from the police-state-problems dept
Techdirt has often written about CCTV surveillance, and its many pitfalls. But according to this story in the South China Morning Post, the provincial capital Harbin, in north-eastern China, has a very particular problem in this regard:
Last month visibility in Harbin dropped to below three metres because of heavy smog. On days like these, no surveillance camera can see through the thick layers of particles, say scientists and engineers.
It's hard to believe that terrorists will hang around, checking the local visibility, before deciding to launch their attacks. It's more likely that the issue here is the local police freaking out when they find they can't spy on what ordinary citizens get up to. But never fear, the Chinese government is on it:
To the authorities, this is a serious national security concern. Beijing has invested heavily to build up a nationwide surveillance network that lets police watch every major street and corner in main cities.
But with smoggy days becoming more frequent, the effectiveness of the system has been greatly compromised. Some fear terrorists may choose a smoggy day to launch attacks.
The National Natural Science Foundation of China funded two teams, one civilian and one military, to study the issue and has told the scientists involved to find solutions within four years.
Here's the kind of thing they are investigating:
Professor Zhang Li, an image processing expert with the department of electronic engineering of Tsinghua University, said the researchers might have to think out of the box.
Or, alternatively, they could just cut down on the pollution, which would be good for people's health in other ways.
"On the smoggiest days, we may need to use radar to ensure security in some sensitive areas," he said.
Microwaves or electromagnetic waves could travel through smog easily and bounce back if they hit an object. With the help of good software, sharp and clear images could be produced. But a radar camera would also generate radiation that harms people's health.