Reuters

A network of cameras will augment planning – and law enforcement – in New Delhi

A camera system is being unveiled in the Indian capital of New Delhi that has a lot more than security on its mind. New Delhi's new cameras are also designed to help advance a citywide 3D GIS mapping project for urban planning efforts. The first of 63 cameras was installed earlier this month, India Today reports, and they'll be used to take high-resolution images of the city.

"These cameras can pan, tilt, zoom and rotate 360 degrees. We have already identified 18 strategically located highrise buildings, in coordination with the police, for the cameras," a senior IT department official said.

The camera network is part of a broader mapping program known as the Delhi State Spatial Data Infrastructure project, launched in 2007. Through on-the-ground mapping and a detailed database of building records, underground utilities and planning documents, the state will have a nearly encyclopedic record of its built environment. With the addition of the video camera network, officials in New Delhi will be able to survey the city for all-too-common illegal construction. The cameras will also be able to track the gradual and presumably permitted changes to the landscape, creating an intricate timeline of development in the city.

It’s an interesting use of video camera technology to augment planning processes. But all this is not to say that these cameras are simply being put in place to help plan a better city. The security element remains a key driver, and all the video cameras can be used to monitor hot spots for suspicious activities. The video feeds will stream into 10 “control rooms,” including one in police headquarters. It’s vaguely similar to the “Single City Operations Center” control room built by IBM last year in Rio de Janeiro. As Greg Lindsay reported last year, that system is intended to monitor the city for emergencies and control crime as Rio prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

These types of projects – pushed forward by both governments and private technology companies – create an uneasy mix of valuable tools and probably too much omnipresence. But from a city management perspective they offer a set of highly advanced mechanisms to better understand and govern the city. Despite their Big Brother implications, they’re likely to continue to rise in popularity in cities all over the world.

Photo credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

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