There is no smart city without safe city

Modern cities still have long ways to go before achieving the conceptual status of a smart city. However, many cities are already taking significant steps towards this inevitable future. Different types of electronic data collection sensors are currently being integrated into the very fabric of infrastructure of urban environments. It is however clear that the first step to a smart city is a safe city. As a result, information and security systems are inflating and now the challenge is: how to aggregate all these islands of information to achieve better situational awareness management and subsequently improved public safety.

What information can you afford to miss?

In large metropolises and municipalities, the amount of data points is growing to staggering levels and the sheer amount of data from sensors, video, audio, alarms, geolocation, email and even social media is simply becoming too much for human system operators to handle. Also, the more data that becomes available, the less attention is paid to each particular piece of data. The main question is not “what information you need to focus on ?”, but instead “what information can you afford to miss ?”. This is where we need the help of AI, which will be at the core of situational awareness management of future smart cities.

We, at Teleste, have investigated how to increase awareness and harness intelligence to support decision making for quite some time. The term AI (Artificial Intelligence) is thrown around a bit loosely, and this is reflective to the level of infancy of the technology. What we mean by AI, in relation to Teleste’s S-AWARE® situational awareness management system, is a combination of analysis, data-mining and machine learning, which together are capable of processing a thousandfold of information compared to the average human operator. It also has the capacity to learn based on vast quantities of success and failure scenarios and it can help building up an evolving library of Standard Operating Procedures. In practice for the future, this means lot more simplicity and flexibility into situational management.

Managing a growing ocean of data

The key task is to parse together massive amounts of sensor data from an increasing amount of fields of information, including from the growing expanse of IoT devices. Situational awareness together with AI best proves their usefulness by offering a more complete understanding of different situations and they can adapt to a vast array of scenarios. Ultimately, AI will have the capability to proactively help preventing situations from escalating into incidents that require a reactive response.

Where human response matters

While decreasing the need for reactive responses is a key objective, incidents that require human response are still unavoidable. In these cases, management systems that leverage AI can help human operators to better understand and handle various situations, by providing detailed standard operating procedures – included with step-by-step workflows. It can also help in providing near real-time analysis of what level of response and urgency is appropriate for each specific case. This is key in terms of resource allocation, but also for emergencies – where for instance first responders need to be dispatched to a scene of an accident as soon as possible. AI can help bring down response times from hours and minutes to mere seconds, which has the potential to save lives.

From silo thinking to holistic approach

Before we reach this stage, cities still need to move away from silo-based infrastructure and management, which most often consists of separate systems and networks for video surveillance, emergency calls, geo-location and multiple other discrete subsystems. A vital part of the future of the business will revolve around the aggregation of these multiple systems under a single umbrella.

Teleste’s S-AWARE® is designed to be the central point of operating personnel’s decision-making process. The platform works by collecting real-time information from various subsystems, data sources and sensory inputs, and it displays a unified and real-time view of the whole operational infrastructure. This provides for the improved understanding of what is happening in the surroundings and creates grounds for sharp and efficient decision-making. Each subsystem connected to S-AWARE® is interoperable between different authorities, which results in less systems to manage and subsequently a potential decrease in public spending.

When mutualization is key

Cities are already taking steps to begin mutualization of resources and infrastructures and in the near future, high-capacity 5G networks will probably be a key driver by providing a sufficient amount of wireless bandwidth with significantly less cost. Naturally, this is a bargain between existing silos; for many cities, building this infrastructure from scratch is not a viable option.

Video surveillance remains at the core of security and safety

Video surveillance, however, remains at the core of security and safety. Legacy solutions have to be integrated to be a part of new large scale situational awareness systems, and Teleste’s S-AWARE® is by design built to be an evolving platform that can adapt to existing and future technologies.

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Olivier Nitre

I’m head of the Video Security Solutions business at Teleste. See my LinkedIn.