This year has seen public health and safety at the top of the news agenda like no other. Restrictive measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and with that has come challenges that our cities and councils have never before had to face. One-way systems have been introduced in high streets across the UK, sanitising stations have been placed in key areas, and signs have urged people to take steps to protect each other and the NHS.
CCTV has always been closely linked with crime, acting as a deterrent for activities like theft to keep homes and businesses safe. It helps the police with ongoing criminal investigations and also with material evidence.
However, CCTV has come a long way. Gone are the days of pixelated photos used for identification. CCTV can not only play a key role in deterring criminal activity but can proactively make an area safer by monitoring public spaces and through the use of high-tech video analytics.
Using CCTV, we can review data from heat maps and pinpoint areas where breaches in social distancing are occurring, allowing action to be taken to review one-way systems or the number of signs in the area. Is the space too small for people to pass at a distance at busier periods of the day? Are people coming from various directions with numerous passing places making one-way systems unachievable? Data has an important role to play as we constantly adjust to the ever-changing new normal.
Video analytic systems also play a crucial role in public safety and not only for assisting the police as most commonly thought. In the UK alone within one year, more than 100,000 children are reported missing, while around 40,000 people living with dementia go missing for the first time. Video analytics technology is now so advanced that hours’ worth of footage can be searched within minutes, searching for key characteristics. Once identified intelligent software searches footage to then track their route to help pinpoint their last captured movement, helping to find them faster and return them home safely.
As technology constantly evolves, it is absolutely vital that we utilise this within daily life and to its full potential. For example, if there is a particular street where a high number of car accidents take place – data taken from surrounding cameras would help identify issues and allow positive action to take place, while city rush hour traffic can be analysed to assist local authorities on utilising or opening further major entry and exits to a city, with instant redirection or prediction of common visitor routes. The possibilities are endless, however if we don’t make use of the technology, we are missing opportunities.
CCTV is often referred to as the ‘big brother’ watching every move, but we should be mindful that its main purpose is not to monitor the moves of the city’s residents, rather it is there to ensure that the spaces utilised by them are safe.
As we move through the phases set out in the Government roadmap, data will play a key role in the changes that must be made. We have an advanced set of tools to make cities across the UK as secure as they possibly can be and we have a responsibility to ensure that we are smart in the way we make use of them within our public safety measures.
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