Zensors app uses your old smartphone and crowdsourcing for smart surveillance

Want to know how many times your cat jumps on the counter when you’re not around? Or, maybe you want to quantify the distraction you experience at work by counting the number of people who walk by your cubicle. Now there’s an app for that. Zensors, created by a research group at Carnegie Mellon University in participation with the Yahoo InMind Project, uses your smartphone’s camera to capture data, and then uses artificial intelligence and crowdsourced input to analyze it.

The app, currently in beta, uses your phone’s camera to monitor the action. You can set up an area on the phone’s touchscreen for the application to pay particular attention to. A Zensors demo used a parking lot as an example, where the user defined a certain parking space, or group of spaces, to watch for a period of time. Data is then analyzed by set parameters, such as how many cars park in a certain spot over a period of time.

You can use your current phone, though the group behind Zensors suggests that this is a practical use for an old smartphone that you no longer use. You can set it up to be a dedicated data collector; if you use your current device, you may interrupt your data collection activities when you receive a text, or have to walk away from the scene.

zensors

The data is crowdsourced, because certain questions are not easily answered by the simple action of an object on the screen. One of the creators, Chris Harrison, assistant professor of human-computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon, writes on his profile page that certain sensors, such as a simple open/close door sensor, does not answer the question of whether someone’s children are home from school (although you might want pick who you want to crowdsource on that query). Another example is which patrons at a restaurant need their drinks refreshed. There are business and practical applications for the Zensors app.

For the crowdsourced monitoring, the job could be done by an outsourced staff that watches for activity. At the same time, the app’s algorithms are learning from the humans; over time, some of those human-based activities could become automated.

Crowdsourcing is sometimes necessary. Harrison notes that advances in sensing, computer vision, and machine learning are quite advanced, but not quite there yet to address the queries people might use the app for.

Zensors was built for use with unused smartphones, but will also work with a Wi-Fi camera such as a Dropcam. The site says users can set alerts by email or text, and adapt the app using the available API.

Mobile

Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.
Mobile

Worried about extra data charges? Here's how to check your usage on an iPhone

It's common to get a little nervous about nearing data limits. Keep your peace of mind by checking how much data your iPhone is using. Our guide on how to check data usage on an iPhone helps you stay in control.
Mobile

Short on phone storage? Here's how to delete apps in Android

With everything we tend to use our phones for, it is all too easy to let your Android device get filled up with apps. Time for a clean out? Then check out our simple guide on how to uninstall apps in Android.
Computing

File Transfer Protocol explained: What FTP is and what it does

FTP stands for "File Transfer Protocol," and it's used to transfer files online. Most internet users don't need it, but web developers use it constantly. Here's what FTP is, how it works, and how you can get started using it.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world will take your breath away

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Photography

Using A.I., Lightroom can now boost the resolution of RAW photos

Need to eek a bit more resolution out of a RAW file? Adobe Lightroom and Camera Raw can help with a new feature called Detail Enhance. The tool uses A.I. in the demosaicing process to enhance details and reduce artifacts.
Photography

Corel VideoStudio adds tools for customizing color in simple video edits

VideoStudio is Corel's more consumer-oriented video editor but the software recently gained advanced color correction tools. The update adds custom transitions, along with speeding up performance, and adding new shortcuts.
Photography

Tight on space? Here’s how to transfer photos from an iPhone to a computer

Never lose any of your cherished selfies or family vacation photos from your iPhone again by learning how to transfer photos from your iPhone to a computer, whether you want to use a cable or wireless transfer.
Computing

500px reveals almost 15 million users are caught up in security breach

Almost 15 million members of portfolio website 500px have been caught up in a security breach. The hack occurred in 2018 but was only discovered last week. Users are being told to change their 500px password as soon as possible.
Photography

Olympus packs an enormous zoom ability in its latest interchangeable lens

The Olympus Digital ED M.Zuiko 12-200mm F/3.5-6.3 has the widest zoom range of any interchangeable lens with a 16.6x zoom. The lens, which covers a 24-400mm equivalent, is also weather sealed.
Photography

Nikon brings a classic workhorse lens to the Z series with new 24-70mm f/2.8 S

The Nikon Z series finally has a bright zoom available without an adapter. The Nikkor Z 24-70mm F/2.8 S offers new coatings and more customizable controls in a smaller, lighter body than the comparable F-mount lens.
Photography

Nikon will bring eye-detection autofocus to the Z6 and Z7 in May

An upcoming firmware update will bring Eye AF to the Nikon Z6 and Z7 -- along with improved autofocus performance in low light. The update will also give the cameras support for the CFexpress format.
Product Review

Canon democratizes full-frame with the EOS RP, but keep your expectations low

At just $1,300, the RP is Canon's least expensive full-frame camera yet, but it was born into a world of high-end, high-cost lenses where it doesn't yet feel at home.
Photography

Fujifilm’s X-T30 is a semi-pro, feature-rich camera that’s affordable to boot

Fujifilm's newest mirrorless camera delivers the premium features of the X-T3 without the premium price, giving aspiring enthusiasts a lower-cost option that can still match the image quality of Fuji's flagship.