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Wireless Networking Privacy Hardware

Wireless Street Lamps for Traffic Monitoring 563

Posted by michael
from the one-big-hotspot dept.
RMH101 writes "The Register has a story about a UK initiative to create a country-wide wireless data network using street lamps. It's come to pass through a government initiative to monitor all cars' speed and location, all the time, everywhere. The company involved, Last Mile, are proposing an intelligent mesh of smart street lamps embedded with storage and wireless networking to create 200MBit network access across the UK, including remote areas not reachable by conventional broadband. Work is due to start this year."
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Wireless Street Lamps for Traffic Monitoring

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  • What if... (Score:5, Funny)

    by zeux (129034) * on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:49AM (#7985877)
    ... someone hacks in the system and makes the local police think that you are doing 150 mph with your 2 CV [lycos.fr]?
    • I know someone with a 125mph 2CV, will that do?


      For those who don't know, the 2CV tops out at around 80mph and its slightly larger cousin, the Dyane, at around 95mph. This sees its little 2-cylinder 600cc engine revving to over 7,000rpm, pretty close to its redline.


      Now, when you fit a 1,300cc four-cylinder from a Citroen GSA, then fit a turbocharger from a Mini Metro GT, you have a frankly very, very silly car.

  • by twiggy (104320) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:50AM (#7985891) Homepage
    Just wait until criminals and/or bored kids know where these things are embedded... the metal box they're going to need to protect it from damage is probably going to block any chance of a wireless signal from coming out ;-)

    While this sounds like a cool idea, I see too much room for abuse... Besides, they're using it to track all this traffic activity... do you want to use the government's internet connection so they can track that part of your life, too?
  • by shystershep (643874) * <bdshepherd@@@gmail...com> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:50AM (#7985892) Homepage Journal
    Big Brother-like monitoring/control vs. wireless connectivity everywhere there is a road.

    Gods and fishes! Somebody get me some aspirin!

  • monitoring (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sinucus (85222) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:50AM (#7985893)
    Is there anything left in the UK that isn't being monitored? Cameras on all the streets, in the stores and now wireless monitoring your speed. Bye bye 2004, hello 1984.
  • by Yoda2 (522522) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:50AM (#7985895)
    I'm sure all the cars going the wrong way would easily crash the software.
  • by sasquatch21 (184936) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:51AM (#7985901)
    As member of a rural area desperatly waiting for broadband, I see one big problem with the plan; most rural areas don't have streetlights!
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:52AM (#7985914) Homepage Journal

    This is a privacy issue, not a technology issue. This would allow the police to track your car all over the country.
  • by strictnein (318940) * <strictfoo-slashdot@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:53AM (#7985917) Homepage Journal
    in streetlights? Does that make any sense to anyone? Considering that most street lights are meant to snap off their bases if enough force is applied to them, it just doesn't seem like the ideal location for that type of hardware.

    But man, talk about scary big brother tactics: "a government initiative to monitor all cars' speed and location, all the time, everywhere"

    • huh? Are you suggesting that people are going to start snapping these puppies off to steal the wireless routers? There's enough cameras pointed on you in England to make this a really foolish move.

      If you are implying that the network could be compromised by one of these snaping off; I'm sure there would be some redundancy.

      why would the equipment be expensive? It certainly wouldn't cost more than a streetlight. Plus only the antenna would need to be on the streetlight itself, the rest could be bu
      • I used to work in a distribution yard in the UK.

        A 17t unit was manouvering outside the yard and manage to wrench a lamp-post off its base by gently reversing over it (no real damage to the unit.

        Now if the number of wrecked speed-cameras in the UK are anything to go by, the truck drivers will start going after these too.

      • by strictnein (318940) * <strictfoo-slashdot@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:21PM (#7986247) Homepage Journal
        Are you suggesting that people are going to start snapping these puppies off to steal the wireless routers

        No, when a car hits them (which happens on a semi-frequent basis in any major metropolitan area). They're made to snap off to decrease the damage done to the car and occupants. They're also easier to repair if they snap completely off then if they would just bend when hit.
        Next time you walk by one, take a little bit closer look at it. They're typically connected to the base by 4 large bolts usually with some type of cushioning, semi-plyable material in between. When a car hits it the four bolts snap and the pole falls over, typically breaking just the bolts and the light and causing minimal damage to the vehicle. To repair it they simply replace the light and the four bolts.

