Sophisticated surveillance coming to Auckland

Surveillance technology that uses high definition cameras and software that can put names to faces and owners to cars is coming to Auckland.

The surveillance has the capability to also scan social media and news websites.

Auckland Transport, the regional transport provider, announced the multi-million dollar deal in June, and California's Hewlett-Packard Development Company said today it has the contract.

No dollar sum is given.

They call it a "visionary Big Data" project and in a statement said Auckland has selected HP "to drive groundbreaking future cities initiative".

All the data gathered by the cameras will be processed by HP cloud servers based in Palo Alto, California.

Auckland Transport's Chief Information Officer Roger Jones is quoted by HP as saying: "The safety and well-being of our citizens is always our top priority and the Future Cities initiative is a big step in the right direction".

"Only HP could comprehensively deliver the custom solution, expertise and ecosystem at this scale to transform our vision into reality."

The vast amount of data including text, images, audio and real-time video will be analysed by HP's system. 

"The system will leverage data from a variety of sources, including thousands of security and traffic management cameras, a vast network of road and environmental sensors as well as real-time social media and news feeds," HP said.

"We are proud to work with such an innovative and forward-thinking government agency like Auckland Transport," HP's Big Data group manager Colin Mahony said.

An Auckland Transport spokesman said there were currently five video systems and this move would consolidate things into one processing system.

"We are not installing new cameras, this is a back end system for the approximately 800 cameras we have access to covering intersections, railway and busway stations.

"The system will be used to monitor traffic flows, vandalism and safety. We will not be using any capability which identifies faces or number plates."

He said Auckland Transport was in ongoing discussions with the Privacy Commissioner and would not proceed until all protocols had been signed off on.

Auckland Council's memorandum of understanding, which was used to create the contract, provides draft "Surveillance Principles".

It refers to live feeds and says these should be trained on "specific crime and safety hot-spots", traffic management areas and real-time matters being investigated or responded to by police.

The system "should not be used for surveillance or monitoring of specific individuals (whether or not identifiable by name, and whether not facilitated by supporting technology) except in respect of specific criminal acts or organised crime or other reasonably suspected criminal behaviour (including terrorism) on the basis of such evidence or reasonable suspicion of criminal offending," the principles state.

Police are also told they should not provide access to the data to any other agencies in New Zealand or abroad except where that complies in all respects with the terms of these surveillance principles and New Zealand law.