Data-driven video surveillance
Sasha Bonheim, Marketing Manager at Axis Communications SA
Even though statistics indicate that 319 fewer hijackings were reported in the 2018/19 period, more than 32 000 such incidents still occurred. Considering that most of these take place in densely populated cities and urban areas, measures can be put in place to better monitor hotspots and serve as a deterrent to these activities.
Cynics might argue the manpower needed to effectively monitor city-wide surveillance systems are costly and impractical. However, technology exists that make analysing the geospatial data more effective, ensuring they are rolled out to the most important hotspots first. Additionally, these systems can target more than just hijackers. Think about the potential of reducing incidents such as pickpocketing, vandalism, graffiti and even illegal dumping.
A smart and interactive surveillance system can help to proactively monitor and prevent a hijacking (and even other crimes) from taking place. But even if the worst should happen, the clear, high-definition resolution images provided by these cameras will help with the prosecution after the fact.
A centrally located control room can monitor hotspots around the clock by accessing the real-time video feeds from all cameras. This means the city can dispatch the right type and number of personnel to incidents and not waste resources by responding to false alarms. For example, knowing when to send police, an ambulance, or even the fire department can mean the difference between life or death.
The data collected by these networked cameras can be used to help measure the average response times for these emergency services and identify ways to optimise routes, where mobile units are stationed, and so on. It can also show how well protected citizens are, especially when data is analysed on crime trends in the city and the effectiveness of these technological solutions.
Moreover, integrating intelligent video applications with these cameras enable the control room to receive automatic alerts when the traffic flow deviates from normal. This early detection of congestion, or stopped vehicles, makes it possible to identify potential hijacking hotspots or possible threats within the area.
In South Africa, most hijackings tend to take place in the early evening. This means surveillance solutions must be able to capture clear images in low-light conditions. Fortunately, thermal cameras are more generally available and affordable than in the past. By visualising heat radiating from people, vehicles and objects, thermal cameras let the control room see through complete darkness, smoke and haze. Even in very low-light conditions, the technology allows for excellent colour images to be captured.
Watching and waiting
Despite some voicing their concerns about the privacy rights of those being watched, global statistics indicate that live video surveillance is on the increase. In a recent survey, London and Atlanta were the only cities outside of China to make the top 10 most-surveilled cities in the world. Of course, this does not necessarily mean South African cities should embrace the same methodology to monitoring, but it does show the growth that video surveillance is having to monitor crime.
With government pushing the smart city agenda, this connected infrastructure (surveillance cameras included) will be integral to monitoring, tracking, detecting, analysing and doing more to track people and cars than at any time in our history.
Protecting the smart city
For example, Cincinnati deployed nearly 100 networked surveillance cameras to replace its outdated analogue system. These have been successful in not only deterring and apprehending criminals, but also monitoring business districts to protect the welfare of residents and visitors to these areas. Meanwhile in Brazil, surveillance cameras are used to assist police in analysing levels of violence in Feira de Santana. The city then optimised its 106 cameras to monitor areas with high human traffic flows, schools and public health areas to not only assist with urban planning, but safeguard the citizens as well.
Networked video solutions can incorporate applications such as licence plate recognition, people counting and vehicle tracking. These solutions can take on the role of smart sensors, facilitating components that provide data that can be analysed to enable everything from smoother traffic flow to optimised energy consumption and reduced pollution.
Simply put, a city cannot be smart if it is not safe. People need to travel and do business in an environment where they do not have to worry about protecting themselves.