Ease traffic and reduce crime with Hitachi Vantara’s solutions for smart cities

Traffic congestion, long travel times, pickpocketing and snatch thieves are common aspects of lives in many cities. Kuala Lumpur is no different. Imagine if you could reduce these issues with the use of technology. The work Hitachi Vantara is doing in the areas of smart cities, video analytics and IoT may hold a solution to these very real problems.

“Data is the beginning of solving the challenges that they [cities] have. It’s not just about deploying technology, but it’s about solving challenges and achieving outcomes. Challenges like thriving business, safe streets and free traffic flow,” said Justin Bean, director of smart city solutions marketing, Hitachi Vantara.

He talked about the work his group was doing with a driverless metro train in Copenhagen. The train takes people around the city and Hitachi is working with the train operators to monitor passenger flow, in real time, into the stations and to deploy trains as they are needed. “How many people are coming into the station and how many riders are there. Therefore what number of trains do they need to deploy to meet that demand and do that dynamically. Basing it on real time data is really important”, he added.

Bean believes that with historical data in play as well, predictive analysis can be applied to help manage the issue. “If you are able to see because factors x, y and z occured, there is going to be more demand, they [train operator] could proactively deploy more trains.”

From a public safety perspective, it could be similar. “What we are doing is that we are giving them a single pane of glass from which they can see video, IoT data and analytics and they can take a more data driven approach to public safety and keeping their streets and people safe,” claimed Bean.

A lot of cities have video cameras installed. But this has historically been only used for surveillance or security. With the addition of intelligence like video analytics, it will provide vast amounts of new insights and new information from those same cameras – such as people counting, activity analysis, people analysis, parking data and facial recognition, he added.

Bean said he couldn’t provide any statistics to say how things have improved with such intelligence systems in play as they are complex systems. “I do know that in a lot of projects we have deployed as pilots, have been expanded. A lot of what we are seeing is that the customer says we like this technology, it’s helpful and let’s expand it. That’s a positive sign that it is helping them do their jobs better,” he added.

An easy to use product that doesn’t require intensive training to operate is also helpful  and at Hitachi the philosophy has been that all technology must be designed to make it easy for a human being to use. Take the Hitachi Visualisation suite as an example.

“This is a browser based single pane of glass that gives them real time video as well as real time data from video analytics, IoT data from a variety of different sensors, historical crime data and predictive crime data to show them heat mapping of where crimes are likely to happen so that they can be strategic about where they patrol and prevent crimes from happening,” explained Bean.

“As it is browser based , you can use it on a mobile device. Imagine if each police car had a mobile tablet and they were able to see what is happening in the area they have been dispatched too. They can see the live video feed [of the area] and they can see that it is just some kids playing or it’s a person with a gun and assess if they need to bring in backup,” he added.

It’s also about letting machines do the jobs that would take people a lot of time to do. “So if you have a command centre, in general you have a ton of TVs showing different areas and a few people watching for a long time,” he pointed out. This can lead to security incidents being overlooked if a person isn’t looking at the right screen at the right time.

“If you have video analytics in place, it alerts you to when an area has been intruded upon or alerts you to the fact that a known person has been seen and it will alert you to which information you should pay attention too. This will pop up an icon on the Hitachi visualisation suite and units can choose to respond to it,” elaborated Bean.

This brings to light an important evolution in the design of monitoring tools of the future. If only an alert is sent out, network bandwidth is not tied up with heavy data use that video streaming entails.

“There are two ways to increase the water in a bathtub – one way is to increase the amount of water flowing in and the other way is to decrease the amount flowing out. When we talk about networks and talk about intelligence at the edge, that’s going to play a huge role in making these tools more effective,” said Bean.

“Video data is extremely large and it is difficult to transmit and manage. Intelligence at the edge analyses and compresses that data so that you don’t have to send a stream of video data, you are just sending metadata. It will send a text that an area has been intruded upon, not stream the video,” he elaborated.

“That’s the way you can reduce the amount of data that has to go through that network and while it would be great to have 5G everywhere and to have much more data [bandwidth], a big part of the solution is reducing the amount of data that goes through the network and only sending the right data using intelligence at the edge,” he concluded.

When asked on his thoughts about smart city developments in Asia, he said that he was seeing some really cool projects in the area. “In Asia in general and south east asia in particular a lot of the infrastructure is being built out for the first time and they are thinking about it intelligently,” said Bean.

They are finding ways to gather data, safely, make it last a long time and identify problem areas from an infrastructure standpoint. The second part of that is to make it smart in terms of providing better services and sharing data across different departments, he added.

“For example you don’t want to reinvent the wheel with each department. Eg the transit department wants to become smart, they have an IoT platform, the deployed some video, they do some surveillance work. You have your public safety and police doing something, you have your sustainability department doing something different. So they have the opportunity to bring this together so that you share resources and common platforms and share data,” he explained further.

“By sharing data they can see things like how weather can affect the traffic and transportation, or the number of people walking down the street or events that are happening can affect traffic flow or public safety, where do crimes happen and prevent pickpocketing or violent crime ,” he added.

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