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The idea of a ‘smart city’ is not a new concept. The term has been used extensively over the past decade, yet we are only beginning to recognise and harness its true potential. What defines a smart city and the technology used to create it is constantly changing and adapting to meet citizens’ changing needs.

Intelligent transport and data-driven public safety will be at the top of cities’ agendas over the coming years. The latest IDC Worldwide Smart Cities spending guide outlined that the main priorities superseding these are resilient energy and infrastructure projects. Total global spend is due to amount to a whopping $189.5 billion by 2023.

With such large investments, visions of a smart city future are becoming a reality and developments in local towns as well as larger cities across Europe are showing that the world is ready to embrace it . But as technological innovations are beginning to -surpass city infrastructure spending, it is essential to ask the question: how can technologies make the infrastructure we already have not only ‘smarter’ but safer?

Smarter transport systems are the key to unlocking a smarter city

Informing travelers and commuters of hazards, delays and alternate routes is essential to keeping cities moving. It is vital for intelligent transport systems (ITS) to detect and measure the traffic in a reliable way across any spectrum of conditions, in real-time. By utilising smart sensors and thermal imaging as a part of this system means that vision is extended through the detection of heat emissions and allows for four-times greater recognition than that offered by traditional cameras.

Providing traffic controllers with an extended and clarified vision, provided by thermal, allows differentiation between cars, trams and pedestrians, as well as vulnerable road users such as cyclists. From this, we are equipped with greater insight into foreseeing delays and hazards which may occur across roads and highways. The data gathered from this technology further allows for seamless interaction between traffic controllers and first responders, providing efficient collaboration.

One example is from the City of Darmstadt in Germany, whereby the city is utilising smart sensors to guarantee the safety of schoolchildren and passers-by. With two local schools being positioned in a relatively dangerous by-section of traffic, the technology works by detecting pedestrians and adapts to the green phase of the traffic light system accordingly, so that pedestrians can cross safely in a well-adjusted time. A major advantage of using sensors for detection is that no extensive civil engineering is required. City technicians can install smart sensors and set it up without the cost of commissioning outside companies.

Die Stadt Darmstadt setzt verschiedene Typen von Videosensoren zur Fahrzeug-, Fußgänger- und  Radfahrererkennung ein, um den gesamten Verkehrsfluss auf intelligentere Weise zu steuern. Links oben im Bild: TrafiCam von FLIR

The city of Darmstadt is using various types of video sensors for vehicle, pedestrian and bike detection, all of which are used to control traffic flows in a more intelligent way.

A connected future for cities 

Cloud technology can be utilised to ensure high-level communication between entities, and ensure the smooth running of a cities. This enables a cohesive data collection for AI analysis, ensuring inter-device connectivity across different intersections in a city. The scalability and dynamic offering of cloud platforms allow for tailored solutions to seamlessly address specific problems across city-level operations, management platforms and associated interfaces. By combining this with smart thermal, cities have the tools in place to monitor and identify traffic flow, detect incidents in real-time and inform travelers of potential disruption.

Through synchronising to a central node of communication, the control centre allows for the retrieval of information from a unified access point. By using global displays and AI driven-data processing faster and more cohesive responses are enabled to reach service points across the city within a short period of time. As well as increasing first responder’s ability to react, the technology eases the flow and safety of traffic for the everyday traveler.

Locating and reacting to incidents in real-time

We rely on the speed and assurance of essential services to assist us when road accidents occur. To react in real-time, they need smarter tools to minimise any disruption which adds time to their journey and inhibits them from reaching people in need. Typically, it is traditional video surveillance operations which are used in this instance and are useful for investigations, yet these lack the tools and coverage that could change the outcome of an occurring event in real-time.

An example of authorities utilising this technology can be seen in Wales, UK where authorities have utilised FLIR thermal imaging sensors on a notoriously dangerous tunnel. With 80,000 vehicles passing through on peak days, incident detection technology is important for the safety of the tunnel/road users. By combining smart visual and thermal cameras, officials are notified of potential hazards or incidents occurring within the tunnel, helping decrease the number of incidents.

Detection of a pedestrian (thermal camera) in Brynglas tunnels in South Wales

Plus, it’s not only the immediate benefits we can see from safety features. The vast amount of data collected from daily monitoring can then be analysed and used by city authorities to make these roads safer. This use of variable speed limits has also enabled urban planners to make smarter, safer transport decisions, slowing traffic down when an accident has occurred and minimising stand-still traffic.

Initiatives such as these empower authorities to adapt safety measures to meet their own city’s needs. From targeting slow commutes and dangerous crossings in Darmstadt to reducing collisions in a busy tunnel in Wales – recognising and building intelligent solutions to unique issues has never been more of a reality. Technology is enabling cities and its citizens to keep moving while allowing authorities are able to prioritise the safety of communities in their vision of a future smart city.

About Teledyne FLIR

Teledyne FLIR, a Teledyne Technologies company, is a world leader in intelligent sensing solutions for defense and industrial applications with approximately 4,000 employees worldwide. Founded in 1978, the company creates advanced technologies to help professionals make better, faster decisions that save lives and livelihoods. For more information, please visit or follow @flir.

FLIR Systems specialises in technologies that enhance perception and awareness.  The company brings innovative sensing solutions into daily life through its thermal imaging and visible light imaging technology and systems for measurement, diagnosis, location and advanced threat detection.  Its products improve the way people interact with the world around them, enhance productivity, increase energy efficiency and make the workplace safer.

FLIR Systems has six operating segments – surveillance, instruments, OEM and emerging markets, maritime, security and finally, detection. Of these six, ‘instruments’ is of greatest interest to trade and industry and the second largest segment in the company’s portfolio. This division provides devices that image, measure and assess thermal energy, gases and other environmental elements for industrial, commercial and scientific applications.

These products are manufactured across five production sites, three in the USA and two in Europe; Sweden and Estonia.

A model to suit every application and budget
The options that FLIR Systems provides for measuring temperature and studying thermal performance have never been greater.  Not only does the company offer a huge range of models to suit all thermal application needs but the technology is also affordable and very easy to use.  Thermal cameras now come in various shapes, sizes and degrees of sophistication and FLIR continues to invest heavily in the development of new and complementary technologies to differentiate itself from competitors.

An important milestone in the development of thermal imaging has been the introduction of the FLIR Lepton® core, a micro longwave detector, the size of a mobile SIM.  This has allowed thermal imaging to be repackaged to meet the needs of an even wider audience and, in combination with another new technology called Infrared Guided Measurement – IGM™ – has led to the development of a range of test and measurement meters with imaging capability.

Another important growth area for FLIR thermal imaging is in continuous monitoring to assure quality and safety.  Through its introduction of discrete fixed mounted thermal cameras which are fully compliant industry standard plug-and-play protocols, FLIR Systems has provided industry with infrared machine vision which is instantly ready for quick and easy network installation.

Protecting assets and people from fire is an area for which thermal imaging is least known but, thanks to FLIR Systems’ development, it is now one of the most cost-effective methods available.  Its application flexibility and rapid return on investment present an attractive proposition for any site or safety manager.

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