As I said, when I posted this Challenge, I didn't know the answer. After more hours than I care to admit, I think I have the answer... or at least part of it. I'm sure I'll keep poking around on this one over the next couple of weeks, trying to nail down the details.
The Challenge was, given a few pictures:
1. What are these cameras doing?
2. Who owns (or installed) the cameras?
3. What happens to the images being captured by the cameras?
To remind you, here's the camera we seek. They're mounted on top of streetlights at intersections, one pointing each way.
I started this search by doing a bunch of obvious searches:
[ Palo Alto traffic camera ]
[ Palo Alto street camera ]
and so forth.
I learned a good deal, but didn't get anything definitively.
Like many readers, I found the current "Bicycle camera monitoring" controversy. But if you look for the pictures associated with the "bicycle cameras," you'll see they look very different.
|Image from Palo Alto Online (May 16, 2014).|
As you can see, these cameras are a temporary fixture: they're on top of poles that are chained to telephone poles. It's a self-contained unit--there's no video cable leading out to some higher authority. (Apparently the video is put onto a DVR in the red box, which is then examined by humans later to track bikes and pedestrians. The data is then deleted, according to the City. Palo Alto Online article.)
That's not what we seek. So that's a dead end.
I tried various other combinations: [ white streetlight camera ] [ cylindrical traffic camera ] and had little luck.
I changed my query to:
[ Palo Alto streetlight camera ]
and in result #1 I found this: PhotoEnforced.com (which seems to be acrowd sourced database of camera enforced locations. Begun in 2001, the open database of red light cameras and speed cameras (and fines) is continually updated by users from around the U.S.
I was able to find similar cameras by doing an Image search for:
[ traffic surveillance camera ]
In the process of reading about these cameras, I picked up the phrase "traffic surveillance," that seems to be what these cameras are called. (I think I picked it up from the Trapster article linked above.)
First, the map above doesn't show the street intersections I was curious about (Charleston and Nelson, for example). When I look at the mapped intersections using Streetview, I find that these are SQUARE cameras, not cylindrical. It's a different kind of camera.
Second, there are still some things that are hard to find. You'd think, in these days of goverment transparency, that something like a "map of the traffic cameras" would be on the city's website, but that apparently isn't the case.
A useful attitude to keep in mind is one of supreme skepticism. If it helps, imagine that you're going to show your newly discovered result to your teacher and explain why you believe this is the right answer.
I was impressed by the quality of the searching done by the SearchResearchers.
Like Fred, I found the West Sacramento page ("What are those gizmos?") in an early search, but I wanted to get deeper into the story, so I kept looking.
Jodimillard also found the SCC camera site, but correctly noticed that it wasn't what we were seeking.
However... Unlike Ramón, I did NOT find the City of Palo Alto Request For Quotation for the video camera installation. He did. That's a great find. (But we need to remember that the cameras have been installed since at least 2004. This RFQ is for 2011, and the work wouldn't get done until much later.
Nevertheless, the RFQ asks for the installation of the "Vantage RZ4-AWDR color camera," which you can look up to find the manufacturer specs, and a picture of the camera.
When I read the RFQ carefully I found this interesting phrase:
6.1.8 The interface unit shall support streaming video technology using MPEG4 and H.264 standards to allow the user to monitor video detection imagery over the Ethernet interface. Motion JPEG streaming video shall not be allowed.
6.1.10 The user shall be able to select a quad view of all of the four cameras simultaneously on the output video monitor by depressing the menu button.
Which means that the Traffic guy from the city was absolutely correct. The cameras CAN be used for remote monitoring one at a time, or all 4 together. (And, of course, remote video capture, although that's not mentioned in the RFQ, but it would be easy enough to setup.) The max resolution of the video is 720 X 486 (D1 resolution), which might barely be enough to capture license plates. Maybe.
[ site:cityofpaloalto.org "video detection" ]
and found that the contract (for $79K) was awarded to Iteris (the maker of the detection system) on June 1, 2011. I assume that those cameras were added sometime after that.
Now, if I could only find that room buried deep within City Hall that monitors all of the (hypothetical) traffic cameras.