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By Neil Huntingdon
Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned as technological advancements offer more convenience at the cost of our privacy. One particularly controversial innovation is facial recognition technology, which utilizes artificial intelligence to match images against various databases.

While some implementations of it are innocuous – such as unlocking smartphones or tagging individuals in photo albums – the public is debating how the use of this technology for surveillance impedes on people’s privacy and, by extension, their human rights.

Some cities are considering regulating facial recognition technology to better protect people’s privacy. Lidar offers a solution to smart cities and businesses looking for more advanced security systems with the added benefit of anonymity.

Known as the “eye” of a self-driving vehicle, lidar provides highly accurate 3D perception of an environment. Lidar uses lasers to calculate distance and create dense 3D point clouds representing people and objects, making it ideal for a wide range of applications for security, industrial applications, IoT, mapping and transport infrastructure.

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Integrated into security systems with more traditional technologies such as CCTV and IP cameras, lidar brings an added layer of accuracy with its high-resolution imaging, without the burden of alert fatigue. It can significantly reduce the number of false positives, saving security teams’ time and resources. This technology can also be programmed to instantly detect and identify threats, such as a person or car approaching an area, so security teams can respond in real time to suspicious activities.

While security technologies such as radar, cameras (including thermal cameras) and microwave sensors each have a number of advantages, none can form a complete and robust surveillance system alone. Low accuracy, constrained operating environments, electromagnetic interference and data storage and transmission challenges are some of the shortcomings of these traditional security systems. Lidar complements these technologies with the addition of high resolution 3D imaging metadata that can be processed at the edge, taking up a fraction of the data gathered by cameras. With its high tolerance to electromagnetic interference, lidar works well in a variety of conditions, making it suitable for environments with heavy metal construction. Lidar is also unrestrained by lighting, making 24/7 surveillance possible without compromising on accuracy.

Security, Privacy Co-exist
Another key security aspect is its ability to monitor areas while still protecting individual’s identities. Perception software enables lidar to detect, track and classify objects. Advanced lidar technology has made it possible to classify objects and individuals such as humans, small animal and vehicles, as well as behaviors such as running, crouching and crawling. This identification helps to highlight different types of potential threats while guaranteeing the anonymity of people or objects not deemed dangerous. This is beneficial to privacy compared to technologies where everyone’s biometric data is captured and stored.

Cost Perspective
In recent years, lidar has become much more affordable and compact.

In addition to reduced costs, lidar sensors have become user friendly with plug-and-play installation processes which can easily integrate into current systems that uses cameras, radar and other types of sensors. Lidar sensors set up in combination with edge computing devices help to process information locally, using less computing power, bandwidth and data storage than traditional security solutions. This also enables the technology to be used for more mobile installations, such as sensors set up along the perimeter of a remote field. It is now also possible to connect multiple sensors to form a connected smart lidar network for comprehensive coverage and seamless tracking from sensor to sensor.

Surveillance Applications
Lidar technology will be more commonly used for tightly secured locations like critical infrastructure and airports, along with commercial buildings and other types of facilities.

In highly trafficked areas, such as a stadium or theme park, lidar can identify suspicious behaviors or objects while filtering out and protecting the identities of individuals not flagged in security incidents.

While current security systems might be fine for mom-and-pop stores, an added layer of anonymity and accuracy makes it invaluable for bigger businesses and facilities relying on physical and perimeter security systems to keep people safe and protect their assets. Over the next decade lidar will usher in a new age of anonymized surveillance and play a critical role in the building of smart cities and smarter security systems around the world.
Neil Huntingdon is vice president of business development at Cepton Technologies, Inc.

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