AI devices in public spaces

The City of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) have launched a joint venture to open a Responsible Sensing Lab aimed at testing transparency and privacy-related issues related to sensors and other methods of data collection. 

Smart devices are used to control processes throughout the city, such as traffic lights, charging stations, adaptable street lights, sensors and barriers. These help urban planners to measure and manage daily processes. However, with new technology comes new questions, and the City of Amsterdam is dedicated to ensuring that its innovations are responsible, transparent and inclusive. 

As part of this goal, the Responsible Sensing Lab was launched on 28 January by Deputy Mayor Touria Meliani at a live-streamed event. The lab, based at Amsterdam’s Marineterrein, will form a testbed for experimenting with sensor-based technologies used in public spaces. Researchers and AI experts will work to improve these technologies and develop more responsible alternatives. The lab’s solutions can then be scaled-up and implemented throughout the city. 

Privacy remains top priority

Several projects are already in the works at the Responsible Sensing Lab. One example is exploring the ethics of ‘scan cars’ which are vehicles fitted with sensors used for parking enforcement and checking registrations for waste collection. The Camera Shutter project is another concept which involves placing a physical shutter over cameras in public spaces to make it clear when people are and are not being filmed. Privacy concerns are also at the heart of the mmWAVE project, which uses sensors to measure crowd movements as an alternative to CCTV. 

A shared responsibility

While AI and data-driven innovation is constantly evolving in the Dutch capital, companies and policymakers are placing great emphasis on protecting privacy. The Innovation Centre for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI) promotes responsible algorithms through its Civic AI Lab launched in 2020, while Braincreators introduced new software in 2021 to use video surveillance more ethically. 

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