Earlier this year it was reported that the London borough of Haringey had used a spy plane to record residents’ energy use patterns:
Thermal images of homes have been taken by a light aircraft fitted with military spy technology to record the heat escaping from people’s houses.
Maps identifying individual homes have now been placed on the internet to encourage occupiers to reduce their wastage and carbon emissions by fitting insulation and turning the thermostat down.
An aircraft, fitted with a military-style thermal imager, flew over the borough 17 times to take pictures of almost every house in the area.
Footage of heat loss was converted into stills, then laid over a map of the area, before each house was given colour-coded ratings.
Homes that were losing the most heat were represented as bright red on the map. The least wasteful households were shown in deep blue. Shades of paler blues and reds were used to show grades of heat loss.
The Haringey heat map is now available online.
The practice itself is referred to as “hot-mapping,” and the company behind the Haringey project also has “complete aerial heat-loss data sets of most of London and all of Norwich. Other locations may follow, and specific areas can always be commissioned.”
What’s interesting, though, is that the use of a “spy plane” – really, just an airplane – makes the whole thing sound like some sort of Gestapo-esque invasion of privacy; one wonders if the Haringey heat-map would have generated quite as much negative commentary if it had used, say, random satellite maps or even a house-by-house home inspection team.
Though, having said that, I’m reminded of a story I heard on NPR a few months ago, about chimney sweeps in Germany and how they’re still considered somewhat suspicious due to their historical use, by the Stasi, as domestic spies during the good old days of the DDR.
All of which is just a long way of saying: is it possible to monitor and regulate something like domestic home energy-use without tripping off people’s sense of being targeted by The Man – some terrifying and abstract Big Government that sends agents to your home and fills the sky with spy planes? Does the very mention of the phrase “spy plane” lead to resentment and paranoia?
(Story spotted at collision detection).