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There are huge opportunities to sync up Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) technology with existing smart city projects — to provide a crucial extra detail to help meet the needs of citizens and optimise how investment is directed.

In this particular blog I will be analysing NTT DATA’s work with the US City of Las Vegas and discussing the many benefits to incorporating DAS alongside the great work being done, with emphasis on improving situational awareness and responsiveness to public safety and security issues.

Las Vegas city of the future

Beyond the famous, casino-lined strip that attracts 40 million visitors a year, Las Vegas (and its nearby municipalities) is home to a community of nearly 2.5million citizens. It is the heart of a thriving metropolis and is America’s second fastest-growing city. Urban planning and digitisation therefore dominate the city’s agenda, with a further one million residents anticipated by 2045.

The combination of tourists and population growth make public safety and mobility top priorities for the city, but also big challenges. The NTT “safe city” project is providing government authorities in Las Vegas with proactive early warning of potential and active public safety incidents.

NTT’s solution is based on a secure, distributed IoT connectivity platform that spans numerous micro data centres which are fed monitoring data via HD optical sensors, sound and motion sensors, plus an array of other IoT devices. The solution also integrates other data sources, such as crime data, and weather and social media updates.

These micro data centres can apply cognitive analytics along with AI and machine learning techniques to multiple edge data inputs and sources. This allows deeper insights to be obtained much faster, so police and first responders can better combat crime and improve public safety.

Real-time dynamic traffic management

Clearly NTT DATA and the City of Las Vegas has achieved some very interesting results with this project – but it also demonstrates where DAS can offer additional value.

The “safe city” solution used in this project is tackling the issue of minimising data latency and using edge and predictive analytics as a way to prevent accidents.

One of the project’s prime use cases so far has been wrong-way driver detection in downtown one-way roadway segments. By gathering before-and-after data it has been possible to measure the effectiveness of roadway improvements.

A stated future goal of the project is to explore additional ways to improve traffic management and signal timing. The reality is that DAS can already play a massive role in the real-time dynamic management of traffic systems.

For example, if someone has jumped a red light at an intersection – DAS would be able to detect this. The system could then immediately change the traffic lights in real time to hold traffic and pedestrians at other points of the intersection on a longer red light to minimise the risk of an incident caused by the car jumping the lights.

Integrating DAS with NTT Data’s “safe city” solution would quickly demonstrate the impact of various traffic management strategies and provide clear evidence on which to base real time traffic management decisions at a citywide level.

Emergency response

Looking more broadly at the issue of traffic management, DAS also creates opportunities to better coordinate emergency responses. Naturally with DAS you are able to detect that a road traffic accident has happened. But DAS is able to go a lot further than a simple ‘there’s been a crash’ alert. The technology can give an indication of how many cars/people are involved, whether there are crowds gathering at the site, etc. The benefit of this is that the emergency services know exactly how many resources to send to the incident and it means first responders actually get a very clear picture of what they are going into and can be as prepared as possible to deal effectively with the incident.

Improving situational awareness

At a broader level, DAS could also offer the City of Las Vegas additional ways to significantly improve situational awareness across the whole city. By this, I am referring to scenarios such as the security around specific sites, detecting footfall around government infrastructure or detecting attempted third-party intrusion at locations such as airports.

DAS’ ability to provide continuous monitoring of an entire perimeter and raise alerts in real-time, gives security teams the comprehensive overview they need to manage their operations and respond to threats effectively.

By connecting into the fibre optic cables installed along the perimeter, DAS converts them into an ecosystem of highly sensitive vibrational sensors, to create a ‘smart barrier’ around the entire perimeter.

DAS is able to instantly detect, locate and alert teams to potentially threatening activities, including people walking, excavation and tunnelling activity, fence climbing and cutting. It can also gather intelligence on prolonged or historical events and highlight long term patterns and points of potential vulnerability.

The earlier the alarm the swifter the response and the better mitigation of any possible trespassing, disruption or damage that may occur. Making sure citywide safety and security personnel have access to intelligent and actionable insights means they can be better co-ordinated and more effective in dealing with potential threats in the shortest amount of time.

Any opportunity to augment the NTT “safe city” solution with Fotech’s own LiveDETECT platform would be extremely powerful and exciting.

Realising smart city ambitions

Clearly these examples just scratch the surface of what’s possible, but they highlight how DAS can work with existing smart city systems and data analytics to make the picture of our cities as complete and as interconnected as possible. In this case, we have focused particularly on the technology’s ability to improve situational awareness and responsiveness to public safety and security issues.

The work NTT DATA has undertaken in Las Vegas is fascinating and exciting — but like so many projects — it demonstrates the sheer scale and diversity of the smart city movement.

There is no one technology that’s a silver bullet for smart city projects but DAS goes a very long way towards helping city officials realise their smart ambitions.

For more information, have a listen to what Fotech’s CEO Chris Shannon and I had to say about how DAS can give greater insight into your smart city, in the latest episode of the SmartCitiesWorld podcast.

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