The Garbage Cans are Watching You

An advertising company, called Renew, is receiving backlash from inhabitants of London, for the sensors they have put in their “smart” trash bins. The bins, dubbed “smart” bins, measure the Wi-fi signals emitted by peoples cell phones and after multiple trash bins pick up the same wi-fi signal, the bins are able to determine the route that users took. Citizens of London have hit back and on August 12th officials demanded that all the bins be removed from the streets for personal privacy reasons.

Renew’s chief executive, Kaveh Memari, defends his product, explaining that the bins can track phone signals and recognize the same phones, but cannot determine who’s phone it is or any other personal message. The idea would be similar to web “cookies”. This is the tracking of files that follow internet users through the web, and with these trash cans using phone signals to identify users, Memari hopes that he can “cookie the street.”

Trash bins track peoples smart phones

Trash bins track peoples smart phones

This is something that could provide the opportunity to track people occupying public transport or track people at stops. This could provide the potential to know, for example, where a certain user enters a bus and where he gets off. This could potentially allow the buses to identify patterns between users to be able to identify more acceptable bus routes.

Monitoring People by detecting cell phone

The intent of this post is to give potential ways of tracking people on CTA buses. There is currently no way of tracking individuals, nor who gets off at what stations. With the hopes of providing a prototype for a system that will give the CTA a more comprehensive analysis of their riders, several factors will be necessary.

1. There needs to be an accurate way to detect when a person boards the bus as well as when they get off.

2. There needs to be a way to detect multiple people and keep track of them as they shift through the bus.

The wide spread use of cell phones would offer one way of tracking peoples movements. Cell phone detectors are common in prisons as cell phones have become one of the largest contraband items in prisons. These systems are relatively inexpensive and they are non intrusive, meaning they detect the radiation given off by phones and do not actually monitor phone usage. This second part is important because it allows us to track people without illegally monitoring their calls, texts, or data streaming. Here are links to the two most commonly used companies for cell phone detection.


This is geared more towards protecting a wifi network but it still is capable of detecting cell phone uses anywhere from 5-100 ft. If hacked and set with an aduino circuit board this would give the opportunity to monitor the radiation given off by cell phones with reference to location on the bus.

The second link is  to the far more common BVS systems cell phone detector


This system is as small as a deck of cards, which would be advantageous on a crowded bus. This detection is up to 75 ft which allows it to detect anywhere on a bus. If properly used this could allow for detection of peoples cell phones when they get on the bus and when they get off, essentially allowing to track multiple people and to better determine what are the busiest bus stops.

The suggested prototype for this will not give the information on what the best bus routes but it will give the potential prototype for collecting the information necessary to determine this in the future.

The last link is for a tiny homemade motion detector. This is an alternative to cell phone detection but it would be difficult to get a comprehensive understanding of the amount of people on the bus as it monitors motion and cannot determine individuals

Wi-Fi Motion Tracking Approaches X-Ray Vision Technology

New advances in motion tracking are using reflected wi-fi signals to track people, and the results are proving almost limitless. The idea of motion tracking has become very popular with the release of technologies such as the Xbox Kinect. The Xbox Kinect is a gesture recognition software that uses a photon-measuring method, known as “time of flight” sensing, to track movements of people. This technology is limited, because it requires the person being measured to be in the line of sight of the camera.

The “Wi-Vi” project at MIT and the “WiSee” project at the University of Washington have been using wi-fi to track motion of people and it has been shown to be able to track gestures in all line-of-sight, non-line-of-sight, and through-the-wall scenarios. This technology has been proposed to be able to track your movements in your household, being able to turn on lights, change the temperature, etc. with the wave of an arm. It has also been studied for its potential for security purpose. This technology could track occupants of a building before police or other security enter. See some of the potentials that the University of Washington thought of in the video below.

Please Stay Behind The Blue Wi-Fi Fence

The city is filled with an invisible landscape of networks, but now we can see more and more of them. Wow! This is a great new invention that we waited for since so much digital information flows through the air. It is fascinating that a whole economy of information uses an infrastructure that we can’t see. But it is even more fascinating that is made visible now. The idea is a result of the Touch research project that investigates Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that enables connections between mobile phones and physical objects. Though in general developes applications and services that enable people to interact with everyday objects and situations through their mobile devices.

This project explores the invisible terrain of Wi-Fi networks in urban spaces by light painting signal strength in long-exposure photographs. A four meters tall rod with 80 points of light reveals cross-sections through Wi-Fi networks using a photographic technique called light painting. Check out this video to learn more. The invention is not coming out of the blue, but is a result of series of earlier experiments conducted by Touch. Urban Tick explains the way Touch came to this mind stunning result:

“Touch was earlier experimenting with RFID working on the nearness project, together with berg. In a next step they used a similar approach, on much small scale, to visualize the transmitter field of the RFID reader. In this sense the visualization of the Wi-Fi is some sort of large scale, real world implementation. They also experimented with the visualization of Wi-Fi earlier. This new very much hands on approach works amazingly well in terms of the images it produces. I guess this is the nice thing with finding the treasure, you get to give it an image, you can brand it.”

It’s fascinating to see the borders of a Wi-Fi network and also to see how the signal strength differs very strongly when, for instance, a car passes by. This invention would be a great future tool for private and public spaces which are strongly depending on wireless Internet. Visitors can see were the signal strength is best and choose their place to work. On the other hand, people can also choose to not bother themselves with too much bits and bytes around their heads, and take place in a Wi-Fi hole. Further in line with the discussion on the ubiquitous presence of all sorts of signals in the air and the possible heath problems they could cause, this tool can have a great indicative role, enabling people to choose whether they want to take a heath risk or not. The modern radiation is indicated in the air to point us to service as well as to risks.

Being more positive and perhaps more up to now, I can imagine this form of information landscaping becoming a furniture tool. Wouldn’t it for example be cool if a bar’s lighting concept is based on the presence of Wi-Fi? But this will not only work for bars. What about the possibilities for urban space? Think of a square having fences of light showing us the boarder of a Wi-Fi area. One could create new places with a sense of functional urgency based on the presence of Wi-Fi. Now that the presence of a wireless Internet connection seems to become a factor of growing importance for contemporary space use, implementing this technique would be the right way to give this new function a physical component.


city wifi usage

the launch of Connect Chicago,  a loose network of more than 250 places in the city where internet and computer access, digital skills training, and online learning resources are available—for free.

y way of background, Connect Chicago is a part of the Public Computer Centers grant  received by the City of Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has also awarded a grant to support this project. Smart Chicago administers many portions of this grant, including the Connect Chicago portion. 

Most of the locations in the Connect Chicago system have been serving the community for many, many years. Wi-fi and public computers have been available in the Chicago Public Library for more than a decade. Community technology centers— supported in part with programs like the State of Illinois’ Eliminate the Digital Divide Program (going back to 2001)— have been essential parts of neighborhoods for many years. Home-grown classes on social media and photo sharing have been taught in senior centers since the days of Friendster. This robust, caring, and rich environment is the basis for our work.

“Chicago will be one of the most connected cities in the world,” said Emanuel. “The establishment of a world-class broadband network in Chicago will create thousands of jobs and dramatically improve educational opportunities, economic development, health care services, and general quality of life throughout the city.”

The City of Chicago is releasing a Request for Information (RFI) today, that seeks to engage private companies, universities, and other organizations to accomplish three main goals: building world-class broadband infrastructure for the city; extending broadband service into underserved areas; and providing free Wi-Fi access in public spaces throughout Chicago.

connect chicago



location of connect chicago