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Urban Surveillance: Getting smarter on public safety

Urban surveillance and public safety technologies are increasingly finding their way into new use cases, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the advancement of partnering technologies such as AI and 5G. Crowd management and health screening (including monitoring mask wearing) are other applications that have flourished due to the pandemic.

Although not without its controversies, urban surveillance remains a popular and growing sector. COVID-19 has opened the door for similar technologies—video surveillance, infrared technology, and track and trace—to mature. ABI Research forecasts that 1.4 billion Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance cameras will be used in urban areas worldwide in 2030.

Use cases
Currently, CCTV is predominantly used as a public safety measure to prevent crime or help authorities solve crimes retroactively. Advances in Artificial Intelligence, due to its ability to monitor data and activity in real-time will further enhance video surveillance technology. The use of CCTV cameras to generate revenue, primarily with detecting traffic violations, has also grown, turning many of these urban areas into true smart city platforms.

Although cities have always had access to vast amounts of data from traffic cameras, police body cams, private CCTV, and other sources, it is the integration of AI that has provided richer value from the data at a greater scale. Companies such as Quantela and Milestone Software have developed video management services that help enable city officials monitor their data more efficiently.

Other uses for urban surveillance advances are emerging from dashcams and bodycams. ADAS and autonomous vehicle vision technology developer Mobileye recently partnered with Ordnance Survey in the UK to assist with mapping assets. The data gathered can be used by utility companies and authorities to map underground and surface assets for maintenance and public safety. This can work on a small scale, such as a shop, or on a larger city scale where trends such as movement of people or increase in emergency calls can be tracked.

Planning around potential market barriers
Cost, restrictions, and data processing capabilities are the three major factors that affect the urban surveillance and safety market. While revenue-generating surveillance—in the form of cameras that detect speed and other traffic violations—can mitigate some cost, public attitude toward the technology is still tenuous, making local governments hesitant to invest heavily.

Regulations and restrictions on video surveillance can vary by region, making universal adoption an imposing barrier; however, the European Union typically sets the benchmark in developing new regulations, many of which have been recently modeled after General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

AI, edge, and cloud computing can impact how data is used and processed, which also varies from city to city. This means any technology must be flexible to adapt to different regional restrictions. As with all smart technologies, the skill of the workforce is also a consideration with how a technology can be deployed, operated, and upgraded.

Recommendation for success
Overall, maximum growth and benefit can be achieved through and integration of siloed technology and departments. Municipal governments in blossoming smart cities will need to secure citizens’ trust for CCTV and urban surveillance to be successful. This includes the proper use and regulation of technology like AI, which can effectively improve surveillance capabilities but is often misunderstood.

CT Bureau

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