        Plus only the antenna would need to be on the streetlight itself, the rest could be buried underground.

        That wouldn't make too much sense and would be much more expensive/time consuming to install and repair. You don't see a lot of burried phone boxes. But who knows, this is the government.
    • most street lights are meant to snap off their bases if enough force is applied

      Not around here they're not. I saw a car go into a lamppost at about 20mph a few years ago; the lamppost is still there.

      And some years before I saw the lampposts outside my parents' house being moved back so the pavement (sidewalk) could be widened. Thick metal tubes going at least 6 feet (2m) into the ground aren't about to snap.

      YLMV...

      • Not around here they're not. I saw a car go into a lamppost at about 20mph a few years ago; the lamppost is still there.

        hmm... I guess I was making the (seemingly incorrect) assumption that most places had started using those. I've even seen a TV show that featured a section on them.

        Oh well... again, I'm an idiot.
    • in streetlights? Does that make any sense to anyone? Considering that most street lights are meant to snap off their bases if enough force is applied to them, it just doesn't seem like the ideal location for that type of hardware.

      Makes sense to me. They're high in the air over the road already, there's power there, and there's so damn many of them that the loss of one won't take down the whole system. It's perfect, in a technical sense.

  • by bc90021 (43730) * <{bc90021} {at} {bc90021.net}> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:53AM (#7985921) Homepage
    I'm guessing that war driving will get *really* easy after this... It will probably increase the number of "war walkers" as well, and I'd bet we'd even start to see "war sitters" on the curbs! ;)
    • I'm guessing that war driving will get *really* easy after this... It will probably increase the number of "war walkers" as well, and I'd bet we'd even start to see "war sitters" on the curbs! ;)

      I know that your post was meant to be funny, but it brings up some interesting anonymity issues. If anyone with a laptop -- anywhere in the UK can have Internet access without accountability, does this open new doors for British crackers?

  • by Darth_brooks (180756) <clipper377.gmail@com> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:53AM (#7985924) Homepage
    All brit's posting to slashdot have officially lost the right to make references to the U.S. being an orwellian, facist state in comparison to their own.

    You guys seem to have so many cameras and tracking systems going in that country of yours you probably enjoy the privacy offered by Las Vegas casinos.
    • Re:It's official (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jez9999 (618189)
      We ever had that right? :-) Ya know, until maybe 5 years ago, the US's respect for its citizens privacy and freedom was legendary. It might be hard to remember, but they're the values the USA was founded upon! They lasted quite a long time, and it's very telling that there is constant criticism of the government over there for infinging too many citizen's rights, whilst over here all the media can say is 'how lucky we are that our government cares so much about our security!'
      • Re:It's official (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hatta (162192)
        I don't know about that. The war on drug users has been going on for decades. If there's a more essential liberty than the right to control ones own body chemistry, I don't know what it is.
        • Re:It's official (Score:3, Insightful)

          by j-turkey (187775)

          I don't know about that. The war on drug users has been going on for decades. If there's a more essential liberty than the right to control ones own body chemistry, I don't know what it is.

          Not to mention all of the liberties taken away from Americans in the name of the "War on Drugs". But then again, American drug laws (and prisons) are less harsh than most other countries.

          But let's not forget world's attitudes and drug policies came from urging and strategic policy meetings from America's first drug

        • Re:It's official (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jxs2151 (554138)
          If there's a more essential liberty than the right to control ones own body chemistry, I don't know what it is.

          It is the right to be free of the shared costs of potheads ruining their bodies and asking for my insurance fees to subsidize liver transplants.

          Control your own body, I have no problem with that. Just don't ask for me to help you once you've ruined it.

    • Just who do you think gave the world the USA?
    • by pragma_x (644215) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:16PM (#7986193) Journal
      But the constant monitoring by the streetlamps is for our own safety, lest we succumb to breaking the law.

