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Inspiring ideas for smarter cities

Smarter cities

Cities are constantly evolving. Record numbers of us, an amazing 55% of the world’s population, now live in one. And with each city’s unique composition and infrastructure, city planners face both challenges and opportunities to shape the cities of tomorrow. Providing infrastructure and services in these urban environments requires careful planning and creative use of technology. The rapid growth of citizens with their increasing expectations and demands require the most efficient and scalable solutions.

Making cities more efficient means making them smarter. But how a solution is implemented matters far more than top-of-the-line spec sheets. Smart cities address problems and improve quality of life, not simply by using the most advanced technology. One of the most important ways of achieving this is by optimizing available infrastructure and resources.

So much more than a video camera

Network cameras are central to so many solutions in cities today. While they are synonymous with video surveillance, Axis cameras have evolved far beyond video streaming capabilities and have become smart Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. By integrating edge computing and deep learning capabilities analytics into our cameras, city authorities have enhanced access to scene data, analytics, and even event flagging and automation, on top of high-quality surveillance video. 

The transition from traditional cameras to intelligent IoT sensors allows them to be used to count, detect, measure, and interpret events. In many instances, only the analytics or metadata will need to leave the camera rather than the raw footage itself, significantly saving on bandwidth and storage. With the right provisioning select data sets can be sent to individual departments, allowing for a single sensor to inform all manner of decision making. For example, a single camera could be used to provide surveillance, measure traffic flow, alert law enforcement responders, track crowd density, and identify road maintenance instances like potholes. 

We can already see similar real-life applications like this, where we support crowd management efforts. Axis cameras are, as an example, used to analyze the movement of people, whilst simultaneously tracking the numbers and density of crowds, including the directions people are moving in. These insights are indispensable to city planners when organizing any of the city’s annual festivals, pilgrimages, or outdoor events, while also helping inform strategies for emergency responses. 

Cameras for Public Safety

Public Safety use cases for cameras can vary significantly. Some typical applications our customers use them for are with criminal investigations, crowd management, and public order. The most common, however, is for deterrence. Statistics show that the presence of security cameras alone is often enough to deter criminals from perpetrating crimes. 

But while prevention is always better than a cure, some criminals remain undeterred. By leveraging advanced forensic search capabilities, police are able to enhance their urban investigations. Axis and partner solutions can conduct high quality evidence searches in minutes, scouring through hours of multi-camera video with precision. In addition, security teams can train our cameras to develop an understanding of what can be construed as normal and therefore abnormal behavior, presenting data in dashboards with the ability to generate pre-defined alerts to notify management or response teams. For example, to detect drug-dealing.

Keeping things flowing – urban mobility

Urban mobility is where Axis is seeing the most growth for video-based solutions – with rising populations comes an ever-increasing pressure on traffic and mobility services. Our solutions support a number of scenarios to do with mobility, including urban traffic management, flow, and efficiency, as well as measuring statistics. 

By classifying and measuring traffic and movement in the city with cameras, city planners and traffic authorities can work efficiently and take fact-based decisions. The data generated from the camera can also be used to optimize automated processes like traffic light management. Cameras providing live data to the traffic controller can improve the green-light cycle and optimize the traffic flow.

A more straight-forward use case could be monitoring for traffic violations – including violations of red-light signals, infringements on one-way roads, unregistered entry into Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ), and speeding. 

As urban populations continue to grow, so will the number of vehicles on roads. One service that sees increasing demand because of this is parking. Cameras can be used to monitor parking areas for available parking lots. This data can be sent to digital signages or navigation applications to speed up the route and reduce the pressure in the traffic. Cameras can also be used to manage access and payment at parking areas which with speed up the flow and make parking spaces available quicker.

Eyes and ears on the environment 

Monitoring environmental changes is another top priority. As city populations grow, more effort needs to be made to maintain the environment and ensure good public health. To help combat pollution, environmental departments can track and receive alerts to changes in pollution levels, whether it be noise, light, waste, or air by using dedicated monitoring sensors. 

The European Economic Area (EEA) estimates that long-term exposure to noise levels of above 55 decibels contributes to close to 50,000 heart attacks every year across Europe. Operators can flow traffic away from noisy areas by creating heatmaps and combining these with urban mobility tools. A combination of high-quality microphones, acoustic sensors, AI analytics, and video cameras can help to monitor the level and the source of noise, which can then be verified via video footage as needed. The data helps operators to make the public aware of any issues and develop comprehensive strategies to reduce excessive levels of noise.

One of the biggest threats many cities face is flooding. Cities can implement early flood detection and warning systems by leveraging Axis cameras and partner analytics. If the system determines that a threshold has been met, officials can be immediately alerted to take action, including evacuation and re-routing of traffic. Long term data can also be used to inform flood defense planning both on in the macro (city-wide) sense, and micro (for individual development projects).

Introducing Academy training

Axis technology already supports many cities today. The examples we’ve provided in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. Which is why we’ve launched a new Axis Academy eLearning to share our insights from over 6,000 smart city projects. The eLearning will provide examples of how Axis open technology can be used for cost-effective solutions. 

Learn more about Axis Academy eLearning
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