City-wide intelligent surveillance in Milan

Milan, Italy

Fifteen years ago the Municipality of Milan started to design a city-wide surveillance system with the ambition to protect its citizens as well as making the legal system more effective.

Milan is one of the biggest cities in Italy and houses around 1.3 million people within the city borders and around 7 million in the larger Milan metropolitan area. Now the Municipality of Milan is increasing its investment in large scale video surveillance in order to prevent crime and to protect the city and its assets. To make the surveillance maximum efficient intelligent analytics has been added to the system. Detektor visited Milan to take a closer look at the surveillance system and to make bring you this report.

Known for being an economic powerhouse, the home of fashion as well as having cultural and architectural attractions such as the Duomo cathedral, La Scala opera and the Vittorio Emanuele galleria, the city places itself high in the list of notable historic European cities. Milan is also one of the two competitors alongside İzmir, Turkey, for hosting the World Expo 2015 exhibition, the world's third largest event in terms of economic and cultural impact. This is just one of the reasons that the city has started to lean more and more towards intelligent surveillance solutions, as compared to the existing traditional city-wide surveillance system.

1000 cameras

Fifteen years ago the Municipality of Milan started to design a city-wide surveillance system with the ambition to protect its citizens as well as making the legal system more effective. The surveillance has to date over 1000 cameras connected to recorders and different control rooms in the city, with the main control room being located in the local police department.

With the aim of improving the effectiveness of the existing surveillance system, Sony NVM was contacted in September 2006 to add intelligent functions to the system.

"Milan was looking for a set of features for the proposed surveillance system, specifically the possibility to identify threats in real time, reduce storage needs and speed up the process of searching for relevant surveillance footage. All this had to be compatible and integrated with the existing surveillance system", explains Simon Nash, Senior European Marketing Manager Network Video Monitoring & CCTV, Sony Europe.

Being the pioneer of intelligence within the camera itself, or "on the edge", Sony has a great deal of experience of the technology behind decentralised intelligence. With the launch of the technological platform DEPA (Distributed Enhanced Processing Architecture), Sony entered the intelligent video surveillance market with the DEPA-enabled cameras with built-in video analytics, offering functions such as motion detection and object detection. The motion detection feature enables the camera to distinguish between, for example, the waves on the sea and a boat. The object detection feature instructs the camera to react to abandoned objects, such as a car parked for too long or an abandoned suitcase in a train station.

Terrorist threat

In the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist have broadened geographically. Few are the European cities that see themselves as out of harms way from possible future terrorist attacks.

"With Italy's previous engagement in the Iraq war, combined with the possibility of hosting the World Expo 2015, Milan realises that the city could be subject to an attack", says Fabrio Andreoni, Business Manager IP Visual Communication, Sony Italia SpA. With that threat level in mind, it's not strange that Milan is implementing intelligent capabilities in their security system on a full scale. The protection of the entrance to the Palace of Municipality is a good example of an intelligent security application. The Sony-system is set up to send an alarm, should there be more than given number of people outside of the cathedral, or if people are loitering outside the entrance for more than a specific amount of time. The system is also set to react if someone leaves an object in the area outside of the building. Many of these intelligence-settings are also found in other vital parts of the city. There is also a parallel project going on for sports events in the city where Sony and Milan are cooperating to create a solution for crowd management.

"To further enhance the usability of the surveillance system, the Municipality of Milan is working on a project that possibly will allow police officers in the field to assess a situation by having control of the city's camera on a notebook-pc. The communication technologies used to achieve this are UMTS, GPRS, WiFi and Tetra. This system is not in full use as of yet, but testing is being done with ten cameras at a major lake outside of Milan", states Mario Grippa, City of Milan's Control Room Manager and Head of Security.

The central control room is located in Milan's local police station, where the main monitoring activities are performed, but monitoring is also carried out in the nine smaller branches spread out around the city. If the central control room should be disabled for some reason, the system has redundancy ability to switch the monitoring activities to another similar setting. The same redundancy is true for the large server room in the basement of the police station.

Broad use of intelligent video

The project between the Municipality of Milan and Sony shows a number of innovative ways of making use of intelligent video for more than just security. Currently under development, but nevertheless used in practice, is for example a system incorporating intelligent Sony cameras with speakers at some of Milan's pedestrian crossings. "The aim of this arrangement is to reduce traffic accidents involving pedestrians. If the fixed camera understands that there is a pedestrian crossing the crosswalk, and at the same time, a car is moving to fast towards the crossing area, then thespeakers tell the driver to slow down and warn the pedestrian to watch out. If the cardoes not slow down, or even hits the pedestrian with his vehicle, the number plate is captured by a speed dome and processed for appropiate action." said Mario Grippa.

This system's backbone is Sony's proprietary video management system Real Shot Manager and DEPA-enabled cameras. Real Shot Manager is used to manage video-streams, but also for setting up intelligent rules, such as in the case with the pedestrian crossing.

Another example of valuable use of intelligent video in Milan is the central train station where the 72 cameras are equipped with microphones. If a gunshot or scream is registered by the microphone, the camera is directed in the direction of the sound source so that an operator can immediately assess the situation. The operator can also advise a potential perpetrator through the system's audio function.

The aim - 4000 cameras

The surveillance system of Milan is far from finished. To date there are more than 1000 cameras installed in the city-surveillance system, of which 100 are DEPA-enabled Sony cameras of different sorts. Other camera brands found within the system are Bosch, Siemens and Pelco. The budget for this security project has, at this point, reached an enormous 140 million Euros, and the city's goal is to have an installed base of 4000 cameras within a few years. More specifically, the metropolitan system is next in line.

"The relationship between Sony NVM and the Municipality of Milan is to be seen more as a partnership, rather than a pure customer relation." says Fabrio Andreoni.

Walk the walk

Many new ideas for surveillance and security are tested within the scope of the system's platform, making the city of Milan something of a test-centre for frontier ideas for security technology.

Intelligent video is indeed very hot and much of a buzzword in the security industry. Milan has proven itself to be able to not just talk the talk, but to also walk the walk; it's truly an exciting and impressive installation that will be very interesting to follow up on in the future.

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