      All brit's posting to slashdot have officially lost the right to make references to the U.S. being an orwellian, facist state in comparison to their own.

      Surely, brother, we shouldn't make such references to our beloved state. The principles of INGSOC must be upheld in all aspects of life.

      To do otherwise is CRIMETHINK. Please report to room 101 for re-education.
    • Ha hahahahahaha,

      Just because Brits make comments on th US doesn't mean we think our country's any better. Almost everything done in the UK now is for the benefit of making money, the ability to track every moment of your citizens lives is just a handy bonus.

      UK politicians don't want to scrap the publicly funded services e.g. health and constantly seek new ways to raise money without increasing visible taxation.

      For instance, speed cameras replace police in cars and traffic cops are put on to the latest "f
  • 1984... (Score:2, Funny)

    by jargoone (166102) *
    Only 20 years later.

    Do people really put up with this? If this were implemented in the US, it would be 5 seconds flat til that network was cut into 500 million pieces.
    • Re:1984... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dave420 (699308)
      No - the US gov't would say it's a "counterterrorism device", scare everyone into thinking they actually need it, put US flags on it, and every american would end up saluting every street light they passed, thanking god for Rev. Bush in the white house, looking over his little sheep as they sleep.

      The days of the american rebel are long gone.

      • The days of the american rebel are long gone.

        The days of the publicly visible american rebel are long gone. Thousands of protesters appear outside government functions, but aren't given much mainstream press. Hundreds of journalists strongly critisize government policy, but none are given much visibility. A few Senators work very hard to prevent unjust laws from being passed, but aren't taken seriously.

        The problem is the few ultra-rich corporations, including the mainstream press, work together with t
  • by conner_bw (120497) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:53AM (#7985930) Homepage Journal
    Phonebooths are dying, lamps are wireless. This is a new era for Captain Crunch.

    --
    Vegan World Order [veganwolrdorder.com] - Shut up and eat.
    • insightfull, i think. except it's hard to hide under a streetlight while phreaking. though it wouldn't be phreaking i guess. is there a term for wireless "phreaking". well i guesss if it's wireless you wouldn't need to be next/under it, just near it maybe.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:54AM (#7985939)
    Yes a wi-fi network would be nice, but hardly essential. Lets face it , as they say the real use is for car control, which as we know is a
    euphamism for population control. Obviously the powers that be have decided that controlling a car is too dangerous a task for adults to be left with and must be relegated to a computer controlled government
    network. Well no thank you! If I wanted to live in this sort of country I'd have gone to live in the old East Germany which modern britain is fast beginning to resemble. how long before we have
    government schemes for informants?
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:54AM (#7985940)
    Tracking vehicles is a great way to detect traffic jams [sciencenews.org]. If the vehicles moving past one sensor do not reach the next sensor in a reasonable amount of time, you know you have a problem. The linked research suggests that tracking vehicles through the network enables a faster detection time for problems (faster than waiting for the traffic to clog and backup to where the sensor is located.)
  • by wugmump (6611) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:54AM (#7985943) Homepage
    holy christ i hope this never happens in the united states. RFID tags on license plates, convicted felon tracking, always-on monitoring. feh. oh boy, wireless everywhere. but the price is just too awful to consider.
  • The UK: WTF? (Score:2, Informative)

    by molafson (716807)
    The UK has always been the frontrunner for the "First To Develop Oppressive Panopticon" raspberry award. The network of public CC cameras there is mind-boggling.
    • I must say I often agree with the /. consensus on civil rights when it comes to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, even freedom for the weirdos to keep running Windows if they so choose :-)
      But I've never seen the problem with being on CCTV. Maybe it's because England (specifically: Wales and Scotland aren't as bad) is such a damned overcrowded place that you don't have much privacy anyway. Like, USAians complain that the Appalachian Trail is getting crowded if they meet five other trekkers in a day. In
      • When the police come round for me and start torturing me, then I'll start complaining about fascism.

        But don't you see, by then it will be too late.

        P.S. GA->ME 2003
  • by bc90021 (43730) * <{bc90021} {at} {bc90021.net}> on Thursday January 15, 2004 @11:55AM (#7985958) Homepage
    ..."professional women" with wirless enabled PDAs? Possible slogan: "The newest technology for the world's oldest profession." ;)
  • That specializes in performances in front of traffic cams. On the web site, I'll advertise by saying, "Catch Macbeth by watching the KRTY evening news at 6:52!" I think that these things are just BEGGING for people to use them for all sorts of free expression.

    Forget Macbeth... wouldn't you tune in to the news for a rendition of Behind the Green Door on a traffic cam?

  • Big Brother (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ilex (261136) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:02PM (#7986036)
    monitor all cars' speed and location, all the time, everywhere

    The UK gov has an obsession with monitoring it's citizens. London already has more CCTV than any other capital. On average you're court on camera 300 times a day.

    I expect their excuse is to improve road safety. The real reason is so they can issue more speeding tickets and increase the number of tolls.

    The UK Motorist already pays 3 taxes to use the roads. Duty at the gas pump, Road Tax and tolls to use public roads in the form of the London congestion charge.
    • Contrary to popular opinion, London doesn't cover the entirety of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

      Just y'know, FYI.

      Petard.
  • Timeline: (Score:3, Funny)

    by Realistic_Dragon (655151) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:02PM (#7986044) Homepage
    1: Goverment masturbate over new interconnected data paradigm that can enable key economic resource in an efficient manner.
    2: Project is funded.
    3: Press release about how the government is promoting small business.
    4: Funding is approved.
    5: Press release about how great the goverment is.
    6: Work starts.
    7: Press release about how the government gets things done!
    8: BT and NTL realise how much money this will lose them, hands cash in brown envelopes to MPs.
    9: Press release about our existing world-class interenet infrastructure that was pushed through by government.
    10: Project cancelled.
    11: Profit! (For existing telcos, the bastards.)

    For pessamists, no ??? is required. We know that step, and it's bloody awful.
  • It's not too far from what Ricochet had in place. Just add a few sensors to Ricochet boxes and it would almost be the same thing.
  • In a previous life tempest emmisions were old news and shielding buildings and equipment was commonplace.

    So I start a website selling nice decorative or transparent license plate borders that could shield or obfuscate and RFID signal and make $ of poor brits yearning to be free?.. I love being american ;-)

    But seriously, I see a need for people to start developing counter-measures for consumers. Anyone have ideas?
  • by browman (191604) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:07PM (#7986103)
    There was a report recently that stated that something like 1 in 5 miles of road in the UK was in such a poor state that it was unfit to drive on. How about they drop this idea for the moment and fill some potholes instead?

    Some councils actually spend more money setting compensation claims from car owners who have had accidents due to poor roads than they do actually maintaining them.

    Anyway, with a decent network in place, perhaps we'd need to use them less anyway!

  • It seems to me that the British Government has way too much time on it's hands and is in need of downsizing and budget cuts.

  • It sounds like someone went for those X10 cameras from the pop-under ads.

    This just sounds like such a bad idea. Why would you want this? It spies on citizens as well as will probably put law enforcement officers out of work.

  • It's come to pass

    Lurchio? Lurchio!
  • by reality-bytes (119275) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:16PM (#7986206) Homepage
    Initially, this could be implemented as a stipulation for your car to pass its MOT (MOT is the UK roadworthiness annual).

    Then the police could check for the presence and operation of the device during road-side checks.

    *So* Here's the trick - find its frequency and build yourself a nice little signal generator/transmitter to put out static at a higher power than the government device. (Duh, that was easy).

    The thing that really upsets me about this is that you can almost guarantee the government will require car-owners to buy these units out of their own pockets.
  • Finally (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Interruach (680347) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:21PM (#7986246) Journal
    When people drive they accept the laws of the road. Why are they always so upset every time there's an initiative to stop people speeding?
    So I'm a biased pedestrian, but it does seem to me that given the hundreds of car fatalities that occur *every day*, monitoring what people do so that the drivers who "get away" with dangerous driving are caught is a good thing.
    You might get away with dangerous driving. But the longer you do, the more dangerous you'll get. And then you're putting people's lives at risk.
    Maybe you can justify breaking the law when it comes to software. I'm sorry, you can't justify driving dangerously.
    Ever.
    • Re:Finally (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cr@ckwhore (165454)
      "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
      -- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Letter to Josiah Quincy, Sept. 11, 1773.

