How can you build efficient Urban communities, homes, and businesses?

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Community video surveillance

In an urban environment, security and safety are the foundation that make everything else possible. A new community could be built with video on every public space, and private video security at every home. If the community is designed for this, costs are reasonable. Video devices are inexpensive.

I imagine the advertising budgets for security companies are quite large; it seems like a saturated market to me where it's hard to break through and expand.  Maybe a security company could provide the video equipment at a low cost for the right to be the exclusive provider of security equipment for a new development/community.  Since a newly built community in an urban blight area would likely be safer than any other surrounding area automatically, the risk of failure for the security company is very low, and the media attention that a newly-built reclaimed neighborhood would likely provide enough free advertisement to offset the initial cost of the equipment.

The community gets added security, and the company gets awesome advertisement angles that are persuasive and set them apart from other providers (The Safest Neighborhood in Detroit is proudly protected by Security Company ABC, etc).

Show the security video feeds on old age homes where the residents are tasked with looking for strange things in return for special perks.

That's one way. And I like solutions that involve volunteer work; and obviously, camera footage is very helpful in security. Downside is, it's labor-intensive, done by non-experts in real-time (likely to miss stuff), you'll still need data storage (in case it's actually needed as evidence), and people will wonder about the privacy angle... it's rather Big Brother like.
One small addition: not only retirees, but also people with disabilities etc.

Here's another option:
- You merely store the data, by default let's say for 1 month
- Stored data is encrypted, to maximize privacy
- If a crime has been reported or otherwise investigation is warranted, police (or their analyst volunteers) can look at recordings within specified parameters (timeframe, location). Let's say a 30-minute window and all nearby cameras.
- If footage is found of the incident, it gets flagged for longer storage, and police get to copy that data to their own files, so as to be used as evidence.

That way you have specific, limited work, that trained volunteers can pay attention to with minimal privacy violation. Main question would be cost of data storage, though I expect that this is an increasingly minor factor.

Sousveillance, as defined by David Brin:

Sousveillance typically involves community-based recording from first person perspectives, without necessarily involving any specific political agenda, whereas inverse-surveillance is a form of sousveillance that is typically directed at, or used to collect data to analyze or study, surveillance or its proponents (e.g., the actions of police or protestors at a protest rally).

Sousveillance is not necessarily counter-surveillance, i.e. sousveillance can be used to "counter" the forces of surveillance, or it can also be used together with surveillance to create a more complete "veillance" ("Surveillance is a half-truth without sousveillance"). The question of "Who watches the watchers" is dealt with more properly under the topic of metaveillance (the veillance of veillance) than sousveillance.

As others have mentioned, data storage (now cloud-based) becomes increasingly expensive per camera, per foot of cable, and the longer the recording period. You can reduce these costs with certain systems through motion detection activated recording and other methods, but outdoors, nature works against you. It's still really expensive to maintain, not very sustainable or efficient.

Old school CCTVs are often still the most inexpensive route to go, with their own obvious drawbacks/downsides and require someone to manually comb through footage. Not efficient but could work for a "Smile, you're on camera!" type feed with a display - outside building entrances and loading docks, for example.

Recording devices are inexpensive, but data storage and cabling is still quite the opposite. But for some communities set up in the right way, new inexpensive tech solutions might be the optimal solution. If you had a large urban apartment complex, built with all the waste/water/energy/tech modular designs already in mind, I'd imagine you'd cut down on the costs considerably. You could simply tap into the existing fiber-optic lines, for example, if you were already providing high-speed internet to one building.

I see the cameras as more of a deterrent for crime and offering peace of mind than a form of active surveillance. It's just not efficient to have people watching/reviewing video footage all day long. If you're going to do anything, throw in some facial recognition software so that new or unknown faces get cataloged in case a crime is committed. Facebook and the government should already have all this figured out, right? 😉

Another thought - what if cameras were all owned and operated by local police, but all public feeds in one building/area were accessible by the public? Locally you could restrict the access by building if you wanted to or make everything completely public.

I just saw a commercial for, the residential video security company that streams video to your phone. They added a "neighborhood" feature so you can share any suspicious activity with the neighbors in real time. See more here: