Could the bombing, which injured 29 people, be prevented? Law enforcement was quick to respond, and within 24 hours the suspect was apprehended.

Today, there are more and more cameras installed with live feeds available throughout the world. Companies such as USTREAM (and apps such as Periscope) give us access to that live feed. The positive aspect of it is that we may get access to footage that allows us to capture terrorists, just like the cameras on West 23rd Street and West 27th Street helped capture the current suspect, and the Boston cameras helped identify and catch the 2013 Boston Marathon Terrorists, although after the fact, and with 3 deaths and more than 260 injured. However, the amount of video stream provided by the increasing number of cameras could not be monitored by security personnel in a way that could allow preventing terror events before they happen. Or could it?

One area of fast technological development is smart cameras. The video surveillance industry is expected to generate $71.28 billion by 2022, growing 16.56% on average between 2016 to 2022. Smart cameras do not only provide a video feed for people to watch after the fact, but could also analyze what they see using a technical discipline called computer vision, and provide some insight to what's in that video stream. Although sounds futuristic, we see some elements of this now. Facebook shows you squares around people's heads in an image to allow you to tag them, and autonomous cars use computer vision to guide a car in traffic.

Smart surveillance cameras are already installed throughout the world. Although they currently have limited functionality, and are installed in limited (although growing) numbers, this functionality will increase as both processing power and storage capacity increase. The New York and New Jersey surveillance cameras were instrumental when the video feed from them was watched carefully after-the-fact by personnel to catch the terrorists, but tomorrow's networks of smart cameras and computers could be able to realize that someone has left a bag somewhere and fled the scene and alert security forces to prevent the act of terrorism before it occurs.

Cameras, networks, and computers like that could possibly identify that the Newtown murderer was up to no good as soon as he left his home. What he was wearing could have indicated the presence of the assault rifle that he carried long before he reached the school and alert the police. I don't expect this technology to be perfect, just like it wasn't perfect for Tesla in their autonomous cars. However, as improvement continues, false positives (falsely indicating a potential terror attack) and false negatives (falsely ruling out a terror attack about to happen) will be reduced.

Many times we have seen how reality follows Sci-Fi movies. Dr. Spock was wearing a Bluetooth headset in the first episode or Star Trek, aired in 1966, 33 years before the Bluetooth standard was ever created. So I turn to another Sci-Fi movie for an answer to domestic (and global) terrorism: The Minority Report. While I don't believe (yet) that we can utilize mind reading to prevent crimes before they take place, could a network of smart cameras do it, and at the same time create a $71 billion market?

Published on: Sep 21, 2016
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