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London councillors support use of sensor data

15/01/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

A survey of council members from the London boroughs has shown a big majority in favour of using data from sensors for environmental purposes and traffic management.

Car exhaust

There is also widespread support their use in care, but more caution in some other areas, according to the poll of 202 councillors organised by the Greater London Authority.

Its chief digital officer, Theo Blackwell, has said it indicates broad support for the use of sensors and internet connected devices – technology that plays a central part in the effort to build smart places – but it is more qualified as the data becomes more closely linked to individuals.

The survey, carried out by YouGov, revealed overwhelming support for using sensors to detect air pollution, with 94% of respondents saying they were positive or very positive, with similarly high figures for measuring noise and light pollution from events or construction (90%) and monitoring energy consumption in buildings (84%).

There was also strong support for the use of wearable devices or sensors in the home for people with care needs (76%), and significant majorities for measuring how people use walking and cycling routes, how they use parks and public spaces, measuring biodiversity. Just over half supported the use of facial recognition in policing and monitoring wheelie bins.

Exception

The only purpose which did not get majority support was using wearable devices for personal health and fitness, possibly reflecting concerns about how the data could be used by third parties.

All of the last three purposes received significant numbers of negative responses, the highest being for the use of facial recognition at 31%. This has been a controversial subject, to the extent that last year Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee urged the Government to impose a cautious approach to the roll out of the technology.

Blackwell commented: “Londoners and their representatives are taking a pragmatic approach to sensors and the use of data. This is balanced by the need for those using their data to make the case for why it is needed and to provide appropriate assurance around how, where and for how long data will be gathered.”

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