back to article 5G can help us spy on West Midlands with AI CCTV, giggles

The West Midlands is to become the first UK urban 5G testbed area at a cost of up to £50m – with one use for the new tech being China-style AI-powered CCTV cameras with automated facial recognition, according to the government. The Urban Connected Communities Project, for "the latest wheeze we're tipping cash into …

  1. Thoguht Silver badge

    It's at times like this that I'm thankful I'm getting old.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: Cure

        But there will be a cure for that very soon

        There fixed it for you.

      2. Oflife

        Logan's Run

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    "the bottom of the slippery slope"

    Nope, we're not there yet ... we're standing on the edge waiting for a push.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does anybody know how to mass produce and mail out an absolute shed load of Guy Fawkes masks? Asking for a friend.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      >>>Does anybody know how to mass produce and mail out an absolute shed load of Guy Fawkes masks? Asking for a friend.<<<

      try this -

      happy to help

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Does anybody know how to mass produce and mail out an absolute shed load of Guy Fawkes masks?

      I know a bloke who's has a load of Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher masks left over from the 80's in his lock-up going cheap, will they do ?

  4. Wellyboot Silver badge

    A possibly explosive question.

    Will hoodies & burkas be banned to allow this system to work in Birmingham? if not I'll be adopting a new look.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A possibly explosive question.

      It won't work anywhere, regardless of clothing. Look at London, with its zillion CCTV cameras, yet the local plods seem incapable of resolving the wave of murders, stabbings and moped crime.

      And the important point is about the "CC" of CCTV. The vast majority of public sector security cameras are connected to manned control rooms, and it's still ineffective. So simply linking up bus, train and selected private camera networks via 5G will change nothing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A possibly explosive question.

        I see FAIL written all over this somehow

      2. Wellyboot Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: A possibly explosive question.

        >>>murders, stabbings and moped crime<<< are crimes against the person.

        I fear those are not the 'crimes' they're meant to find.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A possibly explosive question.

          I fear those are not the 'crimes' they're meant to find.

          I would agree. Policing seems to be in crisis. Cuts to police numbers aren't helping, but there's a more pressing issue that the concept of abiding by the law is losing currency. The vast rise in moped and knife crimes is clear evidence that there's a problem of people choosing not to obey the law. Meanwhile the chief constable round my way (Anthony Bangham) continues his misguided campaign to abolish current enforcement guidelines so he can prosecute speeders for 1 mph over the limit. Which might be acceptable if he didn't have all manner of unsolved crime on his force's doorstep, no control over the growing county lines drug trade, a "poor" report from the inspectorate of constabulary, and a festering Rotheram-like sex abuse scandal in Telford where his force have been serially and enduringly incompetent, and there's clear indications of coverups and denial.

          Policing (and the rest of the criminal justice system) appears to be transforming towards a tax-raising, technology obsessed bureaucracy that is ineffectual in reducing crime, with "policing by consent" an idea that no longer matters.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A possibly explosive question.

            Policing by consent doesn't seem to be relevant any more. The police on the street no longer have the trust of most of the general public (the 'seniors' at HQ lost the plot a long time ago). Here are a few more reasons why (in addition to the ones you mention) - not all of them particularly recent:

            * Birmingham pub bombings/Birmingham 6

            * Hillsborough

            * Steven Lawrence

            * Ian Tomlinson

            * "the war on drugs"

            * "the war against terror"

            * dubious long term undercover policing of legitimate protests and organisations (Mark Kennedy/Stone and others)

            * The role of the police in the allegations against:

            ** Cliff Richard

            ** Jimmy Saville

            ** Ted Heath


            Strange days.

            Anybody seen anything of Charles Farr lately?


            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: A possibly explosive question.

              I'm not convinced about "the police have lost all trust" meme that a minority pushes.

              Firstly, those examples? So long ago that the people responsible are either retired or dead in practically all cases. Most police officers serving today hadn't even been born when many of those offenses took place.

              Secondly, i'd highlight that the same people who scream that "da police are pigs dude" are as a rule the first to call the police when they are attacked by some nut hopped up on drugs, or get offended by unpleasant Facebook or Twitter messages.

              The reason that the police on the street don't have any trust is because you don't see police on the street anymore, unless they are responding to a 999 call because they are so tied up with meaningless drivel like the aforementioned nonsense Facebook/twitter messages that people call them with, or they are tied up with absurd amounts of paperwork. And yes, I think that filling out 17 different forms for arresting somebody is fairly describable as absurd.

              Police officers tend to join up because they want to run around catching criminals, not spending >70% of their time doing basic admin work.

              1. Oodles of Noodles

                Re: A possibly explosive question.


                I will join you to some extent regarding police trust. The Police I come across on almost every shift I work ( a busy A/E Dept. ) do seem to be worthy of our trust.

                I have yet to see one giving any sort of abuse ( verbally or physically ) to anyone under their 'care' irrespective of the type of abuse I have seen them subject to. The only despair I suffer is fact that they brought the drugged up / drunken / violent / abusive knob-heads to us in the first place!

                I think the real problem begins as people of any profession start to enter the heady upper echelons. I suggest that this is the point they become divorced from the reality of the job they initially entered.

