Surveillance Spaulder

December 11, 2013

For Wearable Futures’ Futures 10 exhibition, I made a CCTV surveillance detector. Watch the video below or on Vimeo to find out more.

The spaulder is a traditional component of medieval plate armour, designed to protect the wearer from unexpected and unseen blows from above. The Surveillance Spaulder continues this tradition into the present day – and the electromagnetic spectrum – alerting the wearer to the violence of ubiquitous surveillance.

The spaulder contains a CCTV detector, based on a design by anonymous security researcher Puking Monkey. The detector filters the light it collects through a 730nm bandpass filter to isolate the infrared lighting used in most commonly-deployed CCTV cameras. When it receives a signal, it pulses electric current through a pair of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) pads attached to the wearer’s shoulder, causing them to twitch sharply.

The spaulder is an inversion of the more common operation of wearable technology, wherein information is gathered and emitted to the environment and the network, quantifying and identifying the user. Instead, it focuses information on the body and draws the wearer’s attention to the external systems trained upon them.

More critically, the spaulder physicalises the policeman in the mind, providing tactile feedback, akin to a tap on the shoulder, every time one comes under the gaze of power, and turning the gentle caress of the surveillance state into a sharp reminder that we inhabit a world of overlapping, unequal and often conflicting information flows.


Video at Vimeo, with thanks to Asylum Films / More photos at Flickr

* Disclaimer: This is one of those much – and often fairly – maligned design fictions. The spaulder is not currently a functioning device, due to component shortages and electrical ineptness, hence the over-acting in the above video. Nevertheless, given the correct components and power supply, such a device is more than possible. For more information, including circuit diagrams, see this excellent presentation by Puking Monkey on locational privacy, ALPR/ANPR, EZ-Pass and much more. (The site appears to be a little flakey, but there is a full description of the presentation below, and you can read more about the EZ-Pass hack here and elsewhere.)

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