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mirio (225059) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:46PM (#7986604)
      "So I'm a biased pedestrian..."

      So I suppose you wouldn't mind if the government planted a GPS unit in your person to make sure you only crossed the street at crosswalks?
    • by Moderation abuser (184013) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:48PM (#7986629)
      Only 7% of accidents have anything at all to do with speeding. It's a damned near insignificant number.

      The other *93%* of accidents are caused by shit driving which can't be monitored by speed cameras or wireless street lights.

      The accident rate in the UK was falling steadily *until* the police and local government started installing thousands of speed cameras everywhere. It is no longer falling because now shit driving is OK as long as you don't go 5mph over the bloody limit.

      I break the speed limit *every* single day but I don't drive dangerously. Speeding and dangerous driving are *not* the same thing.

  • Safety Issue (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MissMarvel (723385)
    Wireless connection on major highways... a great innovation. However, it worries me. Ever been in the fast-lane following some dunce going 50mph because she's chatting on her cell phone and has forgotten where she is? Now we'll have people playing Solitaire, checking email, and God Forbid... posting to SlashDot. Is the world ready for this?
  • Adelaide, Australia is already using its' street light infrastructure to support a municipal wireless network ("citilan") in the central business district:

    Community Broadband Networks:
    "City of Adelaide to offer wireless broadband downtown" [blogspot.com]

    MuniWireless.com:
    "Adelaide hotzone is up and running" [muniwireless.com]
  • This reminds me of the idea I had for a case mod a few months ago. A storm knocked down a lamp post and I acquired the light fixture. I thought of turning it into a case mod, but only after deciding I had no use for it and giving it to a friend. He's since put it in his room as the world's largest "reading lamp."
    I wish I'd turned it into a computer so that i could say 'hey look at my website! I already have one of these in my room!'
  • yay brits! (Score:3, Funny)

    by cr@ckwhore (165454) on Thursday January 15, 2004 @12:35PM (#7986424) Homepage
    street lamps ... or, "telephone poles" as we know them here in the US.

    Well, whats the point of creating a wireless network using telephone poles, when the fucking telephone poles already carry wires.

    "Well Bob, you see, there are these things called 'wires' that run between the street lamps."

    "Ok Bill, can we do stuff with these 'wires'?"

    "I don't know Bob. We might have to go wireless."

    Scratch your head and run, it's safer that way.
    • Re:yay brits! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Alioth (221270)
      No, street lamps in Britain are street lamps. They vary in size, but the common feature of a street lamp is they generally don't carry telephone wiring. A telephone pole in Britain is...erm...a wooden pole with phone lines on it and no light (although the telcos are generally burying increasing quantities of telephone lines).

      A picture of a typical suburban street lamp in Britain is here [leics.gov.uk] and one on a bigger, main road is here [huntsdc.gov.uk]. Note the complete absence of telephone lines.
    • Re:yay brits! (Score:3, Informative)

      Er - we don't run telephone across poles everywhere.

      We definately don't run telephone poles along the route of major motorways.

      Since there's already power to a streetlamp it's probably much cheaper to make each one a member of a wireless mesh network than it is to put lots more cable in ductwork under the road and pull it up through the streetlamp.
  • I remember when CC cameras were introduced to the UK and laughed thinking that it would never happen here in the US. Then after 9/11, my fellow citizens were screaming for more "security" and government was more than happy to oblige. Give it 5 years and you will see this crap in the US, for our "safety" of course.

    THIS is the reason I own firearms, THIS is the same reason our Founding Fathers owned firearms - to hold off a tyrannical government. Unfortunately, the British people have given up their rig
  • "old lamps for new"

    sorry... couldn't be helped. Impulse posting. Yeah, its OT :-P

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