A panorama of a city at night, against a dark blue to light blue gradient background. Overlaid across the city are white connecting lines, to denote how everything is joined together in a smart city. And vertical white lights to symbolise connectivity of technology.

Data-driven urban planning can start with video analysis

Urban planners are in the business of designing and building public spaces, public infrastructure that make cities more liveable, secure, and attractive for residents, tourists, and businesses. With the goal of driving tourism, residential and economic growth, city planners are tasked with scoping out safe streets and walkways and great transportation systems that increase mobility and lower crime rates.

Working with a variety of municipal agencies and departments – from transportation and highway to public works, parks and recreation, environmental safety, water and sewer utilities, as well as law enforcement – planners rely on insights from across municipal organisations in developing their plans. But they are also depended upon to feed quantifiable, actionable intelligence back to these agencies and apply findings to everyday projects in their purview. In the past, planners had to rely on anecdotal observations and silos of data that were collected by various agencies. With the advent of Big Data that can be collected from various sources, urban planners have a wealth of information to inform their decision-making. However, the problem remains that Big Data is often siloed because it is not easily shared among various stakeholders across city agencies.

One technology that is helping cities and urban planners overcome these traditional barriers is video analytics. Video content analysis solutions leverage a city’s video surveillance network – whether vast or limited in scope – and the video data that can be collected to both enhance security surveillance and enable cities to leverage data beyond public safety use cases. Whereas video surveillance has long been considered a policing tool for monitoring situations and collecting video evidence for investigations, for urban planners, video footage contains a wealth of valuable data about human and vehicular movement throughout a city and space utilisation.

Video content analytics technology takes advantage of previously untapped video data by processing video, identifying objects in the footage (people, vehicles, and other items), and indexing them so video can be easily and quickly searched and analysed. Whether for pinpointing suspects in an investigation or uncovering traffic patterns, video analysis transforms raw video into structured metadata that can searched, alerted on and analysed to deliver critical and visual information that can be leveraged and shared across city siloes.

A photo taken from the centre of a traffic jam, standing on the central white live, viewing cars on left and right from behind. It is sunset and both cars and lorries are at a standstill, reflecting each other and their lights in their paintwork. In the distance there are power lines connected to telegraph poles.
Using data to understand how city roads are used can be key to helping the flow of vehicles and preventing traffic jams.

Alleviate Bottlenecks & Crowding

For example, to ensure seamless traffic flow for bicycles, vehicles, and pedestrians, urban planners must have accurate intelligence regarding which roadways, bike lanes, or pedestrian paths tend to get crowded, and what times of the day or week that bottlenecks typically occur. Tracking objects and people counts, as well as detecting their dwelling patterns, planners can identify where crosswalks or bike lanes, traffic lights and signage can be placed to promote better throughput and prevent bottlenecks from occurring. The insight can even inform public transport decisions, such as identifying the need for additional access points to ensure more accessible and safe mobility for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Optimise Transit Options

To plan for transportation needs planners must gather business intelligence about personal and public transportation, which includes bicycles, trollies, buses, and subways. The key to planning future transit projects or construction is having actionable and quantifiable data regarding how many people use various elements of a transit system, when traffic peaks occur, and even which navigational pathways are most commonly used in a terminal or station. Video analytics software can provide all of that data, plus demographic data (men vs. women, adults vs. children) so that planners understand which populations use various facilities or infrastructure and determine how to best serve their needs.

Increase Public Safety

Police departments often use video content analytics to conduct granular, filtered searches of video footage to pinpoint objects of interest and analyse incident scenes. That functionality is crucial to accelerate investigations and solve crimes more efficiently and accurately. But beyond that, both police and urban planners strive to reduce problems, such as common traffic violations including illegal U-turns or bi-directional traffic on one-way streets. By tracking where and when common violations occur over extended time periods, planners can identify and address patterns of traffic violations or criminal behaviour in each neighbourhood.

Unlock Intelligent Decision Making

Cities can maximise their return on investment in their current video surveillance systems by complementing them with video content analytics software and reaping the operational insights unveiled by video surveillance analysis. Aggregating and sharing trends data enables urban planners and decision-makers across the city management evaluate and enhance city infrastructure, such as transit systems, walkways, streets, parks, and other public spaces. Their planning decisions can improve a city’s economy, safety, and quality of life for current and future residents, as well as businesses and tourists.

Learn more about BriefCam, the industry’s leading provider of the VIDEO SYNOPSIS® technology for rapid video review and search, real-time alerting and quantitative video insights.

Written by Lizzi Goldmeier Director of Marketing, BriefCam