The more time elapses since I wrote Omniveillance in 2007, the closer things come to the state I predicted. The most recent exhibit is Persistent Surveillance Systems. Imagine a drone that can record everything going on in a given area, and map events over time to create a cross between Google Earth and Tivo.
The Center for Investigative Reporting takes a look at a number of emerging surveillance technologies in a new video, but one in particular stands out: A wide-area surveillance system invented by Ross McNutt, a retired Air Force veteran who owns a company called Persistent Surveillance Systems.
McNutt describes his product as “a live version of Google Earth, only with TiVo capabilities,” which is intriguing but vague (and also sounds a lot like the plot of this terrible Denzel movie). More specifically, PSS outfits planes with an array of super high-resolution cameras that allow a pilot to record a 25-square-mile patch of Earth constantly—for up to six hours.
It’s sort of similar to what your average satellite can do—except, in this case, you can rewind the video, zoom in, and follow specific people and cars as they move around the grid. It’s not specific enough to ID people by face, but, when used in unison with stoplight cameras and other on-the-ground video sources, it can identify suspects as they leave the scene of a crime.
Check out this helpful gif.
Here is how I described this time machine feature in Omniveillance:
As distinguished from previous forms of public monitoring, this new form of surveillance will be omnipresent, as it can record vast areas of space over a very small period of time. It provides the users of this system with omniscience to know everything happening in a specific location at a specific time. Furthermore, this information will be indefinitely retained, and easily accessible. When future versions of this technology is properly implemented, it will be possible to enter a time, date, and location, and witness what happened at that moment as if you were there. It is a virtual time machine.