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Lidar Technology Protects Privacy While Advancing Safety

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High Tech Driving

Cities are embracing connected and intelligent technologies and the data they generate to power a range of solutions that address challenges such as pedestrian safety, queue management, vehicle traffic management and more. Lidar technology is emerging as a critical ingredient to smart city solutions with its ability to capture data essential for these systems. Cities can use it to take informed, timely actions that improve safety, efficiency and sustainability while also addressing civic application requirements to maintain public privacy.

Understanding the Foundations of Lidar Technology

Lidar is an acronym for “light detection and ranging.” The technology uses eye-safe laser beams to create a high-resolution representation of a surveyed environment. Lidar “sees” the world in 3D, which is hugely important to achieve accuracy and precision.

From an article in StateTech by Jon Barad.

Lidar technology was developed in the early 1960s, closely following the invention of the laser. It gained public notice in 1971 when the Apollo 15 mission used the technology to map the moon’s surface. Since then, lidar has been used in numerous game-changing applications, including autonomous vehicles, robotics, smart cities and drones.

A typical lidar sensor emits pulsed light waves into the surrounding environment. These pulses bounce off surrounding objects and return to the sensor. The sensor uses the time it took for each pulse to return to the sensor to calculate the distance it traveled. Repeating this process millions of times per second generates the data to create a precise, real-time 3D map of the environment.

How Smart Cities Can Use Lidar to Protect Privacy

As state and local governments increase their use of publicly captured data for road and infrastructure use by citizens, demand for data protection and privacy is growing. Common concerns associated with smart city data use include the data collection itself, a lack of regulations for protecting the privacy of citizens, and the need for cities to adopt technologies that protect privacy and sensitive personal data.

Lidar can be instrumental in helping governments address these privacy concerns, especially when compared with cameras, which is the perception technology most often used in smart city applications today.

Lidar can monitor civic environments and track pedestrians and vehicles while creating data about surroundings without collecting facial recognition or other biometric data. Lidar doesn’t require any interaction with a person’s cell phone, enabling it to accurately track people in crowded areas without invading personal devices. The technology provides the high-grade reliability needed for smart city solutions while preserving trust and anonymity among the public.

In comparison, camera-based monitoring systems capture individuals’ facial and other identifying information. Even when these systems are deployed for good, useful purposes, they are vulnerable to being accessed by unauthorized, potentially malicious entities.

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