An overview of high-tech surveillance

Monday, 20 October 2003, 1:31 PM EST

Think of your life before the answering machine, the ATM, e-mail. Think of your grandparents' lives before the television and the airplane. Think of your great-grandparents' lives before the telephone. All told, the shift will be that substantial. Machines will recognize our faces and our fingerprints. They will watch out for swimmers in distress, for radioactivity- and germ-laden terrorists, for red-light runners and highway speeders, for diabetics and heart patients.

Imagine devices that monitor the breathing rhythms of infants in cribs, watch toddlers at day care, and track children as they go to and from school; that can keep an eye on our home supply of orange juice and let us know when the milk is sour. Machines might watch our calorie intake and burn-off, monitor air quality in our homes, and look out for mice and bugs.

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