Sci-Fi Fiction always on the way to reality

I remember reading a sci-fi book (David Brin’s Earth) awhile back set in the near future where a man-made black-hole fell into the center of the Earth. To say the least, it created a bit of a problem for our fictional heroes.

One of the events (I do hope I’m referring to the right book) that really stood out to me was when one of the main characters was roving around in a city, and a gang of thugs didn’t attack him/her purely because there were old retired people around hooked up with video gear that sent live feedback to the police station. These retired semi-vigilantes roamed around looking for some sort of crime to film, so they could send it in live to the police station. It was an interesting cross between the big-brother scenarios that are quite popular and vigilantism.

Ah, how fun it is as sci-fi I read years ago marches into the real-world. Earlier tonight I read a Cnet article on New York Police using cell phone photographs to help fight crime. I’m sure this will be extended to live video when cell phones and networks here can support it. I’ve found I actually prefer these kind of “big-brother” vs the type that seems to be popular in London; cameras on every street corner.

The problem with cameras all over, is that without some sort of AI, or army of people to watch them, you can only deal with logging the event and responding after the fact. It’s rare that someone watching hundreds of cameras will see some sort of crime in the act, compared to harnessing the ability of individuals to intelligently send relevant (or possibly relevant) video back to police for review.

The only thing in the article that confuses me is why it would cost the NY Police 40k to receive cell phone photos… surely there’s cheaper software that would work?