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Tag Archives: stupid

The Eye of Sauron comes to Birmingham

There has been a lot made over the last few weeks about how the new telly screen eyes on the new new new New Street Station will be backed with hidden cameras from which !’state of the art facial recognition technology’! will be able to scan the demographics of passers-by, and direct targeted advertising to them:

So, presumably, if a trainload of incoming college freshmen pulls into the station, the giant eyes will condescend to them about drink offers and the silent menace that is chlamydia. A group of sad and sweaty business drones will prompt messages about erectile dysfunction pills, hair loss treatments, cars that look like they’re worth more than they really are, luxury dog food, and all the rest of the dull flotsam of meaningless adulthood. And if some kindly old ladies should totter through, clanking against their walker frames, the vast eye above them will taste their frailty in the air, narrow its gaze in their direction, and start furiously flashing large-print advertisements for life insurance, bath lifts, Dignitas.

I’ve no doubt about this being technically possible and that the system presumably technically works in a test setting – I’m sure if the people behind the technology weren’t able to demonstrate it working technically, the people behind the station^Wshopping centre wouldn’t have been persuaded to buy it.

New Street Birmingham eyeBut I’m still calling bullshit on it.

I mean, have you ever stood in and around New Street station for any length of time. Or any train station, for that matter?

Vice’s polemic aside, have you ever noticed there ever being a particularly definable crowd of students, office workers, or old people walking past at any given moment?

A train station, especially a major national interchange hub like Birmingham New Street, is something used by everybody, and everybody walks past one. Even at specific times you’ll be getting everybody passing through – at commuter time, you’ll be getting business folks, young folks, hairdressers, shop workers, finance workers, and everybody else all passing through at the same time. Coming home later in the evening, you’ll get people coming home from Wetherspoons, from swanky bars, from the cinema, and from Symphony Hall, the Repertory Theatre, and the Hippodrome.

So on this basis, assuming the technology can recognise the demographic of an individual, and indeed recognise the demographic of a crowd, what actually would the point of that be, since it will never actually see an individual demographic (apart from possibly for about half an hour on football days) to recognise and then target to? How will the marketing success of this system ever be more effective than a system which just churns out adverts on either a random or pre-programmed sequence.

I think the folks at Grand Central need to ask for their money back.

This arrest has been brought to you courtesy of Persil


It has come out in today’s Guardian that our local police force is putting out to private sector tender a significant number of its core services – an effective privatisation of the police. “Private companies could take responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and even detaining suspects under a radical privatisation plan being put forward by two […]

I’m calling for a boycott – of boycotts

People who are pissed off with the News of the World and people who buy it failing to intersect on a Venn diagram

Like all good left-leaning liberal types, I am personally boycotting the News of the World for its phone hacking scandal (and by extension all the other Murdoch empire media products), and also at the same time boycotting the council’s collection of rubbish because the council uses Veolia to process the rubbish, who are apparently corporately […]

Political irregular verbs

House of Lords

We all know about irregular verbs from when we learned French at school – I debate sensibly, you argue pointless, he/she rants aggressively. In politics now we have We scrutinise legislation carefully, They filibuster; We protect the Primacy of the Commons, They Ride Roughshod Over The Constitution. So whilst Labour peers have spent the last […]

Unacceptable train overcrowding to get worse, MPs say

Overcrowding on trains in England and Wales will get substantially worse over the next four years despite rises in ticket prices, a report by MPs says. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the Department for Transport’s own plans suggested targets for increasing passenger places would be missed. It’s good that MPs have finally realised there’s a […]

Been underbilled for your tax? You don’t have to pay the extra!

“About £2bn was underpaid via the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) system in the past two years, with about 1.4 million people owing an average of £1,500 each. But £1.8bn has also been overpaid and some 4.3 million people will get a rebate because they have paid too much. Treasury minister David Gauke said that in the […]

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