After 18 months of planning, a UCSB researcher is overseeing the installation of a new camera network to research the migratory habits of students and birds.

Electrical and computer engineering professor B.S. Manjunath received a federal grant from the Office of Naval Research to document patterns of human movement around campus buildings and bicycle paths as well as monitor snowy plovers on nearby beaches. Emphasizing that the project is not for surveillance purposes, Manjunath said he and his team have installed cameras in Harold Frank Hall and are currently in the process of placing others above bicycle paths at Kirby Crossing, Steck Circle and the Coal Oil Point Reserve.

To alleviate privacy concerns, computer science professor and project member Matthew Turk said researchers are following strict guidelines not to record or keep personal information.

Manjunath’s said the project stems from his interest in basic motion analysis and spatial dynamics.

“I don’t think anything like this has been done anywhere, so we are creating a unique infrastructure,” Manjunath said.

This novel research method will compile data suitable for a variety of disciplines and a wide range of research goals. From student movement in environmentally friendly buildings to nesting patterns at Coal Oil Point Reserve, Manjunath said the study examines many previously un-researched aspects of motion.

“Some of the researchers are excited to observe [the plovers’] natural habitat without interfering,” Manjunath said.

Computer science professor Ambuj Singh also said the research team will be looking at into biking patterns.

“As far as the human aspect, there would be questions of safety,” Singh said. “When is the peak traffic of the bike path, in what direction is it going, what speeds are the bicycles going and whether it is it safe or not?”

Professor Turk said a group of professors collaborated to define the research goals for the camera network, each for slightly different research reasons.

“I do research in computer vision,” Turk said. “We can look at how people act visually both in a single camera and also in a larger network, where you can track someone from one camera to another.”
Computer engineering professor Joao Hespanha, on the other hand, said he is focusing on the camera network’s promise to provide environmental data.
“My interest in the project had to do with intelligence buildings,” Hespanha said. “We want to minimize energy consumption. The cameras are to estimate when people are in the building. You can actually be proactive and figure out that every Monday at 10 a.m. there is a meeting in this room and set the air conditioning to go on at that time.”

Hespanha said the project will officially begin once the team’s graduate students finish installing all cameras in the next few months.
“When you have a camera like this, there are a million things you can do with it,” Hespanha said. “It’s a moderate investment and you can get a lot out of it.”

The cameras run on an automated data generating system, with people and birds serving to set off motion detecting sensors.