, there are no plans to wire this into anything fun, like steam pipes or tire spikes, but give it time; we’re sure connecting it to traffic lights are on the way. Fortunately, Chicago is not rife with mercenaries who will kill anyone for money and there are no superhackers walking around the city with a “blow stuff up” app. Well, yet.