This article originally appeared on Forbes by Forbes Insights.
Preventing bad things from happening—whether intentional or accidental—has become a shared responsibility for all of us. “If you see something, say something” has become a mantra many of us are familiar with.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has added to our overall safety, and here’s just a few examples of how.
Building Safety And Security
Public buildings and private business locations have been using IoT for years. For example, cameras have been used to feed video to monitors, or to record anything that passes within their field of vision. Today, smart cameras are used to monitor and recognize people and things that enter, exit or move through buildings. The days of the “dumb” camera—feeding a continuous stream of images to a guard who is charged with viewing six or more screens and somehow, quickly, recognizing a potential threat—are numbered. Smart cameras—IoT devices that are built with embedded technology, like Intel Movidius technology, can recognize faces and objects.
Each camera can monitor and broadly recognize people and things that are passing beneath it—if something that is outside of normal parameters is detected, a guard who used to monitor endless streams of video can now be signaled, the video with the “suspicious” images can be quickly shared and assessed, and the potential threat addressed. There’s intelligence inside the camera, and field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), specialized chips that run extremely rapidly and can be reprogrammed to switch from one task (for example, rapidly digitizing incoming video) to another (enabling specialty observation of a suspected threat) significantly increase the value of the smart camera.
At the end of the day, or at predefined intervals, or when device memory is nearly full, the camera can transmit video clips of all “suspicious” events to the cloud or other processing center for additional review and long-term storage. By using IoT and intelligence inside the camera, it’s no longer necessary to send hours of video (or continuously streaming video) when only a few seconds or minutes each day are actually of interest.
Yet IoT and building security goes beyond the smart camera. Other IoT devices—microphones, Infrared sensors and smoke detectors, to name a few—add to the ability to detect potential issues.
Airport security is one of the most challenging security tasks. At a busy airport on any given day, tens of thousands of people may be entering and exiting from dozens (or, in some airports, thousands) of doors. In addition to guards near the doors and agents controlling the access of all people into the airport, smart cameras with computer vision are also in use.
Future systems will be able to recognize “safe” faces, or the faces of people who have already passed screening or have taken affirmative steps to be included in a “safe” facial recognition file. These safe faces may include pilots, flight crew and previously cleared airport employees, in addition to the travelers who have gone through the process of being deemed “safe to travel.” Smart cameras will be able to identify these people, providing them access into the terminals, and reducing the number of people screened by security agents.
Smart cameras and other access devices can also be placed at gates, and at access doors that lead into other, secure areas of the airport that employees and vendors pass through. This added level of security may prevent unauthorized employees from entering a cockpit and tampering with airplane components.
Identification—driver’s licenses, official identification cards, passports—will continue to be screened by security agents, but the manual screenings may be replaced by the scanning of identification materials using smart cameras connected to the internet. The cameras will have extremely high resolution and will be able to detect flaws or other issues on the documents that may suggest that they have been altered. Text and facial recognition may also make it possible to check a no-fly or criminal database while the document is being scanned. In some cases, faces may be matched to names, in order to verify that the person presenting the document is the same person named on the document.
Safety In Cities
Computer vision will also be used to monitor traffic. Because smartly placed cameras are sending large amounts of data, and because real-time decisions must be made to maintain optimal traffic flow, high-performance processors and highly optimized artificial intelligence (AI) applications that act on data generated by IoT devices are necessary.
When autonomous vehicles are connected to the traffic system, alerts, routing information, and instructions between cars and traffic systems will be generated. Systems, both on the cars and in the traffic control infrastructure, will handle the gigabytes of data generated. IoT devices in the cars—devices that control car functions, in addition to sensors that monitor hundreds of data inputs—will be used for generating data necessary to operate the vehicle, as well as providing speed, navigation and other controls.
Yet IoT in cities extends beyond traffic control. Microphones, smoke detectors, altimeters and other devices, in addition to smart cameras, can continuously monitor streets, alleys and other areas, and intelligently detect events that may indicate problems. A microphone connected to a smart system would be able to detect and identify the sounds of a car accident or people shouting. Processing on multiple microphones, located near to one another, would be able to pinpoint the source of the sound and notify available smart cameras in the area to focus on the area of interest.
Smart cameras will also be able to read license plates and may be able to notify authorities when a vehicle with a license plate of interest passes into its field of view. Multiple cameras, mounted at intervals, would be able to track the vehicle of interest, and this would assist authorities in locating and stopping the vehicle.
In some cases, drones will be able to follow vehicles or persons of interest, transmitting video and GPS locations so that authorities can intercept and stop these vehicles or persons.
While it’s safe to assume that “bad things” will still happen—it’s simply not possible to anticipate every bad thing—with ever-improving IoT devices, many more bad things than before will be detected before they occur and responded to much more rapidly than is possible today. Now that’s progress.