The COVID-19 pandemic has engulfed the world and impacted a large portion of the population. This crisis has highlighted the opportunities with respect to existing technologies and infrastructure to contain the spread of this highly contagious virus. It is expected that a broad range of situational intelligence and automated targeted response will be needed throughout the community to ensure the safety of people and assets, with the aim of lowering fatalities and minimising the impact on the economy. To be effectively prepared for future outbreaks and enforcing protocols, it is expected that smart cities and intelligent traffic system (ITS) technologies will host a range of data-driven services together with deployed sensors to not only help in enforcing community-wide physical distancing measures but also to assist in early detection of such outbreaks.
Intelligent transport management
An intelligent transport management system collects and analyses real-time transportation data in order to improve system efficiency and provide insights for offering services that cater to the requirements of citizens, and helps develop sustainable transportation that integrates land use, economic development and transportation planning. The system has the following components:
- An automatic signalling system
- An integrated signalling system for pedestrians and non-motorised transport
- Cameras for enforcement of traffic rules
- Integration of the entire city’s traffic signalling system
- Integration of ITS with mass rapid transit systems
- Smart travel cards
The Smart Cities Mission has safe city and intelligent traffic management as two major components for all the cities along with a video wall and operations centre to manage safety and traffic.
To this end, in 2019, Dell Technologies, partnered with Vehant Technologies, Graymatics and Wordsensing to deliver smart city solutions in the areas of safe city and intelligent traffic management in the country.
In light of COVID-19, it has become imperative for public transport systems to adopt technology solutions that enable them to comply with physical distancing norms. For hotspots such as escalators and ticket counters at metro stations, 3D cameras provide unparalleled levels of people counts and dwell accuracy, although there are sometimes blind spots in their coverage as people move. Wi-Fi sensors offer unmatched tracking capabilities. The most reliable and cost-effective way to gain insights into occupancy and flow across stations and in trains is to combine the data from these multiple sensors on to one analytics platform. Passenger density analytics capture the degree of crowding in real time. The risk is assessed, based on physical distancing limits, crowd movement patterns, and the size of the area being monitored. Threshold breaches trigger alarms and automated actions, like closing of turnstiles.
Surveillance system sensors form a key component in the sensing layer of a safe city project, and enable real-time surveillance by gathering information on public assets, government buildings and traffic, and assist in crime detection. The sensors integrate public as well as private video surveillance resources to provide live video surveillance, historical query recording and accurate intelligent analysis services. When connected to the command and dispatch system, the surveillance system enables quick incident response and helps increase security.
The Pune Safe City project has been set up with the aim of enhancing the safety and security of the city’s inhabitants. The Pune City Surveillance (PCS) project consists of four zones covering a total of 640 square km. Allied Digital was entrusted the responsibility of enhancing the safety and security of Pune city by the state government. The firm collaborated with Verint Systems to install a state-of-the-art surveillance system, which is integrated with GIS/GPS and with video analytics by Agent Vi (a global provider of artificial intelligence [AI]-powered video analytics solutions). The PCS system executes 24×7 surveillance via a backbone network connecting 1,320 IP cameras to a state-of-the-art command and control centre with video monitoring available at police stations and government agencies throughout the city. The effect of using video analytics was felt almost immediately as it enabled PCS operators – who do not monitor the video manually – to receive automatic alerts of events of interest in real time. Alerts are generated for security breaches and unusual behaviour such as traffic infractions, loitering and crowding.
Increasingly, a hybrid approach is being deployed where analytics workloads are better distributed using a powerful mix of smart cameras combined with a centralised server and/or cloud-based analysis. This means some analytics can be run by the camera, for example, crowd monitoring and counting, but more powerful centralised analytics could be used to run processor-intensive applications such as face recognition against a nationwide shared suspect database.
Technology solutions enabling physical distancing and temperature checks
The lockdown due to COVID-19 and mandatory physical distancing norms have forced many start-ups to come up with technological solutions that allow for contactless functioning. Vehant Technologies launched Covid Analytics, an AI-based, computer vision-driven intelligent analytics solution. Its AI programme detects violations such as not wearing face masks and not maintaining adequate physical distancing, and monitors vehicle movement through automatic number plate recognition. The system can be deployed in shops, construction sites, manufacturing units, traffic lights/junctions, airports and business parks, among others.
Airport technology specialist Veovo is introducing physical distancing solutions that will help monitor crowd density and maintain safe distance. The virtual queueing and passenger density management solutions use movement monitoring and machine learning to offer real-time and predictive passenger density and movement insights for better live situational awareness and future planning at airports around the world. The solution bundles location analysis from various internet of things (IoT) sensors, with machine learning, to give a detailed view of how people move and dwell. From typical crowding zones such as check-in and security to areas such as gates, it continuously monitors and analyses movement to highlight the degree of risk in real time.
As part of the intensified measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Ministry of Railways has announced the installation of AI-powered thermal screening facilities at major railway stations to detect infected people and prevent them from travelling. For instance, an AI-powered thermal imaging scanner has been commissioned at the Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station for ensuring health and safety checks of passengers as well as to ensure physical distancing. In fact, the technology will also be used at airports. India’s first smart AI-enabled temperature screening airport gate is coming up at Kannur airport.
IoT plays a key role
While most major cities rely on video, security and IoT platforms to better protect their communities, these solutions are often decentralised, disconnected, outdated, prone to failures and costly to maintain. In addition, the requirement for real-time analytics to improve situational awareness grows as data capture efforts increase.
In addition to effectively monitoring, storing, securing, processing and mobilising data from thousands of cameras and sensors spread across a city at all times, a city’s IT infrastructure solution must integrate seamlessly with existing and new IoT technologies. It must also support the multi-use case demands of safe and smart city initiatives, as well as big data analytics applications of video-based metadata, crowd management, sanitation, public transportation and traffic monitoring.
Other key solutions
Monitoring large gatherings during a pandemic is essential to ensure physical distancing. Drones can be used to monitor areas such as recreational parks and beaches and public transport, ensuring people comply with the gathering rules. Upon detecting a higher-than-permitted number, drones can instruct the people to evacuate the place due to a higher chance of being infected.
Smart parking can also play an important role in enforcing physical distancing. Here, sensors and other AI-based techniques are used to determine whether a particular spot on the street or in a parking garage is occupied or vacant. Using this information, restrictions can be placed on the number of vehicles parked at a particular location.
In order to ensure that urban centres can safely and securely manage the increasing number of residents, it is essential for community stakeholders, such as the government, law enforcement agencies and businesses, to leverage advances in physical security systems. The security of cities also means the removal of impediments to their development. Cities are expected to be the engine for positive development. While advanced security systems are a cornerstone of city safety and can certainly enhance security, successfully securing a city is determined by how city administrators pair these technologies with effective communication systems. Improving communication and collaboration among siloed institutions drives situational awareness and allows organisations to predict, react to and resolve situations more effectively.