Anyone who has driven the jammed I-35 corridor through Austin knows one thing for sure: the capitol city of Texas is now a boomtown. With an influx of tech jobs and strong economic growth, the Austin metro area is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. And because of that, the Austin Police Department (APD) has shifted into high gear, turning to smart technology that supports a safer, smart city.
One of the first digital transformation projects for APD was to implement real-time observation with smart digital cameras posted in strategic Austin locations, to help deter and monitor criminal activity. That portion is officially known as the High Activity Location Observation (HALO) Public Safety Camera Project.
The hotspots chosen for the smart cameras included the small but crime-dense area of Rundberg and two downtown districts: the Sixth Street entertainment area with its vibrant night life and bars, and the Warehouse District, which is brimming with unique shops, boutique hotels, and trendy clubs and restaurants.
Using the image data collected from these key areas, APD wanted to reengineer its team into a data-driven, intelligence-based policing organization. “The public safety camera project was designed to aid the city in deterring, detecting, and investigating crimes,” explains Troy Gay, Austin assistant chief of police, in a Hitachi Vantara customer profile.
APD set ambitious goals for its vision and data intelligence project, including:
- Build a scalable, citywide public safety solution;
- Capture, analyze, and compress data at the edge;
- Support data-driven and intelligence-led policing;
- Create an observation program for real-time monitoring and visibility;
- Better prepare officers to respond to emergency calls.
Maximize ROI with Connected Intelligence
Like most government entities, APD had to stretch its budget allocation for smart digital technology as far as it would go, and the public safety cameras provided a path to do just that. APD received two grants totaling $600,000 for Phases I and II of the project, which included the Rundberg and downtown district cameras. To launch the project, APD gathered requirements and reviewed proof-of-concept demonstrations, ranking and scoring several potential suppliers.
Ranking No. 1 and receiving the bid was Avrio, a Hitachi company that is part of Hitachi’s Public Safety and Smart City Solutions group. The group’s mission is to make safer, smarter, more efficient cities by combining advanced video, sensor, and network technology for comprehensive public safety solutions.
APD chose Avrio based on its expertise in wireless communications, wide-area video surveillance, and video and sensor integration. At the center of APD’s project is the Hitachi Visualization Platform (HPV), an end-to-end solution comprising intelligent edge-capture devices and an integrated cloud and mobile software platform.
Multi-function Camera Pods
APD’s HPV-based solution uses edge-capture camera pods with recording and analytical capabilities for remote video surveillance. With built-in 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, GPS, and optional wireless point-to-point and copper connectivity, HVP is widely used for public safety objects and integrates with most critical and commonly used safety platforms.
HPV embeds recording and analytics capabilities into ruggedized thermoplastic pod enclosures. The camera pods can be rapidly deployed in any climate and on any pole or building. APD launched the HALO project with 41 cameras and swiftly expanded. The department now has gained viewing access to approximately 1,000 cameras across the city, including school districts.
The camera pods support a variety of crime-fighting capabilities, including gunshot detection, license-plate recognition (LPR), radioactive isotope detection, CAD and 911 systems, video analytics and intelligent routing, cloud-managed bandwidth monitoring, and more.
Real-time Crime Monitoring
After rolling out HALO, the Austin Police department implemented a crime center, to actively monitor the video streams from the HVP cameras. The crime center allows officers to watch the streets in real-time, to proactively look for crimes as they happen, according to APD.
Phase III of the project includes Hitachi Visualization Suite (HVS), a software application that inherently operates with HVP. With that solution, public safety officials can enhance communication, improve situational awareness, and respond faster. It supports incident management and investigative features and connects with a range of security assets for workflow and business intelligence.
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Image Credit: Hitachi Vantara