The French city of Cannes has installed a ‘talking’ security camera in its Commandant Maria square to assist municipal police. The system, which adds to two standard cameras already in the square, can broadcast pre-recorded or instant messages. These could be major risk alerts, bad weather warnings or to “challenge citizens in the event of incivism,” including dropping litter, a spokesperson for the City of Cannes said.
The resort town of Mandelieu-la-Napoule was the first to install talking CCTV in France in 2016, and similar technology has been in place in some UK cities for over a decade but it is a new initiative for Cannes, which has the densest network of security cameras in the country, with 690 in total – one per 109 residents.
Positioned on the northern part of the square at the top of a six-metre mast, the new camera can turn 360 degrees and has a 30X zoom and two speakers with a 40-metre range. While the camera can broadcast, it doesn’t ‘listen’ or use facial recognition technology, the Cannes spokesperson said. “This technology, which is useful in the face of incivility, has threefold interest: monitoring, alerting and deterring,” said Mayor David Lisnard.The tool is managed from Cannes’ Urban Protection Center by a team of four agents around the clock.
Similar talking security cameras have previously drawn dystopian comparisons with Big Brother or Robocop and concerns about public shaming. The city said: “David Lisnard, mayor of Cannes, decided to have these talking cameras installed on this very busy square to strengthen the field work of the municipal police.” “[The tool] makes it possible to fight effectively against incivility in Cannes and to protect the population.”
The installation is the first step in a “renewal plan” which aims to improve quality of life and safety in the area. Further developments planned for the summer include two additional classic cameras, more public lighting and pruning of vegetation for better visibility; the creation of ‘Parisian’ borders “to limit gatherings”; and a new carousel and terrace.
In May, Cannes trialled artificial intelligence (AI) software to track mask-wearing and social distancing in markets and on public transport. The “one-off use” has since stopped, the city spokesperson said.