One of the most interesting things about emerging technology is seeing traditional companies bring their years of experience to solve social problems for the greater good. An example is the work of Japanese company NEC who contribute to the development of smart cities and public safety with the use of cutting-edge technologies. I visited them at Mobile World Congress this year in Barcelona to learn more.
Smart cities and public safety
NEC’s booth exhibited Cloud City Operation Centre (CCOC), an IoT platform that provides support for urban management. CCOC is operating in a number of locations including Santander, Spain and Wellington, New Zealand to simulate efficient and optimal management of urban resources by introducing visibility into data that is collected from the city.
“NEC’s Cloud City Operation Center combines information from a multitude of sensors and data sources, geotags that data and then further enriches it with metadata and analytics for use by many different vertical applications,” explains Tim Packer, Head of Smart City Solutions at NEC New Zealand. “NEC is also partnering Wellington in its Living Lab project, through which the city seeks to explore how smart city technology can improve community wellbeing and the safety of its citizens.
“In this project, existing data sources and assets, coupled with new sensory and analytical methods and technologies, offer insights into day-to-day street level trends, patterns and hotspots. This provides the agencies and city partners with the real-time information they need to alert and respond to issues as they arise and to assist informed decision making around social initiatives and policy to keep Wellington safe and vibrant.”
NEC also demonstrated their premier face recognition technology and crowd density quantification solution. The real-time face recognition solution, NeoFace Watch, allows the detection of pre-registered Persons of Interest using CCTV camera footage. The system can also alert security guards in the field of the detection to expedite quick actions against potential threats. The behavior analysis and crowd detection technology enable the early detection of unusual or suspicious behaviors.
The NeoFace Watch is specifically designed to integrate with existing surveillance systems by extracting faces in real time from existing video surveillance systems and matching against a watch list of individuals. When the system identifies an individual of interest from the watch list, it raises an alert, so appropriate actions can be taken rapidly to reduce the risk of public safety threats.
Crowd behavior monitoring
Using the advanced techniques of the company’s unique machine learning video analytics technologies, NEC can trigger alerts when crowd behavior video surveillance indicates potentially illegal, undesirable or anti-social activity.
The benefits include the ability to tacitly maintain and appropriate the level of surveillance that optimizes operations staff attention to the most important or critical situations. NEC’s video surveillance solution to detect and analyze crowd behavior in real time has been introduced at Tigre in Argentina.
It can also spot dangerous drivers and suspicious vehicles, the detection of double-riding on a motorcycle, a common form of purse snatching, and license plate recognition to quickly identify stolen cars. Many people visit Tigre from both inside and outside the country, and on weekends the population of the city almost triples compared with weekdays. Because of this, improving the fundamental infrastructure of the city to solve problems related to the high volume of traffic and the high crime rate was an issue that needed to be addressed urgently so that both citizens and tourists could feel safe and secure.
It was also vital to construct a management system that would allow the efficient integration of information to reduce incidents and accidents and improve public order, and also allow quick coordination between public organizations, including the police. This solution has successfully reduced vehicle theft by 80% from 2008 to 2013.
NEC has installed over 500 safety and security related systems in 40 countries around the world and will continue to provide unique local solutions to local problems.
Harbor monitoring network system
Another interesting piece of infrastructure by NEC is the Harbor monitoring system, a threat detention service. It uses various types of sensors installed both on land and underwater to detect, track, and monitor small suspicious ships and divers — including those with underwater scooters — who trespass upon important facilities along the coastline.
The ITV, hypersensitive camera, and infrared camera automatically search the target area in response to information about suspicious objects detected by radar. The system also uses multiple sensors installed on the ocean floor to detect and track divers invading underwater and small suspicious submersibles that cannot be detected by radar. Like the radar information, information about suspicious objects is sent to the ITV, hypersensitive camera, and infrared camera, which automatically search the target area to capture images of divers or submersibles when they surface.
Information obtained by this system can be sent to related organizations, surveillance ships defending the periphery, other surveillance vehicles, and defense personnel via various types of networks such as wireless LANs. It can also be used as an environment monitoring system to detect potential disasters such as radiation and tsunamis.
It is inevitable that as the development of smart city applications grows, the opportunity for utilizing technology for crime deterrence, prevention, detection and ultimately prosecution will grow. Such efforts are not new or unique, but are simply being made more successful through technological advancements.
Understandably, few citizens like the ideas of being easily surveilled in public spaces. But citizens also like the idea of crime prevention and detection. The challenge is how the nexus between these two competing ideas can be successfully navigated. If the work of NEC is anything to go, future life in the cities will get even more interesting.