Prototype search engine uses cameras, mics and Twitter

by Dale Wright

A Scottish research team have invented a completely new way to search the internet – and we could have the chance to use it on our smartphones within the next two years.
Smart logo Prototype search engine uses cameras, mics and Twitter

The team from the University of Glasgow have placed cameras and microphones in the outside world to test whether live sound and video could be provided to people searching for information. When a user searches for something, the system automatically locates sensors which could answer their question. The multimedia data is then matched with social media chat from sites like Twitter to answer questions about things happening all around in real time.

The new search project, called the Search engine for MultimediA environment geneRated content (SMART), has been funded by the EU and has some big-name backers: IBM, Imperial College London, City of Santander and Atos to name but a few.

In time we could see our cities hooked up to the internet, pumping live data about human activity directly onto the web. As well as search engines, the British government wants councils to put more data about public transport online, and give us more options for living digitally.

A ‘sensory search’ system such as SMART – or something derived from the experiment – could be online as early as 2014. We may soon be able to download an app to listen to a live audio stream of a concert, or a live camera stream of people on the local high street.

All the terabytes of data produced by these systems will be useful, but it raises privacy questions too. Would you want people to be able to search for you and find out who you’re with, where you are or what kind of coffee you’re drinking? Would you be happy to store your credit card details in an app provided by your local council or have a live video feed of your house on the internet?

What do you think of SMART – the next generation, or a step closer to Big Brother?