Understanding the Stakeholders
There can be many different stakeholders with an interest in a Smart City implementation.
Government entities, such as the police, emergency services, civil defense, metro and rail operators, traffic departments, local councils, providers of utilities and others may all have an interest in the services that are provided. Private organizations may have an interest in such a system, too. They may have installed cameras and other sensors which could be useful to various government authorities.
However, sharing videos between organizations has not been easy. Besides the technical issues, there is the question of privacy and the confidentiality of different types of data. Most of these can be addressed as we move towards the concept of a Video Utility.
A Vision of the Utility
Over time, cities will evolve to the concept of a Video Utility - which is very similar to other utilities. Just like it is possible to plug in a fridge or TV into the socket in the wall and access electricity, the possibility to be able to plug into the internet and access video streams from multiple sources is likely in the future. Access may be limited based on the person's authority level. The video information would be available to the people when they require the data.
Two different groups will be able to access publicly available video for different purposes, just like very few people generate their own electricity, whereas the majority is supplied by public providers.
In fact, the real information in the image database is not implemented in the video images but rather in the meta data associated with the images. Access to the meta data can also be restricted based on authority levels. So for the same image stream, a shopping mall may have access to counting information, a paramedic team could be advised if there was a safety incident such as a slip or fall and the police would be informed if there was a traffic accident.
The cost advantages to all from setting up a common video network for all interested groups can be significant. Neither are the costs for cameras, networks and systems duplicated, nor are the costs for systems protecting the information. Initially, video utilities will probably be set up within an organization as today, different divisions tend to have their own private networks.
In the ultimate scenario, private video will also be accessible for public purpose and vice versa. Consider how this might work in the case of the bombing incident in Bali, a few years ago. A number of terrorists blew themselves up in a crowded restaurant. A large number of people were killed. As the investigation into the bombing progressed, it became evident that many people had taken private videos of the incident. Today, mobile phones have video cameras and it is amazing how many people had used their phones to record the event that they were witnessing. However, it took a very long time for the authorities to get access to some of these videos from the witnesses who gave evidence. In fact, it is not possible to know how many videos were not handed into the police.
Now, we know that it is possible to locate quite precisely which phones are in the vicinity of an event. The telecommunications carrier companies have this information and they use it to transmit calls to the correct phones. It is technically possible for an organization like the police to access the video being taken on phones presenting the vicinity of an incident at the time of occurrence. Obviously, appropriate legislative changes would be needed to ensure that the privacy of individuals is protected and that this facility is only used in the public interest. But technically such a scenario is possible, today. Such privacy protection may best be achieved by granting access to the meta data rather than to the video images.
Such a system also requires an appropriate costing mechanism to ensure that users pay for what they use. As we move to the future, it will be possible to harness public and private video streams to provide information that is useful for society, especially for those who are in charge of protecting us. The age of the video utility is here. And iOmniscient has built the tools to make this infrastructure work.