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NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System

With an eye to fighting crime and terrorism, Domain Awareness System will cull data from closed-circuit TV cameras, radiation detectors, and license plate readers around the city.
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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled Wednesday a new surveillance system, developed in partnership with Microsoft, that incorporates information from license plate readers, street cameras, and other sensors distributed around the city.

The new Domain Awareness System will pull in data from some 3,000 closed-circuit television cameras in lower and midtown Manhattan, 2,600 radiation detectors distributed to New York Police Department (NYPD) officers on patrol, and 100 license plate readers on bridges, tunnels, streets, and city police cars.

The system, which will support crime prevention and counterterrorism, will relay information "so it can be analyzed and acted upon" by the NYPD, Bloomberg said. The technology has a role "in fighting everyday crime," he said.

According to a joint statement by city officials and Microsoft, the system was developed "by police officers for police officers." Its capabilities include real-time alerts and the ability to display data on maps of the city. Cameras can be programmed to sound an alarm if they spot suspicious activity, such as an unattended package or vehicle parked in front of a building.

New York police commissioner Ray Kelly said the system "allows us to connect the dots" by providing access to crime records, 911 calls, license-plate registration, video, and other data sources.

[ Learn about proposed legislation to bring privacy laws up to speed with law enforcement requests in the age of mobile and cloud. Cloud Privacy Update Tackled By Lawmakers. ]

Microsoft worked with the NYPD's Intelligence Division and Counter-Terrorism Bureau over several years to develop the Domain Awareness System. Depending on how it performs, the system may be offered to other municipalities.

In a unique business relationship, Microsoft will pay New York 30% of revenue on sales of the system to other cities. That could potentially let New York recoup its expenses and "maybe even make a few bucks," Bloomberg said.

Contributing writer Dan Taylor is managing editor of Inside the Navy.