Dear PoPville – Any Idea What this is?


“Dear PoPville,

I was sitting on my girlfriend’s balcony this morning on Clifton Street when a random rental truck pulled up with a man-lift in tow behind it. It was a big rental moving truck from Penske and the lift also seemed to be from a heavy equipment rental service. Two guys in plain work clothes jumped out and used the lift to go up to the city street light. Initially I thought they were contractors changing a bulb, but instead they attached this bizarre device to the top of the street light. It looks to be some kind of transmitter/receiver, but it seemed odd to me that if this was a sanctioned city job that the guys were not in a public works truck or uniform of some sort. They worked pretty fast- were on the move again in about 10 minutes (seems to efficient to be government- hah!). Do you have any idea what this device is?

It is a bit unnerving that anyone who wants to rent a truck and a lift could attach some kind of receiver to a street light and go mostly unnoticed. Someone with malicious intent and the correct know how could be intercepting calls/texts/emails or wifi signals in the neighborhood with something like this and no one would be the wiser.”

27 Comment

  • Shot spotter sensor.

  • Yeah, it looks like one of the devices that detects gunfire. Suposedly, they can narrow location down to the block.

  • It looks like a turret from the game Portal. “Are you still there?” “Shutting down”

  • This is a repeater for smart meter reading. Pepco installs them on their light poles.

    • I love how we have now received at least two mutually exclusive explanations, each stated authoritatively!!

    • I think Pepco uses a net of meter to meter to transmit to key meters that are connected to the grid – no external antennae

      • Pepco is using a wireless mesh network and a point-to-multipoint broadband wireless network for their smart grid communications in DC.

  • You might not want to mention what it is to your girlfriend. I know my wife wouldn’t be pleased to learn that a shotspotter was installed outside our place.

    • I feel safer knowing the one on my block is there.

    • “These things only serve to upset the women. They are the gentler sex.” -Ben Franklin, The Office

      • Seriously. Perhaps it comforts you to know that gunfire is so prevalent in your neighborhood that the city installed a device to monitor it just outside your window.

        • And it should comfort you to know the MPD is actually doing something about it.

        • +1000 the “seriously” for the OP using a gender qualifier – specifically saying not to mention it to the GF and that this person’s wife wouldn’t be pleased. Y’know – because us females are wilting flowers. If you’re concerned about the shotspotter, then so be it, but don’t blame it on your wife as if she’s some kind of “gentler sex” to use the Ben Franklin quote above. What utter BS.

          • Does everyone read everything as if there’s no chance it’s a joke? There was even a hint in that post when not only did they quote Ben Franklin but also quoted the office.

          • Yeah, some people take things waaaaaay too seriously. If the person posting was a woman talking about a shotspotter being installed outside her boyfriend’s place, I would have said “don’t mention to your boyfriend.” And I’ll stand by my statement that my wife would be really upset to know this was installed outside our place. You know why? Cause I’m married to her and know her a lot better than you do.

  • The vast majority of paranoid Americans who own firearms in fear of the unknown.


  • Maybe they would put a nefarious device out in plain view because they know that anyone alarmed by it would quickly be called a neurotic freakshow?

    Thank you OP for questioning what you saw and reaching out to Popville. Ignore the haters.

  • I think there are a combination of technologies. The rectangular box with the two antennas coming out of it look like a smart meter signal repeater. Take a look at this one, for example:

    The balloon looking thing could be a massive antenna. There’s probably a data collector up there too.

  • Thanks to PoP for posting and the community for the answers! I just had a great time nerding out on the shotspotter- pretty cool technology.
    Admittedly “unnerving” was not the best choice of word in my email. Perhaps odd or suspicious? After extensive experience in the operations and intelligence field I can assure you the best way to do something shady is to do it in plain sight and not be sneaky about it. If you find a transmitter attached under a park bench or under a mailbox that certainly looks a little suspect. Put the same transmitter on a light pole or in plain sight and it looks like infrastructure that belongs to the city and everyone goes on about life. I’ve also had passwords intercepted and stolen from connecting to a GSM network for a matter of minutes to send/receive in some of the poorest countries in the world. If the dude in the grass hut burning his trash can intercept my comms in a jungle I don’t think I am being a neurotic freakshow for questioning sensors in plain sight outside my home. But go ahead and connect to that free wifi in the Amsterdam or Dubai airport and let me know how it works out for you.

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