Technology Helps Protect Society and Inform Urban Planning

Technology is no longer just a business tool – it is also helping to solve social issues. Take the question of personal and public security, which is a growing concern in today’s world.

 For example, as a parent, have you ever had the awful experience of your two-year old, wandering off in a busy shopping mall? One minute, they are beside you. You turn your head for literally a moment and when you look back, your son or daughter seems to have vanished into thin air. The chances are that the child has just wandered off innocently and there is no abduction involved but the panic of that moment stops you straight in your tracks and you are sick with worry until your child is safely located.

At the Airport

Picture a busy airport, milling with people.  A bag – abandoned in the check-in area – has been designated as a potential security threat. It may be an innocent mistake on the part of a distracted passenger or it could represent a terrorist attack and present a risk to everyone at the airport? What does security do? How do they quickly identify the owner?

Of course, nothing can ever replace the importance of traditional policing, smart intelligence, surveillance and the presence of police on the ground but the Internet of Things, coupled with secure CCTV technology, is certainly putting real-time data at the finger-tips of both police and security personnel.

In the Shopping Mall

Take for example, the case of the missing toddler. Imagine the security guard, using his/her smartphone – loaded with special software – to photograph the parent for immediate upload into the shopping centre’s facial recognition system. Armed with this image, the system instantly searches the footage from that day and identifies when the parent first arrived at the shopping centre with the child.

Having extracted this footage, Security can then enroll the child’s face into the online facial recognition system. This automatically searches for the missing child across all the CCTV cameras in the network, tracking the movement of the child in real time – where they have been and where they are right now. Based on the GPS coordinates, the guard closest to the child is automatically alerted and the family is quickly reunited. This whole process – from start to finish – takes minutes, helping to quickly resolve a very traumatic experience for both parent and child.

 Real-Time Tracking

Let’s switch to the scenario in the airport. The IoT-based CCTV system quickly locates the abandoned bag– even if partially obscured. It then jumps back to the relevant footage and enrols the face of the person who has left the bag there. This image is transmitted to all cameras in the network and the person’s location is automatically tracked in real-time. An urgent alert – complete with a photograph of the person and details of the incident – is automatically sent to the nearest Security guard for action.  The likelihood is that the episode was simply an innocent mistake but IoT-enabled personal devices with face recognition technologies, connected to a database of criminals, can proactively warn Police when convicted offenders are in the vicinity.

Other Developments

In other security developments, the New York City Police Department has tested acoustic sensors, which can detect illegal gunshots to provide real-time alerts to police in busy precincts. Many police officers now wear body cams on the beat with studies indicating that they improve self-awareness and help promote the right behaviour from both the police and those they interact with.

The bottom line is that police agencies across the world are moving toward more data-driven approaches to solving crimes. Machine learning is particularly good at identifying patterns and can be useful when trying to discern a modus operandi of an offender, particularly in the case of serial crime.

Supporting Urban Planning

Let’s switch to a more benign setting. Maybe you work in the local planning authority. How do you make public spaces in the city work better for citizens? What is the air pollution level like at any given moment in time? What streets in the city centre attract the most foot fall?  What is the percentage of car users versus pedestrians and cyclists?

Data Is the Answer

Thanks to the use of sensors, IoT CCTV and analytics, planners can now better understand foot fall patterns – how many people are going where, how and when. It’s important to say that in this instance, people are not individually identified – rather, the planners are looking at aggregated data to help determine infrastructural requirements, like the number of required cycle ways, car lanes, footpaths, parks and bins.

There are other potential benefits. For example, business-people looking to open a new shop could potentially be given accurate figures for foot fall near their proposed location to help them assess the potential for their new venture.

Smart parking can also use sensors and devices to help drivers quickly locate parking spaces and reduce congestion and fuel emissions. There are also obvious public security benefits. Apart from detecting and preventing vandalism and crime in real-time, in the event of an accident or say an elderly person falling, the emergency services can be automatically summonsed to the scene.

Smart Partnerships

So, what role does Dell EMC OEM play in all of this? The answer is simple. We collaborate with specialist video surveillance and security partners, like iOmniscinetMilestoneV-5 Systems and Pelco to power their solutions. Our partners provide the IP while we provide the customised hardware platform, and support services.

Of course, it goes without saying that criminals and hackers will try to exploit any vulnerability they can find in new security systems.  All these interconnected networks and devices need the right levels of security, built in from the start to protect both the cities and their citizens. That is where we can also add value. We have a dedicated focus on surveillance with experts available in our IoT lab to collaborate with specialist video surveillance and security partners.

As a society, I believe that we need to continue to respect the importance of individual privacy while carefully balancing this against the need to protect the common good.

What are your views on technology being used to improve security and urban planning? I would love to hear your comments and questions.

About the Author: Dell Technologies