Motorola Solutions stakes a claim for digital surveillance with AI

Let’s face it – the world we live in currently is a far cry from how it was just 10 years ago.

As matters of public security and safety grow more complex, society demands a new set of solutions and services to keep communities safe and secure. With urbanisation growing at a faster pace, there are more opportunities for more dubious elements in society to commit unsavoury deeds, sometimes right under the noses of the authorities.

Community and public safety are real concerns, and in order for a city or community to sustainably grow and prosper, surveillance cameras are an important part of the public safety infrastructure needed to support other initiatives by local law enforcement and emergency service agencies.

Situational awareness of a city

From the point of view of a city administrator, Subang Jaya’s mayor, for example, had earlier shared with Enterprise IT News, her wishlist of solutions to help increase situational awareness within the city she governs.

A single, centralised view of all the relevant information that Yang DiPertua Noraini Roslan needs, can facilitate deeper analysis and enable more responsive and informed decisions about what to do within crime-prone areas under her jurisdiction.

She also shared, “We are working with Subang police to identify the (crime) hotspots and there are a couple of things to do. First, installing cameras in these areas and linking them with our command centre in Subang Jaya… and we are also thinking of getting a small monitoring system at Subang Jaya police premises, so they can keep tabs as well,” Noraini shared.

Safety and security of transportation hubs like train stations and bus terminals and so on, also cannot be overlooked because of the huge number of people that pass through these hubs on a daily basis. Surveillance cameras should be a prerequisite wherever there are huge concentrations of people.

Growth in connectivity

According to PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) transport infrastructure investment will grow around 5-per cent globally by 2025, with the largest transport infrastructure market located in Asia Pacific (APAC) itself.

The same can be said of the Southeast Asia region, and Malaysia is a prime example of the expansion in transportation infrastructure. Malaysia, China and Thailand are investing in rail projects and in tandem with their growth, demand for Motorola Solutions’ solutions and services are also increasing.

In an environment where rail operators need to maintain reliable performance and safety for passengers and rail staff, Motorola Solutions has a broad range of solutions for rail operators.

Motorola Solutions Malaysia’s Country President, Datuk Mohd Rauf Nasir, attested to the growth in demand for metro systems, and also pointed out the advantages of video surveillance systems that provide analytical capabilities.

“Advanced video and video analytics technology is becoming paramount in rail operations. Keeping passengers and rail workers safe, increasingly depends on having high resolution footage to see what is happening at all times and video analytics to help detect things including the unusual movement of people or objects which may indicate a potential safety issue.”

AI-based video analytics

When Motorola Solutions completed its acquisition of Avigilon last March, the company gained a significant new capability to complement its existing offerings.

However, the greatest value of that acquisition goes beyond purely having some of the most advanced high-resolution camera hardware on the market.  When combined with Avigilon’s artificial intelligence (AI) video search engine, Appearance Search, and Avigilon Control Centre (ACC) video management software, rail operators can monitor and verify surveillance video whilst efficiently identifying and minimising blind spots.

By monitoring video feeds in real-time, rail operators can maintain safety and security of their operations for all employees and rail passengers.

But AI-based video surveillance also lends itself to more complex situations as the technology improves and progresses.

Consider this example.

A passenger at a busy train station leaves behind what is thought to be a suspicious package.

Using Appearance Search, a control room operator quickly sifts through video footage to find a clear image of the person who left the package there.

Using this result, coupled with the power of AI, the control room operator quickly filters out additional results from CCTV footage which might indicate where that person is now.

The greatest advantages of AI in this scenario is its ability to overcome the basic limitations that any human would face in finding precisely the right information hidden within a sea of faces and among hours of video footage.

License plate reading technologies

Traffic management is another highlighted area for digital surveillance in cities, especially in Malaysia’s Klang Valley, because of the congestion that area experiences on an almost daily basis.

License plate reading is a highly specialised practice that requires purpose-built cameras and analytics. Motorola Solutions recognised the crucial need for this capability when they acquired VaaS International Holdings, Inc. (VaaS), a data and image analytics company based in Livermore, California and Fort Worth, Texas in January 2019.

VaaS’ fixed and mobile license plate reader cameras can capture and analyse license plate information, which differs greatly by state and country, even when vehicles are moving at high speeds or in low-visibility weather conditions.

In his company’s media statement about the acquisition, Motorola Solutions’ chairman and CEO, Greg Brown said “Automated license plate recognition (ALPR) is an increasingly powerful tool for law enforcement.

“With this acquisition, VaaS will expand our command centre software portfolio with the largest shareable database of vehicle location information that can help shorten response times and improve the speed and accuracy of investigations,” Brown said.

Data management

However, the issue about the use of these kinds of technologies remains contentious from a data management and privacy point of view. A recent court ruling made it more challenging to maintain a database of vehicle location information in Fairfax County, Virginia, United States.

Privacy advocates may view this as a win, but advocating for license plate data to be destroyed is not the answer. Privacy and law enforcement agencies would be better served with stricter policies enforced about data governance to prevent any abuse of these databases by the police or other parties that have access to it.

In any case, it seems that the jury is still out on whether rulings similar to Fairfax County’s, would catch on in other states of the US – many of which have unique interpretations around the use and data.

Surely it cannot be denied that automatic license plate recognition technologies such as that provided by VaaS has helped law enforcement agencies in the United States to quickly apprehend dangerous suspects and find missing persons.

Here in Southeast Asia, video technology powered by AI-driven analytics has great potential to improve life and make our cities safer in areas of rapid urbanisation.