Imagine a city where citizens live without concerns about safety, a place with secure neighbourhoods, where police and first responders, faced with dangerous or hazardous situations, use the latest technologies to make ‘smart decisions’, in real time.
This is the vision of SafeCity, an EU-funded ‘Net Innovation’ project, which set out in 2010 to enhance the role of the Future Internet in guaranteeing the safety of urban populations living in ‘smart cities’.
Cities consume some 75 % of worldwide energy production and generate 80 % of CO2 emissions. Experts argue that a sustainable urban model means cities have to do things in smarter ways. EU initiatives for smart cities focus on ‘quality of life’ and sustainability issues, such as building practices, energy networks and transport systems, and how modern ICTs can boost not just the physical (infrastructure) capital, but also the human and social capital.
“For the first time in the history of humankind there [are] more people in cities than rural areas,” comments Eduardo Serra, former Spanish Defence Minister, in a SafeCity video. This trend will continue for the foreseeable future, adding to urban density and related challenges of crime, life quality, service provision, healthy environment, etc. Advances in technology are needed for smart cities to cope with this level of complexity, Serra suggests.
SafeCity focused on several key application areas, including decision support, video analytics, data fusion, 3D mapping, road and vehicle sensors, and CCTV and citizen networks, all tied together through the EU’s FI-WARE generic enablers.
Several use-case scenarios and early trials of novel systems to collect, analyse and share urban emergency information more effectively were considered by SafeCity. These included a road accident involving a chemical fire and injuries in Athens, derailment of a metro train in Stockholm (see side box), measures to maintain public safety and improve crime prevention in Helsinki, and real-time suspicious events monitoring in Madrid.
The Madrid scenario sees security staff getting real-time intelligence on a potentially dangerous situation because smart systems, including facial recognition software, pick out suspicious behaviour, such as loitering, people entering restricted areas, or abandoned objects. This means investigators save time pouring over thousands of hours of footage from CCTV stations!
“These scenarios represent crisis situations where public safety and emergency responders may take part. Cities have been chosen considering not only current technological potential, which will be improved, but also several criteria such as geographical size, population, standard of living or social and cultural diversity,” notes the team led by Ingeniería de Sistemas para la Defensa de España (ISDEFE), Spain, on their informative website.