Security geeks at work

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have completed a prototype device that can block digital-camera function in a given area. Commercial versions of the technology could be used to stymie unwanted use of video or still cameras.

The prototype device, produced by a team in the Interactive and Intelligent Computing division of the Georgia Tech College of Computing (COC), uses off-the-shelf equipment – camera-mounted sensors, lighting equipment, a projector and a computer — to scan for, find and neutralize digital cameras. The system works by looking for the reflectivity and shape of the image-producing sensors used in digital cameras.

“We’re at a point right now where the prototype we have developed could lead to products for markets that have a small, critical area to protect,” Abowd said. “Then we’re also looking to do additional research that could increase the protected area for one of our more interesting clients, the motion picture industry.”

Abowd said the small-area product could prevent espionage photography in government buildings, industrial settings or trade shows. It could also be used in business settings — for instance, to stop amateur photography where shopping-mall-Santa pictures are being taken.

Can you guess who sets the priorities for these GIT researchers?



  1. Smartalix says:

    I guess this means film gets another niche market to help it survive.

  2. PcMonster says:

    Have you ever tried to take pictures inside a casino? Digital or film… neither will work. The technology is already in use. If you are ever involved in any photgraphy forums you will hear stories about people not be allowed to take pictures in some public places. I cant give exact examples but I remember hearing stories. I can understand not being able to take pictures in some government / military facilities but sometime its taken to far. Kind of reminds you of a nice little country called the USSR or mayby communist China.

  3. Uncle Dave says:

    PcMonster, that is not true. Aside from living in Vegas, I work for a slot machine company and spend a great deal of time in casinos. There used to be a prohibition on taking pictures in casinos to protect themselves from people who might use them to help them cheat, protect the privacy of players, etc. But most have no problem anymore. Since modern slot machines are impossible to cheat without opening them up, they don’t want to do anything that might annoy tourists who might then go somewhere else to gamble. Plus, people taking pictures and showing to friends or online is good advertising. That doesn’t mean there aren’t places that still have signs saying no picture taking, but there’s no tech to prevent it in casinos at least.

  4. pseudolus says:

    “the motion picture industry”

    I bet these folks will sink a TON of money into the technology to create theater dead-zones against illicit videoshooting of movie releases.

  5. Lou says:

    If I am in a private space, which has a policy of no picture taking, WTF is wrong with them using technology means to enforce it.

    Taking a digital picture in a PRIVATE space is not a “right”, it is a privilige, granted by the owner, and hopefully the people you might be taking a picture of.

    We are not talking investigative journalism here, which there is a right of (freedom of the press). But freedoms can collide, and let the courts decide if its actionable in a particular case. But in general, NOBODY should be able to take pictures on my property without my consent, and I have every right to stop them surreptiously taking them if I want.

  6. catbeller says:

    6: Almost every space in the U.S. is “private”. And you’ve no right not to have pictures taken, as I’m sure the NSA, the cops, the CIA, the FBI, and any Bush judge will tell you. I don’t agree, but the police state is here, and someone should have spoken up since ’80 when all these judges were moved into position to legalize this stuff.

    But, cheer up. If they can block the cameras of the people, we can use the same tech to block their cameras, the ones they don’t want us to think about, no?

  7. Lou says:

    #7, catbeller: here, here…. the fact that the government claims this right to fight terrorism, or whatever, does not change my opinion. Two wrongs do not make a right. The space that matters to me is the truly private space (homes, etc).

  8. darden says:

    How do you get one of these devices installed in a car, along with the Escort Radar Detector so speeding through red lights in Garland, TX is not functional?

  9. Rick Pali says:

    I doubt this device would work on a digital SLR anyway…at least for a few generations of the device.

  10. PcMonster says:

    #3 Uncle Dave, I wonder if maybe its up to establisment whether they use that type of technology or not. I was in the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City back in 95. I had a film camera and another person had another that I thought it was a digital camera. All of the photographs I took outside the casino around the boardwalk came out fine but the photos of the inside did not, they were completely blank. I talked to the other guy some time later and he said the same. I don’t know how or why, I guess the cameras could have had problems.
    Do you know of any facilities that do use that technology.

  11. Uncle Dave says:

    If something like that could have existed back in ’95, the only organization who might have had it would have been the CIA,, unless they were using the casino for testing which would have been highly unlikely.

    The primary reason for restricting cameras was to prevent cheats from getting photos of the insides of slot machines and other things they might use to help cheat or rob. But with so much info available online, the extreme difficulty of doing anything illegal, high-tech, digital recording of every move anyone makes in a casino, facial recognition (thanks to the terrorists, this tech has become mainstream), etc., and because it makes the customers happy to take pictures, it is rare for one to complain today.

    FYI, a slot machine today is nothing more than a computer with buttons (or the handle which activates a switch) and a monitor or reels. And the reels simply rotate to the positions shown in a look-up table whose index is picked by the random number generated when you press the button. The spinning is for show. Most casinos are moving to coinless or will soon, so there is no way to cheat them anymore like in the old days with mechanicals. Photographing the inside of a slot machine won’t show it’s programming.