Observing Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic using Worldwide Network Cameras


COVID-19 has resulted in a worldwide pandemic, leading to "lockdown" policies and social distancing. The pandemic has profoundly changed the world. Traditional methods for observing these historical events are difficult because sending reporters to areas with many infected people can put the reporters’ lives in danger. New technologies are needed for safely observing responses to these policies. This paper reports using thousands of network cameras deployed worldwide for the purpose of witnessing activities in response to the policies. The network cameras can continuously provide real-time visual data (image and video) without human efforts. Thus, network cameras can be utilized to observe activities without risking the lives of reporters. This paper describes a project that uses network cameras to observe responses to governments’ policies during the COVID-19 pandemic (March to April in 2020). The project discovers over 30,000 network cameras deployed in 110 countries. A set of computer tools are created to collect visual data from network cameras continuously during the pandemic. This paper describes the methods to discover network cameras on the Internet, the methods to collect and manage data, and preliminary results of data analysis. This project can be the foundation for observing the possible "second wave" in fall 2020. The data may be used for post-pandemic analysis by sociologists, public health experts, and meteorologists.