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STREET SPIES: New downtown light system capable of more than illumination

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Reported by: Gerard Ramalho
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Updated: 11/11/2013 4:25 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- If you've paid attention to all the downtown re-development over the past few years you know a lot of progress has been made.

One more upgrade currently in the works is a brand new street-lighting system.

The lights are capable of all sorts of fancy features and they may save the city money, but there's a concern. These new street lights are also capable of recording video and audio.

The system is entirely adaptable. The lights are currently being tested in Las Vegas but they could soon be positioned on public streets throughout the city.

We've all learned what federal authorities are capable of through the National Security Agency, with recordings of cell phone conversations and emails. Some worry this is yet another attempt by authorities to potentially invade our privacies.

It’s all around us – technology monitoring, watching, recording our actions and whereabouts. From drones in the sky to hidden cameras, even our TV’s and cell phones..

There are obvious benefits to all this technology. Once is convenience but these days some wonder if there’s ever a time when we’re not being watched.

“We want to develop more than just the street lighting component. We want to develop an experience for the people who come downtown,” said Neil Rohleder with the Public Works Department.

Neil Roheloder says his latest project involves the testing of a new streetlight system by a company called Intellistreets.

They look like ordinary street poles but they’re actually capable of a wide variety of features from playing music, to broadcasting messages via voice and digital display. It’s all controlled by an Ipad or a similar-type of device.

“Actually, there’s a server that’s housed by the company that’s providing this product and we’re communicating with just a wireless, wi-fi connection,” Roheloder said.

It all sounds great but a growing number of citizens in Las Vegas have real concerns about where all this smart-technology may be leading.

“This technology, you know is taking us to a place where, you know, you’ll essentially be monitored from the moment you leave your home till the moment you get home,” said civil rights activist Daphne Lee.

Lee is a privacy-advocate who worries our freedoms are disappearing.

Illuminating concepts, the company who designed Intellistreets, say the processors store and analyze data, soundtracks, announcements, commercials and even video files.

According to its own marketing video, the lights they manufacture are adaptable and capable of adding cameras for surveillance and security and even recording devices.

Yes, the same streetlights now being tested in Las Vegas could someday be set up to record conversations from everyday passersby.

“Right now our intention is not to have any cameras or recording devices…it’s just to provide output out there, not to get any feed or video feed coming back,” said Las Vegas public works director, Jorge Servantes.

But, those assurances aren’t enough for some, especially since the company’s own website touts security benefits, including how the lights can be used to assist homeland security in protecting citizens.

Lee would like to know: who is protecting our rights?

“At what point do we say this is the land of the free,” Lee said. “People have a right to a reasonable amount of privacy.”

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