Video Surveillance & Physical Security Industry Viewpoints
December 14th, 2021
Author: Lizzi Goldmeier

Using Video Analytics to Effectively Cross Department Siloes in Smart Cities

These days, just about everything in your house is connected to the internet with the purpose of improving your daily life in one way or another. Your TV “talks” to your phone and your phone “talks” to your thermostat, and so on and so on. When you applying that same concept to cities and towns, you get what is known as Smart Cities. Smart Cities are those that use a variety of Internet-connected (IoT) technologies and databases to improve the efficiency and efficacy of city services.

Local government and urban planners are increasingly moving towards Smart Cities to increase resident satisfaction, improve municipal services, enhance public safety, optimize infrastructure, and identify efficiencies.

The use of video surveillance and analytics goes far beyond security when it comes to Smart Cities. With this technology, planners have the ability to analyze pedestrian and vehicle traffic, respond effectively and quickly to evolving situations, investigate incidents effectively, strengthen public safety measures, and streamline overall operations.

Through graphs, heatmaps, and dashboards, city officials can make better, more informed decisions, with actionable and quantifiable video intelligence. Over the last two years, the pandemic revealed a greater need for cities to use video surveillance and analytics beyond security and to have access to that data across various departments. 

Sharing data between city departments

While video analytic data is useful for any individual department, its value increases exponentially when that information is shared across various city departments. Data is often siloed because it is not easily shared among various stakeholders within city agencies. Local governments and city planners should 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 to review and use video analytics. By expanding the applications of video surveillance beyond security with intelligent analytics, video content analytics technology transform video to a cross-functional resource that can be shared across organizations and municipal governments for various use cases.

Smart Cities typically have numerous agencies that collect data such as streetlight usage, water leaks, traffic volume, and real-time parking spot availability. Data collected by the electric department on streetlight usage helps to know where more lights may need to be installed, but it could also help the city’s sustainability team determine whether certain lights are necessary and how to reduce their overall carbon footprint. Traffic cameras used to monitor traffic patterns could provide useful insights to not only the city’s traffic engineers as they determine the most optimal traffic route updates, they could be useful to the public works department in revealing the most traveled sections of road and therefore where maintenance is needed.

Combatting the pandemic

In 2020, Smart Cities began using video analytics and surveillance in a new way: as a pandemic public health and safety measure. As the pandemic lingers, and businesses and services are continuing to monitor the virus and emerging variants so that they can remain open, safely. By using video data, they can evolve their safety standards to support the prevention of coronavirus spread and compliance with changing protective measures.

Video analytics and surveillance can be used to:

  • Drive efficient contract tracing: Video analytics enables the user to rapidly and forensically search for infected persons across cameras based on clothing descriptions, face recognition from an uploaded photo, or appearance similarity; to see which areas the person visited and at which exact times; and to uncover through proximity identification others who are at risk and need to engage in safety protocols.
  • Detect, monitor and analyze physical and social distancing: Organizations can quantify and analyze the distance between individuals across locations over time, identify non-compliance with physical and social distancing mandates, and visualize the data to derive operational intelligence from dashboards and reports. Through rule-based people counting alerts, notifications can be triggered when people are too close to each other in a pre-defined area, enabling rapid assessment of and response to developing situations.
  • Monitoring and managing occupancy: People counting technology enables users to monitor occupancy changes in real-time and therefore respond and understand occupancy compliance over time.
  • Manage building maintenance and cleaning: By configuring count–based alerts for area entryways, notifications can be triggered for cleaning crews when more than a certain number of people has entered the space.
  • Detect and track face mask compliance: With video surveillance and analytics, not only are face mask violations detected quickly, but operators can analyze and uncover noncompliance trends to drive intelligent decision-making for increasing onsite safety and enforcement
  • Reduce crowding and identify hotspots: The ability to monitor and alert on people count and dwell time is essential for crowd control and reduction. In real time, alerts can be triggered to enable proactive response to crowding based on people counting, proximity and dwelling filters. This is especially helpful for preventing overcrowding and traffic bottlenecks for queuing scenarios such as grocery markets, pharmacies and in waiting areas, and could directly impact potential exposure to illness.

Using video data in a Smart City

Beyond the pandemic, examining video data within Smart Cities is highly insightful. For example, video data can be used to understand the cause of traffic build up, whether it be an accident or high volume of vehicles. Through real-time notifications, a variety of measures can be deployed before a traffic jam is formed, such as improved and updated digital signage, police officers to direct traffic or sending first responders to the incident, if needed.

Additionally, video analytics about the demographics of their ridership and peak usage can help a city’s transportation department make informed, actionable decisions about new routes, when to conduct maintenance and when to increase or decrease services.

Overall, video surveillance and data enable Smart Cities to make intelligent decisions about their city’s infrastructure, and as a result, those decisions can improve the city’s safety, economy and quality of life for citizens, businesses and tourists.