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Cityfibre’s Peterborough Smart City Trial Triggers Privacy Concerns

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 (1:49 pm) - Score 1,459
cityfibre peterborough council fttp deployment

In a surprising development Cityfibre’s Smart City trial with Cross Keys Homes (CKH) has been accused by Big Brother Watch of turning Peterborough’s social housing estates into “surveillance zones,” which apparently stems from a deployment of sensors that connect to their full fibre broadband network.

At present Cityfibre, which are being supported by residential ISP partner Vodafone UK, is in the process of investing £30m in order to deploy a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband network across Peterborough by the end of 2021.

Meanwhile the related Smart City trial, which was only announced yesterday, said its aim was to “explore how a network of [real-time] sensors deployed throughout its estate could monitor health, safety and environmental factors as well as deliver cost savings and reduce the carbon footprint of both CKH and its residents.”

The trial itself is understood to be taking place at three residential locations across the city and naturally all of those sensors are being connected back to Cityfibre’s new network via a low power wireless link.

Cityfibre’s Description of the Trial

The next generation sensor technology was deployed to evaluate its potential in a number of scenarios. Sensors were used to effectively monitor humidity and condensation to improve the comfort of tenants while reducing the need for damp treatment or repair. Environmental sensors were also used to address wasted heat in communal areas, contributing to reduced carbon emissions and lower energy bills.

Noise sensors also delivered further benefit by monitoring unauthorised activity in vacant properties, while parking sensors alerted staff to illegal parking in front of emergency exits. This real time data enabled CKH employees to act promptly, ensuring improved tenant safety and security.

Additional sensors also were also used to monitor levels in water tanks and detect fire risks such open fire doors, allowing for swift remedial action.

However Big Brother Watch, which is also no fan of CCTV systems, told the Telegraph (paywall) that “many residents will feel deeply uncomfortable living surrounded by ‘noise sensors’ and ‘parking sensors’. They’re being treated like lab rats in a surveillance experiment.”

Sadly they don’t elaborate much on those concerns, although it’s perhaps conceivable that a sophisticated enough network of sensors could also be used to compile enough meta data so as to identify people or other types of local activity.

A Spokesperson for Cityfibre said:

“This [Internet of Things] IoT technology monitors environmental data not personal data, including ambient temperature, water and CO levels. Applications like these have the potential to improve residents’ safety and comfort, increase energy efficiency and deliver cost savings.”

One crucial point to make here is that the sensors are only installed inside people’s homes when they give their full consent and they have the right to refuse, which seems like a fair enough approach to us.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    “One crucial point to make here is that the sensors are only installed inside people’s homes when they give their full consent and they have the right to refuse, which seems like a fair enough approach to us.”

    Hmm so the antisocial tenants just need to refuse permission. genius.

    Personally nothing above seems a privacy issue – Its not recording words but volume (sounds sensors) and condensation is not private! But we live in fairly stupid times and frankly I can well see vexatious litigation if they didn’t bend over backwards.

  2. Avatar NGA for all

    An interesting addition to a tenancy agreement!

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