InterviewsSmart SpacesMaking public spaces smarter

3 years ago17 min

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Peter Jones Head of Marketing, Digital Solutions Information Systems Group, Hitachi Europe Ltd.

Peter Jones explains how the solutions applied to smart cities are being applied by Hitachi on a smaller scale to create smart spaces, from schools and hospitals to shopping malls and sports arenas.


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Interview transcript

Read the transcript of Peter Jones interview on how the solutions applied to smart cities are being applied by Hitachi on a smaller scale to create smart spaces.

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Anna Delaney (Interviewer)

So Pete, we’re talking about smart spaces, smart cities. How would you define a smart space, and how is it different to a smart city?

Peter Jones, Hitachi Europe

We found that by going down the path of just talking about smart city, we were kind of pigeonholed somewhat. We found that really, the solutions that apply to a smart city on a wider basis could actually apply, on a much smaller basis, to individual environments like a career corporate campus, a school, university, a stadium, a retail environment, a shopping mall, and so on.

We got rid of the smart city tag and called it smart space. It’s all about how to deploy technology that allows you to get better data from your environment, which allows you to run your space, wherever that might be, more efficiently, more effectively. So it’s all about operational improvements in the end.

Anna Delaney

So you’re gathering all that data. There are lots of benefits to a smart city and a smart space, but that there is more surveillance. So you are encroaching on privacy more so. How do you balance the two, privacy versus security?

It’s a delicate balance, and if we think about the solutions that it touches bringing to market, we tread that line very carefully between privacy and public. And for different situations, there’ll be a range of solution, either a sensor of some kind, which maybe can respect privacy, or if it’s a public space where video is allowed to be captured, we can deploy cameras. So really, we have to carefully blend the technologies to fit the scenario. We can’t really be driven only by using video. So we are using, for example, open source intelligence.

So how do you make the soccer stadium a more safe environment on match day? Maybe you want to know, are there being some things organised by the hooligan element? You need to have good view of open source data. It means the social media. So we have tools in our organisations to tap in to social media and analyse their event, look at sentiment, look at the word clouds that have being posted, or tweets in that environment. So I think we have a good blend of solution and technology that respects privacy, whilst at the same time, can provide more open information for the environment.

Anna Delaney

You’ve spoken about safety, and I’m eager to know what other benefits the smart technology can offer to cities, particularly when we’re talking about local authorities. How can they use smart technology to improve people’s lives?

Peter Jones

So what you tend to have is, you tend to have many disparate systems being used by organisations. You might have police, the local authority, you have private cameras used in retail environments, you have private cameras used within theatres and stadiums and so on. So what you tend to have is a lot of data is being collected and managed in silos. So the idea behind the smart city is to start to bring together some of that siloed data, and supplement that data with data we can collect from other new types of sensor, which can give us information about the environment, the people, the flows, the traffic, density of movement, and so on. So the idea is, we’re trying to blend these together in a way that perhaps hasn’t so far been done.

I’ll give you an example. If we take cameras in the public space, a local authority might have, let’s say, a couple hundred cameras in the town centre. That tends to be pure video. They don’t tend to be able to get very good insights into what’s really going on from that video. They learn by what the operator sees. So if the operator sees an event or something happening, he can react. But generally, that video gets stored, and is used when there’s an event to investigate. So it’s almost forensic intelligence.

The police would come, they request a video from a certain time and day and place, and then manually, go through that data. So what we try to do is to bring some tools which overlay on the support they have now, which perhaps means they can automatically get insights from that video data. So it means there is no longer a need for somebody to watch the screen all time, if you set up some analytics for intrusion detection, for example, in the areas around the back of the stores where people should be working. You can automatically know: the truck’s arrived, the van’s arrived, or some people are there. So you can start to have some intelligence from that video data.

The big problem we have is video is unstructured, so we can’t learn very much from that data other than by watching. But if we think about it, the video data from the camera is the richest source of IOC data, because it’s actually what’s happening. So if we’re able to tap into that data in some way and get extra insights, we can improve operations. Improving operations means it’s better for citizens in the end. If you have a smoother journey to work, if you’re able to do your shopping more quickly, easily, and safely, if you know that places are crowded before you go there, you do not need bother going.

So if we’re able to develop such kind of data, this all adds up to making the experience better for both the service providers and the people using the services.

Anna Delaney

How about city utilities such as streetlamps or road repairs or rubbish collection? Can this technology improve that aspect?

Again, it’s all about linking together, the data from these sources. So we’re seeing things like sensors which can tell you when bins are full, need to be emptied. I don’t mean the domestic bins. I mean the big bins for stores and so on. So what tends to happen today is on a certain day of the week, pickup is scheduled, and the truck goes out. It goes around various places and picks things up. So if it’s picking up half-empty refuse containers, is a waste of time. It’s a waste of energy. It’s a waste of people’s effort. So if we can tie together things like the refugee collection with smart sensors which tell us when things need to be emptied, we can cut down on journeys. We cut down on people wasting their time. We make things smoother for the environment and the city.

So I think there are many areas where smart sensor technology, smart video analytics, can combine together to make a better environment for the people in the city and for those providing services in the city.

Peter Jones

What you’re saying, it sounds like a smooth-operating city. But what about the people themselves? How can they bear the benefits? For instance, there are a lot of social problems such as mental health problems or loneliness. Can this technology improve their mental states, their health?

Well, I think, not speaking purely from a health perspective, but if we think about people’s lives are quite stressful. There’s many factors that make life quite stressful. So if we can make the overall experience of people in their city a better one, so it means they can go out and feel safe, it means they can go out knowing that if there were some disturbances, that could be managed and controlled more effectively. So these kinds of things. I’m not saying these tools are going to be directly changing people’s health, because we’re not talking about the connected health tools here. It’s a completely different kind of subject.

So you have a whole different ream of things going on in health care, for connecting people to applications, to fitness, to diets, to exercise, to their health, their personal health situation. So all of those things fit into the kind of smart environment. Our stack, if you like, our solution is refocusing more on those operational things. But I think if we can help to have– to provide a smoother operational environment, it means that people get to work more quickly, can park their cars. If we think about smart parking solutions that can tell you via an app which floor the spaces is on, which car park to go to before you get within sight of it, if there’s a problem with traffic around the car park, you kind of want to know about that before you get there. So we start to link together traffic analysis with parking space analysis. People get to have a smoother time in getting to work, or, for their leisure time.

All of these things can contribute to people’s well-being in terms of having a smoother, safer journey, having a more fluid time in doing what they’re doing.


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Published by Lyonsdown Ltd for Hitachi Europe Ltd. © Lyonsdown Ltd 2018