The rate of violent crimes in Southeast Asia has decreased dramatically since 2009, with this drop in crime may in part be attributed to Southeast Asia’s growing interest in Smart Cities projects. This is where urban areas use digital and telecommunication technologies to create a safer and more efficient city for inhabitants.
Abhijit Shanbhag is CEO of Graymatics, a cognitive media processing company, providing AI-powered solutions for multiple sectors including security and surveillance, digital marketing, telecommunications and IoT. He believes that many more cities can and should improve their safety and efficiency by engaging in Smart Cities projects, and here shares how the use of AI in the Smart Cities scheme can help to create a safer society.
How can Smart Cities detect and track criminal activity?
Smart Cities largely leverage Smart CCTV’s to keep the city safe by employing powerful AI-based solutions, such as Graymatics, applied to the CCTV feeds to automatically detect various kinds of suspicious and/or criminal activities anywhere in the city. Any instances of criminal activity such as assault, brandishing of weapon, fire, vandalism, and/or suspicious behaviour will immediately be detected by the AI platform linking to the CCTVs, at which point an alert is created and assigned accordingly to law enforcement officials.
For forensic actions too, the authorities will be able to track the movement of criminals by first scanning through thousands of CCTVs based on various known behavioural, clothing attributes and/or facial recognition when possible to very quickly piece out the suspected criminal’s journey during the last several days. In the case of road safety, authorities can identify cars and people involved in hit-and-run cases with advanced CCTV capabilities such as number plate recognition and vehicle identification analytics based on colour, make, model, etc.
What determines the ‘smartness’ of a city is the use of technology to improve the liveability of its citizens. Public safety is an important determinant of liveability. None of us would want to live in a city where crime is rampant or where there is an imminent threat to life. AI-powered CCTV cameras with real-time analytics have an essential role to play in this regard. Through 24X7 surveillance and facial recognition technology, city administrators can index and monitor people with criminal backgrounds.
Video analytics today has evolved to such as extent so as to capture any signs of criminal activity – be it a gunshot or a melee in a public space to alert the concerned law enforcement authorities and reduce the response time for action.
How have partnerships with major AI solutions companies allowed Graymatics to access more global Smart Cities projects?
The partnerships with AI solutions companies such as Quantela, in particular, have been transformative for Graymatics in both sharpening our Video AI product and accessing smart city projects in different continents. We have been optimising our Video AI product with a much more holistic or end-to-end system-level approach in working with AI Solutions companies like Quantela. Further, as we have been working with a range of different Smart Cities with their unique problems, we have been incorporating a rich suite of capabilities within our platform, which in turn has increased its value to other Smart Cities, and we can then leverage the local sales teams of Quantela or their partners. E.g., we have recently incorporated detection of different kinds of vandalism, drone analytics, flood vulnerable scenarios, etc within our platform.
Are there any challenges to consider when implementing Smart Cities?
Smart Cities have to be built by keeping citizens at their heart. While technology is an enabler, there needs to be a clear linkage between the technology adopted and the outcomes they deliver for citizens. Post-COVID, cities are cash strapped with many running budgetary deficits owing to loss of revenue while overheads continue to increase. Dependence on federal grants or other sources of financing can be a constraint to smart city implementation.
From an implementation standpoint, there is a challenge of data availability as data sources are in silos with legacy systems that are not built to share data. Then comes addressing the issue of data quality and consistency and finally, making sense of the data insights for city administrators to take action.
Are Smart Cities likely to expand outside of South East Asia/ will they have the same effect?
You have smart cities coming up in every continent. However, the needs and challenges facing every city is unique. While the outcomes that technology can deliver would remain consistent, there are likely to be variations in percentage terms due to many factors.
Are there any other ways Smart Cities make communities safer?
What is the future of Smart Cities?
The world is urbanising with cities serving as the growth engines of nations across the world. Today, they consume 75% of the world’s energy requirements and contribute 80% of its carbon emissions.
While cities cover only 2% of the earth’s surface, they account for 50% of its population as of date. This number is projected to reach 70% by 2050 posing a burden on the existing infrastructure of cities; the way citizen services are delivered and thereby the quality of life.
Urban infrastructure digitisation through the adoption of purpose-built citizen-centric technology solutions is the need of the hour for cities to become more liveable, operationally efficient, environmentally sustainable, equitable in terms of digital access, and economically prosperous. The future of cities depends on how data automated and analysed in real-time from a city’s assets – be it street lights, traffic signals, waste bins, parking meters, public transport, public spaces as well as CCTVs, is used for data insight-driven decision making leading to multi-agency collaboration and better governance. While CCTVs will be important data generators, having the capability of analysing the video feed in real-time will be essential for any city.
We have seen how connected cities are managing and mitigating the spread of the virus better in this on-going pandemic. Hence resilience is going to be an important characteristic of future smart cities.