Urban planners are in the business of designing and building public spaces, public infrastructure that make cities more livable, safe, and attractive for residents, tourists, and businesses. To Drive tourism, residential and economic growth, urban planners aim to create cities with safe streets and walkways, great transportation systems, and low crime rates. To achieve these goals, the priorities of urban planners typically fall into these three categories:
With an eye toward the future and a hand on the wheel of the present, planners collaborate with a variety of municipal agencies, spanning departments such as transportation, public works, highway, parks and recreation, environmental safety, water and sewer utilities, transportation, and police.
Planning requires having quantifiable, actionable data about patterns and trends. In the past, planners had to rely on anecdotal observations and silos of data that were collected by various agencies. With the advent of Big Data that can be collected from various sources, urban planners have a wealth of information to inform their decision-making. However, the problem remains that Big Data is often siloed because it is not easily shared among various stakeholders across city agencies.
Are there ways to collect and share data that can be utilized by urban planners? Yes, and one of the best ways to collect data is through a combination of video content analytics and video surveillance. Cities often have vast networks of video surveillance cameras for security purposes; i.e., to monitor situations in real-time and to collect video evidence for post-incident review. For urban planners, video footage contains a wealth of valuable information regarding how people move throughout a city and utilize its various spaces. Video cameras produce high volumes of video footage, most of which is never reviewed, so the business intelligence lies buried and goes untapped.
Fortunately, video content analytics technology solves that problem because it processes video, identify objects in the video footage (people, vehicles, and other items), and indexes them so that footage can be easily and quickly searched and analyzed for a variety of purposes beyond physical security and law enforcement. It transforms raw video footage into structured metadata that can be aggregated over time, detects patterns and delivers information via visual reports and dashboards that are easy to understand and share among agencies.
Video content analytics software can analyze pedestrian and vehicle traffic volumes and patterns throughout a city, or venues within a city, and present that data visually in the form of heatmaps, charts, and graphs that are easy to understand and easy to share with other agencies (transportation, parks and recreation, law enforcement, etc.)
For example, to ensure seamless traffic flow for bicycles, vehicles, and pedestrians, urban planners must have accurate intelligence regarding which roadways, bike lanes, or pedestrian paths tend to get crowded, and what times of the day or week that bottlenecks typically occur. Some video analytics systems include object and people-counting capabilities, as well as dwell reports to provide this data. Planners can then use this data to identify where crosswalks or bike lanes, traffic lights and signage, and public transport access points can be modified or added to ensure a safer city for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
Likewise, to plan for transportation needs planners must gather statistics for both personal and public transportation, which includes bicycles, trollies, buses, and subways. The key to planning future transit projects or construction is having actionable and quantifiable business intelligence regarding how many people use various elements of a transit system, when traffic peaks occur, and even which navigational pathways are most commonly used in a terminal or station. Video analytics software can provide all of that data, plus demographic data (men vs. women, adults vs. children) so that planners understand which populations use various facilities or infrastructure.
Police departments often use video content analytics to conduct granular, filtered searches of video footage to pinpoint objects of interest and analyze incident scenes. That functionality is crucial to accelerate investigations, and solve crimes more efficiently and accurately. But beyond that, both police and urban planners strive to reduce problems such as common traffic violations such as illegal U-turns or bi-directional traffic on one-way streets. By tracking where and when common violations occur over extended time periods, planners can identify and address patterns of traffic violations or criminal behavior in each neighborhood.
Cities can maximize their return on investment in their current video surveillance systems by using video content analytics software to gather and share trends data. This data enables urban planners to make intelligent decisions about city infrastructure, such as transit systems, walkways, streets, parks, and other public spaces. Their planning decisions can improve a city’s economy, safety, and quality of life for current and future residents, as well as businesses and tourists.
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