One of the most interesting passages from Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother was Marcus’s in-depth description of his escape from his prison like school. It was not, however, the clever routes nor the email blasts sent to distract the school narc that fascinated me, rather, it was the technology the school used to identify each student in the hallways and Marcus’s clever techniques to evade it.
You might have seen the implementation of Gait Recognition software in popular movies such as Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, but I doubt you know the extent of its application. In the novel, Marcus describes how courts had deemed it unconstitutional for the Schools to place cameras in the hallway to monitor the students, so, as an end-around, they had put in gait recognition cameras. Marcus details how the cameras pick up a student’s “gait” or manner of walking and catalog them in a database with a profile. He goes on to explain how each person has their own unique stride length, pace, and dip in their step which makes the system extremely efficient.
The pitfalls in the schools security are exactly those plaguing the advances in gait recognition software today. Developers of these technologies struggle to keep results consistent as a person’s natural gait can change slightly in regards to footwear, clothing, and even emotional state. The benefits of being an unobtrusive surveillance device also lend to its potential inaccuracies. Marcus, being the intelligent 17 year old he is, quickly realizes this fact.
Marcus and his friends realize that by pouring a few pieces of gravel into their shoes they can make the software unsure enough to where it will not sound an alarm and also not be able to match his gait with his profile. Throughout the novel as his city becomes more like a police state, Marcus uses this technique to evade detection against an intelligent recognition software.