Smart cities

Jim Craig

Senior Product Manager, RedHat

Smart cities:
Improving safety, sustainability, and quality of life

Given the complexity and scale of today’s safety and sustainability challenges, cities are working to deliver integrated services while engaging citizens to make more sustainable everyday choices. Here is where 5G offers exciting potential.

The individual connection points in smart cities are created by the Internet of Things (IoT), with thousands, potentially millions of CCTV cameras, monitors, and sensors, either fixed or mobile, providing the raw material to create a data fabric. IoT devices are typically tiny, so they benefit from 5G’s ability to scale down in terms of data and power.

Just as people and traffic should move seamlessly across a city, so can cross-department interactions and data – to help increase the efficiency, responsiveness, and sustainability of city services and day-to-day living. What can help cities is to implement technology and services on a relatively small scale, delivering one service and then driving the addition of others over time.

Smart road management

Improving traffic flow

Taking real-time feeds from CCTV cameras, ground-level sensors on roads and bridges, and increasingly in cars themselves, will help authorities to keep traffic moving. By leveraging real-time information, combined with AI, about accidents, roadworks, blockages and so on, signaling can be adjusted to optimize traffic flow. Potential traffic violations can also be avoided: for commercial vehicles, video data can be analyzed to monitor loading/unloading activities and related traffic enforcement.

Detecting traffic obstacles and emergency situations

With 5G-connected cameras and edge-level video analytics servers, it is easy to detect vehicles stalled on railway crossings, cars entering freeways against the direction, or – simply – the illegally parked truck that would obstruct public traffic.

Connected drivers

Drivers can get real-time advice and information via digital signage on roads or connected vehicles. And they can use up-to-the-minute information via smart parking apps and signage to find free or pre-allocated parking spots.

Enabling first responders

When a responder vehicle is dispatched, smart systems can calculate the best route to the scene, then share the information with the driver and control center. Meanwhile, traffic signals can be adjusted at intersections to give emergency vehicles priority for a clear path.

City infrastructure and planning

Monitoring city infrastructure

Sensors and CCTV combined with AI at the edge will help authorities safeguard infrastructure, from roads and bridges to waterways and transport networks. Real-time intrusion and hazard detection become possible with fewer control room resources.

Mobility strategies

City authorities and partners can use traffic data to identify pinch points and take appropriate measures, such as changing traffic signal timing and implementing road charging and/or new traffic routes. Analyzing data on public transport usage enables better decisions on bus routes, bike lanes, etc. One major priority is how to provide the infrastructure for charging electric vehicles in public spaces, including real-time information for citizens.

City planning

From waste management and sanitation to air and water quality, cities will use vast quantities of data, enabled by 5G, for more holistic planning and sustainability strategies. The use of digital twins by city authorities and partners will also increase with the ability to simulate the exact impacts of multiple scenarios.

Public safety

Crowd management

Using real-time video and AI analytics, authorities can better manage crowds to keep people safe in real time. For instance, in the city of Utrecht, protecting citizen safety by merging real-time audio and video with artificial intelligence and an experienced operator has helped reduce disorder in one hotspot by 80%, simply by increasing the light levels when it looks like trouble is about to occur.

Parks and public spaces

Security checks and controls using mobile devices and facial recognition technologies will further contribute to public safety and security. Mobile license plate recognition enabled by 5G will complement security controls. And with video analytics, staff alerts can be sent in real time for anything from an entry on a security watchlist to detecting an intruder.

Connected patrol cars

These, with live 5G-powered video, feeds to a video screen in the car, allowing police to arrive better prepared to video-equipped (private or public) places after an alarm – whether that is through video analytics or through other ways.

Social distancing

In times of the COVID19 pandemic, another application has come up: Detect pairs or small groups of people violating minimum distance regulations in public space.

Emergency and incident response

In addition to public safety incidents, an increasingly volatile climate is causing an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Connecting critical infrastructure to 5G could enable the rapid deployment of adaptation and mitigation measures, for example, and provide more accurate data for rapid and targeted responses.

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