When we hear the words ‘Smart Cities’, our minds automatically imagine a utopian city connected with technological advancements—the future of which we have only glimpsed in science fiction. A safer, mobilised version of our current cities where everything is automated through technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, Big Data and analytics is what we envisage. But one of the key components that is almost forgotten is the importance of surveillance—24/7 round the clock monitoring of citizens, enabled with a robust infrastructure to ensure the safety and security of civilians.
But how does surveillance play a role in the transition of a city to a smart city? We need to understand how the surveillance industry itself has changed over the years. It is now possible for surveillance companies to provide end-to-end solutions which encompasses cameras as well as inbuilt software and compression technology to analyse data received from the cameras real time.
Today, we see its application in retail, education, government, critical installations, and BFSI with other verticals exploring similar solutions. The same technology when implemented by smart cities reduces manual interference, predicts internal and external threats, system malfunctions and alerts authorities in times of exigencies. Today, IP video surveillance technology has made it possible to record high-resolution videos with in-built compression which allows footages to be analysed on a need basis.
A plethora of benefits of utilising surveillance systems for smart cities are cited here:
Video analytics: Video-based smart city applications today include traffic control and traffic monitoring. A camera can detect the movement of vehicles and humans on the roads and provide data on which areas are congested, peak time traffic hours, foot traffic count, vehicular count and even manipulate traffic control systems. Such analytical data is the cornerstone of smart cities initiatives. With increasing innovations amongst CCTV manufacturers, the same technology can be pivoted for other purposes. Citizens will be able to track parking spots in their area, traffic authorities can direct traffic through the most efficient routes.
Environmental sensors: Sensors can measure environmental conditions such as air quality, temperature and humidity, water quality and noise levels, which are useful for city authorities to direct resources towards any mitigated imbalances.
Support to law enforcement: Video surveillance feed has often been useful tool for law enforcement agencies to gather primary evidence during investigations. It is therefore critical for civic authorities to deploy high-quality CCTV cameras with required software interface to ensure that the recorded feed is of high-resolution. Today’s surveillance technology is built in line with the requirements of the police departments —one can also get inclusions such as facial recognition, multi-angle recording and license plate recognition to aid in identifying criminals, cars and objects from far away.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and the growing capability of AI and storage will create a revolution by 2050. Today, information is unstructured—transportation, train, airline and traffic updates are available in a haphazard manner. Information needs to be collated with a central mission control centre that can manage and report data real time. For India to harness the true potential of a Smart City, the policy makers must make security a priority to embrace the flagship model of a connected India a reality!
Sudhindra Holla is country manager, India & SAARC, Axis Communications