                Once insulated from the cause and effect of the sharp end of life, great proclamations give them a feel good factor despite them no longer being rooted in reality.

          2. Oodles of Noodles

            Re: A possibly explosive question.

            Prosecuting 'speeders for 1 mph over the limit' has been mooted before by other chief constables. It normally gets quietly shelved once the local ( and national ) rags start following them around with speed guns.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: A possibly explosive question.

              The French have become pretty good of late at issuing speeding tickets as a 'cash cow' for 1mph above the speed limit as well as recently lowering the rural limits to 80km/h.

              French Cameras also operate in both directions (front and rear facing), unlike the UK. Many of the rural French cameras have been upgraded in their cabinet to operate both directions but importantly, the signage hasn't. i.e. it will now catch you when it's located on the opposite side of the road (on your left in France, as well as the right, as you pass it).

              Often it's a camera that was originally located to catch driver approaching a bend in the one direction, but in the new direction, the driver has already taken the bend and is accelerating away from the bend along a long straight, i.e. cash cow (and no genuine reason to monitor speed).

              In the UK, HADECS 3 Cameras on the M4 at Bristol send out NIPs for 81Mph, ten a penny. The smart motorway gantries with the Camera tend to be 10-20mph lower than the gantries before and after (especially if wet) and overnight during roadworks the camera will be often be set at 20mph, with a 50mph limit on the gantry before and after, often it seems, just to check you're awake (not a workman in sight).

              We might not have 71mph prosecutions yet, but Highways Agency/GoSafe are using every trick in the book to get you prosecuted for very minor misdemeanours, which are nothing to do with real road safety.

              The proliferation of new 20mph limits overnight on motorways (linked to HADECS 3) are just plain dangerous.

              I've nearly a had 40-tonne lorry hit me in back in these 20mph roadwork limits because some drivers are unaware there is a HADECS 3 in place or just not fully aware 'dosey' at that time.

              I don't take kindly to being forced to drive at 20mph for no reason on a motorway, just so they can potentially generate head clipping revenue at the expense of my safety. Workman in lanes dropping cones - fine, but there never are.

      3. wyatt

        Re: A possibly explosive question.

        Can you imagine the throughput of the gateway needed? It'd soon be saturated. The potentials for this and the new UKESN system are great, IF it can be made to work. Maybe in 5/10 years time this will be a possibility, it certainly won't be happening any time soon.

        Also, what area of Birmingham are they hoping to cover? It's quite a bit place.

      4. Gonzo wizard Bronze badge

        Re: A possibly explosive question.

        "It won't work anywhere, regardless of clothing" - ah but just think of all the false positives it'll throw up!

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: A possibly explosive question.

      Hoodies, T-shirts and hairstyles decorated with random patterns that happen to include trigger points for facial recognition software could be fun.

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: A possibly explosive question.

      Hoodies and baseball caps with extra long peaks will be de-rigeur in Brum from now on.

      And there we were thinking that 5G was progress...

      What kind of fool did they think we were?

      {don't answer that}

  5. DJV Silver badge

    "China-style AI-powered CCTV cameras"

    And, no doubt, all come equipped with a hard-coded remote login name and password...

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: "China-style AI-powered CCTV cameras"

      It's 12345.

      1. The Count

        Re: "China-style AI-powered CCTV cameras"

        Damn, thats the same combination I have on my luggage.

    2. EnviableOne Silver badge

      Re: "China-style AI-powered CCTV cameras"

      pwned by Mirai et al. the momment they go online then

  6. Smooth Newt Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Fortunately, I suppose,

    there aren't enough police to respond to all incidents even now. Increasing the number of incidents that the police are expected to respond to would probably have little effect.

    Many years ago, before Austerity was a thing and I was a local councilor, I was shown around the council's CCTV facility. The operators showed us some of the local ne'er-do-wells, who were well known by sight to the operators for their frequent dreadful behaviour, and who helpfully gave the camera the finger. It was explained that even when the operators saw people whom they knew had outstanding arrest warrants against them, unless it was a Friday or Saturday night there were usually insufficient police available to do anything about it. So they didn't even bother notifying the police. Austerity is now government policy, and so there are even less police, and in fact the council-funded cameras, and their control centre, have gone.

    1. Flywheel Silver badge

      Re: Fortunately, I suppose,

      there aren't enough police to respond to all incidents even now

      No, and if the truth were known, some councils or their agents that allegedly provide a CCTV "service" are also understaffed. My car was significantly vandalised but was parked over the road from a CCTV mast. I contacted the Police who stated that they "didn't have time to look through hours of CCTV footage", and the council sheepishly admitted that "many cameras aren't switched, and those that are on only have the recordings stored for a couple of days, and they didn't have the staff to check for me". I offered to go in and check the recordings myself but was denied. The whole thing is a joke.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fortunately, I suppose,

        "there aren't enough police to respond to all incidents even now"

        True, but something's changed. Violent crime declined for years up until circa 2015, since when it has flared up. But police numbers have been declining steadily since 2010.

