By Andrea Sorri, Segment Development Manager, Smart Cities – EMEA at Axis Communications
According to the latest statistics from the World Bank, 56% of the world’s population (4.4 billion people) lives in cities. Furthermore, the world’s urban population is expected to double by 2050, leading to nearly seven out of ten people living in cities. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, in particular, has been characterised by significant urban growth over the last few decades, which can challenge city resources and the well-being of citizens.
Urban population growth has driven technology use in managing city infrastructure and systems, with governments investing billions in so-called smart cities. As represented by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety, and security rank right behind physiological needs such as food, water, and sleep. Smart cities can use technology to help ensure safety and security and counter hazards that may threaten them. Fortunately, innovations in camera and monitoring technologies have given cities the edge they need to fulfil this responsibility.
Early warning systems can help mitigate or prevent catastrophes. As we improve these systems, we can identify risks and act sooner. Data analytics combined with data collected by cameras and sensors make it possible to identify “near misses” and address the problems that cause them.
Network cameras help achieve this goal. Today, many cameras are only used for safety and security purposes. However, with a scalable network video system, you can add analytics to your current system or complement it with additional cameras or sensors.
By constantly monitoring an area, devices can detect potential safety or security blind spots, such as a very narrow cycle lane, heavy traffic at a busy junction, or children crossing the road near school bus stops. As the cameras identify near-misses, city planners can add a pedestrian crossing, install traffic lights, or divert traffic to decrease the risk of a casualty.
A proactive approach to health and safety
Liveable cities should have healthy environments, but air pollution threatens this. Air pollution in some of the largest MENA cities is among the highest in the world and causes around 270,000 deaths a year in the region.
Active monitoring can help counter the risk of air pollution in urban areas. Detectors can spot changes in air quality caused by traffic, industrial activities, or weather, making it easier to take countermeasures. For example, video-based traffic management in city centres can be used to verify the cause of pollution and predict air quality deterioration due to increased traffic. Operators can use this data to divert or stop traffic.
The same approach applies to combating noise pollution. A combination of acoustic sensors, AI analytics, and video cameras can monitor the level and source of noise, which can then be verified via video footage. This detailed information can help operators reduce loud sounds – for example, by optimising traffic flow on noisy streets – and develop a strategy to tackle noise pollution.
But there are other risks to consider, including weather-based incidents that may stem from climate change and, subsequently, can be harder to predict. The MENA region has been flagged as being incredibly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which means cities must deploy the necessary measures to keep citizens and infrastructure safe.
Early-warning systems allow operators to detect and respond to disasters in a timely manner; for example, a real-time measurement system might detect rain, and data analytics and forecasting software can calculate the risk of flooding. IP cameras can identify when water crosses certain points, a critical evacuation need for cities close to rivers. Sensors can measure water quality to identify pollution. While a minor flood may seem harmless, contamination can turn it into a threat to people and the greater environment.
Envision the city of the future
There are many ways to make a city smarter, more sustainable, and safer, all of which positively impact liveability. The city of the future, one that is desirable to live in, uses cutting-edge technologies to safeguard citizens and their health.
With the help of solutions such as network cameras and environmental monitoring, cities in the MENA region can become living, breathing, thriving examples of urban areas that we would all want to live in.