Conducting real-world research for a smart buildings study, a team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers installed Mites, a cutting-edge sensor system designed to detect “fine-grained building states and occupant activities” at a newly developed building campus building. With these mobile-phone sized gadgets placed in more than 300 locations on the walls and ceilings of every area but the bathrooms, veritably every corner of the 90,000-square-foot property is outfitted with infrared sensors, thermometers and, yes, microphones. Now students and faculty who work in the building are crying foul, as they were not given the opportunity to provide express consent to what they deem surveillance. While the team behind Mites asserts that it incorporated measures to keep collected data anonymous, those who have been monitored by the devices say their privacy has been violated.
We want smart buildings to get even smarter but actual people occupy buildings so there is always the question of where to draw the line. In the bid to make buildings perform more efficiently through the use of new monitoring technology, people are literally getting in the way. Carnegie Mellon describes Mites as “secure and privacy sensitive sensing infrastructure” but there is a growing distrust from the public about statements like these. Privacy is on people’s minds when it comes to IoT and it doesn’t look like we are going to see a change in sentiment any time soon.