The sensors were initially developed by Vivacity to track the flow of traffic, cyclists and pedestrians and monitor how roads are being used.
But when the country went into lockdown in March, Vivacity added on an extra feature to the AI scanners so it could register the distance between pedestrians. This data is shared in a monthly report with the Government.
Vivacity Labs said they have more than 1,000 sensors installed across the UK, in cities including London, Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge and Nottingham.
Chief Operating Officer at Vivacity Peter Mildon told BBC Radio Kent on Wednesday that the data is potentially “useful for informing policy decisions” regarding lockdown measures.
He stressed that the cameras are not CCTV but that they operate as a data collating device rather than a camera that stores footage.
“They are not recording any footage, they are not streaming any footage and no one is actually watching it,” he said.
“We’ve trained an algorithm to be able to recognise what a pedestrian looks like as opposed to a cyclist or a van or truck.”
The Chief Operating Officer of Vivacity said the manufacturers introduced a new social distancing feature for the sensors in March.
“We developed an addition to our sensors that was not just looking at the paths pedestrians were taking, but if two pedestrians come within two metres of one another then we will count that as one, and if they don’t come within two metres of one another then we will count that as a different one,” said Mr Mildon.
“We’re creating a set of statistics on how behaviour is changing in terms of how people are staying close together or apart. And it is that data that is then useful for informing policy decisions on whether there should be a two metre rule or a one metre plus rule or whether local lockdown measures are having the impact they are envisioned to.”
Privacy concerns have been raised around the cameras, with the issue flagged during a Kent Council scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday after Simon Jones said the scheme is “in the pipeline” for the borough, reports Kent Online.
Mr Mildon added: “Even if Kent Council wanted to use them for enforcement purposes they wouldn’t be able to
“The [cameras] enable us to provide anonymous data on how the road is being used. There are huge benefits in understanding how that space is being used and how that can be improved or how it can be made safer.
“The idea is to provide an evidence base to check that the interventions that are being put in and are having the policy benefits that the council envisioned in the first place.”
The Department for Transport told the Evening Standard that the Government, along with a number of other bodies, receives monthly data reports from Vivacity which forms part of the department’s monitoring of the impact of Covid-19.
The information supplied to the department are aggregate findings and no personal data is included in these reports, said the DfT.