Smart cities need watchful eyes-in-the-sky tied to intelligently-linked, interoperable ground systems to keep things running safely and smoothly.

A smart city is an urban environment that integrates information and communication technology (ICT) with Internet of Things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets. Cutting-edge technologies are required to make a smart city work, but importantly, these technologies must be seamlessly and intelligently integrated in order to effectively secure assets, preempt incidents, respond quickly to any that occur, and ultimately offer a safe, comfortable and ecologically-friendly environment.

Notably, video management software will play an important role in the making of a successful smart city, but not only for the obvious reasons such as securing assets and people: High quality visual data, when interlinked with other useful data from disparate sources, can yield so much more information to the city’s management, because it offers accurate situational awareness.

For 2020, Frost & Sullivan’s research has predicted that spending will increase across the city surveillance industry due to decreasing Internet Protocol (IP) network camera prices and continued improvements in analytics, video management software (VMS), and smarter storage technologies.

Smart cities need intelligent visual monitoring

Video plays an important role in the smart city concept, and the amount of digital video to keep citizens safe and protect city assets is rising sharply. Huge volumes of data from sensors and alarms are coming online in order to give better evaluations from the systems. With all this happening, we need to scale out, and employing more surveillance personnel is not viable.  

The big question is, how do we handle all this visual data securely and intelligently to help us make optimal decisions cost effectively? At the same time, we need to improve safety levels and react faster. The only way to deal with all the visual data is to get help from intelligent video management systems that enable operators to make better decisions more quickly and proactively to avoid incidents. The ability to react faster to any incident will limit the impact and the cost of handling the incident. The ability to ward off incidents with predictive abilities would be even better. This is the next phase in the digital video evolution.

Intelligent learning technologies are now advancing video content analysis far beyond the capabilities of legacy, rules-based analytics systems. Today, rather than just evaluating a few pre-defined situations, intelligent video technology can learn directly from the video about objects and their normal relations and behavior. The system will then alert the operator to unusual activities with a qualified recommendation. This leads to better-informed decisions and higher efficiency.

In the longer term, we believe these learning abilities will lead to predictive systems alerting the operator before an incident might happen. This will be a major time saver. But the VMS has to be prepared for the onrush of data in order to respond fast enough. This means deploying hardware acceleration to a high degree and integrating intelligent learning systems. This is happening right now. 

However, this step into the world of intelligent video is not a step any VMS manufacturer can take alone. There is a need for highly-specialized knowledge, and new specialized services. This can only be achieved in a community context. Only an alliance of partners on an open platform will bring the needed functionality, devices and infrastructure to boost intelligent video solutions.

Future cities are cities with vision

Highly-developed cities are ready to harvest the benefits of integrating smart technologies holistically. For example, in its ambition to become the world’s first smart nation, Singapore has identified five domains in which technology will have an impact: transport, home & environment, business productivity, health and enabled ageing, and public-sector services. Integrating all these infrastructures tightly requires not just an all-round vision from sensors and cameras, but also far-sighted intellectual vision that embraces technologies that are interoperable and collaborative.

To that end, the upcoming arrival of 5G to Singapore will open up greater possibilities for real-time processing of data from IoT-enabled sensors and cameras. This opens up possibilities for public agencies to monitor weather conditions, pollution levels, traffic patterns and much more, all through a consolidated platform, optimizing efficiency.

Real-time data transfer and the ability to handle higher volumes of data make it easier to apply added capabilities such as video analytics. Through this, smart cities can receive quality data and accurate situational information across multiple facets of its infrastructure, which will be key to the city’s successful management. But the island nation’s smart city ambition does not stop there. During the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Singapore expressed its hopes to be a “living laboratory” for developing AI solutions globally. 

Infrastructures powered by intelligent collaboration

Future smart cities will also contain smart, intelligent buildings with their own micro-infrastructure connected to sensors around the city. And the potential is vast as we are most likely to see an increase in the connectivity between water sensors, heating sensors and electricity sensors with video management software, cameras and data centers—which constitute the infrastructure of a smart city.

Smart city buildings will be sensor-driven and at the same time be clients in the city’s information infrastructure. This could enable buildings to collaborate. One example of this is parking: one building could rent free parking space to another building where a large meeting is taking place. 

Elsewhere, open platform video management software and its ability to integrate with other technologies will be a prerequisite for ensuring smoother and more efficient operations once transportation, public information systems and law enforcement are truly connected. A couple of other examples of how video management software can be used intelligently and way beyond security is to increase efficiency in public operations. For example, Thailand’s largest state-owned power producer is now using scalable and cost-efficient open platform video management software to cut labor costs by 35% and improve safety and security. 

From all the above instances, it is clear that an open-platform VMS community could and should play a vital role in the development and evolution of smart cities and nations. In order for the security industry to have a stake in this cake, it is time to start thinking far beyond traditional applications and business models.