Case Study: Smart Stadiums

Project Title: Smart Stadium Project – ethics study

Project Description:
The Smart Stadium project is a collaboration between Dublin City University, Intel, Microsoft and Croke Park (the third largest sports stadium in Europe). The project seeks to harness existing Internet of Things technologies to develop new smart city technologies and to validate these in a stadium setting. The ethics study aspect of the project was initiated by DCU in collaboration with ASU in order to explore and anticipate ethical issues peculiar to smart city applications. The work resulted in a publication linked to the Smart Stadium project.

In their review of the Smart Stadium research field, DCU investigators raised the following ethical considerations:

Sensors and Informed Consent
DCU and ASU looked at the ethical implications of taking a smart stadium, city or large urban area and studding it with sensors of all types, capturing a range of inputs such as sound, images, temperatures and wind speeds. The study contained much discussion on the issue of informed consent in cases where that consent is derived by ticking a box at the end of a long form written in ‘legalese’.
Observing, recording and making available people’s retail or social behaviour in a stadium, for example, raises what researchers describe as a ‘laundry list’ of ethical issues. While industry agents might be strongly in favour of such data capture, policy makers, legislators and the public, once informed, invariably point to the ethical challenges inherent in such large scale data capture.

Key question 1: The installation of such sensors is made possible by technology, but does that make it advisable?

Key question 2: How do you assure you have informed consent from everyone who is monitored?

Key question 3: The researchers cite the example of the term and conditions listed on the back of stadium tickets – surveillance may be detailed as a condition of attendance. However, is that enough to ensure the consent of the monitored?

Capture and anonymisation of data 

Key question 1: Where highly sensitive images of people attending an event are recorded, how can we take and process those image so that they are anonymised but also fulfil technological needs?

Key question 2: How do we record and communicate crowd numbers in a particular space (an important health and safety metric, leading to a safer and more enjoyable experience for stadium users) without recording the movements and identities of individuals?

Ethics-led technology development
The researchers in this study concluded that it’s important that smart stadium (and by extension smart school, city and farm) technology development proceeds in an ethically informed manner.
Edge-based processing has emerged as a potential solution, or at least part of a solution, to the challenges raised above. This is a technology that is designed to capture, process and discard data within the device, providing the necessary outputs for smart decision making, without releasing the data itself. For example, the edge-based processing device monitors the number of people attempting to access a food stand, identify a queue, report that information to the relevant operative, and discard the images required to generate the information. In short, the data never has to leave the device.
This is a potential solution to an ethical problem, that happily has commercial value too. Certain types of data is expensive to shuttle around the network – edge-based processing avoids unnecessary bandwidth congestion.

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