        1. Eponymous Cowherd

          Re: Fortunately, I suppose,

          Since 2010, the government has been continually giving people more incentive to turn to crime via cuts to benefits and services while simultaneously cutting the ability to deal with that crime via cuts to the police, courts and prisons.

          Eventually a tipping point will be reached, and it looks like it has.

  7. Mattjimf

    "The West Midlands is to become the first UK urban 5G testbed area"

    Can someone please tell this to the loon in Gateshead who keeps forcing the council to spend money telling him they are not testing 5G and fixing the street lights he keeps breaking.

  8. Flywheel Silver badge

    Data plan

    Assuming that mere punters will get to use 5G (for looking at things rather than being looked at, I have to wonder how far the average data plan will go.

    We're constantly bombarded with TV ads breathlessly proclaiming .. and you get FIVE WHOLE GIGABYTES for your £20. Well whooppee! That'll last around half a day at 5G speeds and no doubt you'll get the option to buy extra overpriced add-on gigabytes - no doubt as to who the winners and losers are!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Data plan

      Well whooppee! That'll last around half a day at 5G speeds

      I don't think that's the point of the proposition. My current car could (in theory) do my morning commute in about seven minutes allowing for acceleration and deceleration times. On the other hand other road users might feel that me whistling through at a peak speed above 135 mph was not really on. Likewise, I'm on a 200 Mbps VM connection, but I know that I never hit that other than on a multi-thread speed test.

      Even if they don't continuously max-out the capabilities of what we now have, I suspect that nobody is queueing up to go back to the days of 14,400 baud modems, 3G mobile data, and cars that couldn't exceed 80.

      1. Oodles of Noodles

        Re: Data plan


        Just thinking about the seven minutes it takes you to commute in your car. I wonder if a lightly earlier out of bed time would allow you to walk the distance ( assuming you can ) rather than driving?

    2. Pete4000uk

      Re: Data plan

      Wow, I've got 6 GB for £10

  9. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Creeping laws

    It used to be the case that we'd object to over-enthusiastic police or government powers on the grounds that, although the government of the time promised to use them responsibly, some future government might not, so we should ensure they were properly controlled.

    We now have that future government. They can no longer be trusted to have the public's best interests at heart, and we should not permit this sort of overreach.

  10. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    Initial plans for what to do with the new 5G network are said to include medical consultations being carried out over video link, "connected ambulances" fitted with video conferencing facilities for paramedics to get advice from hospital-based specialists, and live streaming of CCTV from buses.

    All of them are valid use cases I guess, but they sound very similar to the use cases that were offered a few years ago as arguments for having 4G. If a 4G network is capable of supporting these tasks, is it really worth spending that many millions of pounds on 5G?

    The AI angle is a new one, but not really relevant to whether the network is 4G or 5G. The clever AI stuff happens at one end or the other of a <x>G link, not on the network itself.

    1. FlamingDeath

      “is it really worth spending that many millions of pounds on 5G?”

      But, but... SHINEY!!’

  11. Test Man

    The whole panopticon concept mentioned in the article doesn't really work in practice though, does it? I mean the whole "you could be watched so don't do it" doesn't really discourage people to break the law, for example CCTV coverage doesn't really stop crime taking place in the areas, right? And speed cameras used to be hidden (as a supposed "deterrant") until a concerted effort to show that this doesn't stop rule-breakers breaking the rules of the road, right?

  12. Arthur the cat Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    The original concept of an omnipresent surveillance system

    It's worth remembering Bentham only intended this to be for convicted criminals. It would seem that's changed lately so the government now thinks we're all guilty of something, if only thinking they're simultaneously totalitarian and as useless as a fishnet condom.

  13. TechDrone

    Preparations for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN continue

    At least Birmingham should be well defended when the great old ones finally break though.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Preparations for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN continue

      It's all fun and games until there's an anime convention in town . . .

  14. davenewman

    False positives

    There were reports on the false positive and false negative rates of automated facial recognition used by the Met in London. Amazingly high false positive rates, with lots of innocent people being matched to wanted lists.

  15. Prosthetic Conscience

    Why don't they spend that 50 Mill...

    ...As part of the voucher scheme, but for wireless last mile (a market with actual competition and actual benefit to end customers) instead of stuffing the throats of VM and BT subsidising only their "super fast" fibre...

  16. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    Repeat after me

    1984 is NOT an instruction manual.

    1984 is NOT an instruction manual.

    1984 is NOT an instruction manual.

  17. caffeine addict

    Since no-one else has said it...

    WHY ARE THEY SPENDING MONEY ON [new technology] WHEN HALF THE COUNTRY CAN@T GET [two generations earlier technology] COVERAGE???!!!1!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Go West Midlands!

    Imagine that. West Midlands won funding from Dept of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Whose Minister is the MP for Stourbridge. In the West Midlands.

    Didn’t see that one coming....

  19. Martin Summers Silver badge

    "5G itself has been dismissed by former Ofcom director Professor William Webb as a distraction from the real need to fully roll out LTE (4G) tech"

    At least there's some sense out there, shame he's the former director.

  20. trog-oz

    Birmingham had spy cameras in the past with Project Champion. A specific religious group complained and the cameras were removed. It will be deja vu all over again.

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