Nokia and City of Melbourne trial AI technology to keep city streets safe and clean

Sally Capp of City of Melbourne

Nokia and the City of Melbourne have conducted a trial using Nokia Scene Analytics artificial intelligence (AI) technology to develop a deeper understanding of waste disposal behaviour.

This will allow the city to tackle the issue of waste dumping more efficiently and keep laneways the busy and narrow city streets and pedestrian areas even more clean, safe and free of garbage.

To decrease the frequency of waste contractor visits to busy areas, the City of Melbourne has offered local residents and businesses subscription-based access to the large-capacity compactor facilities. With the compactor in place, Council then wanted to understand how the service was being utilised and how to mitigate illegal waste dumping, which can quickly create safety and hygiene issues in the area.

Under its ‘emerging technology testbed’ initiative, the City of Melbourne worked with Nokia to leverage an existing network of installed cameras as internet of things (IoT) sensors to monitor one of the compactors. The Nokia Scene Analytics solution employed an AI-powered algorithm to filter and collate data from the cameras, while also combining other data sources, such as operational data on the compactor itself, to create real-time alerts and produce reports. Initial trial results demonstrate that Scene Analytics can support the City’s objectives for better, safer citizen experiences while simultaneously lowering maintenance and down time costs for waste management services.

This innovative use of Scene Analytics has been recognised on a national stage as the partnership between Nokia and the City of Melbourne was shortlisted for the Communications Alliance’s ACOMMS awards in the Artificial Intelligence category.

Lord mayor Sally Capp, City of Melbourne, says, “This is a great example of using new technology to help remove illegal waste more quickly, make our city cleaner and protect the environment. Our partnership with Nokia is another way we are gathering data to make Melbourne a safer, smarter and more sustainable city. This innovative project will help to avoid hazards and make our streets even cleaner by allowing our waste services to better understand behaviour trends related to the illegal and dangerous dumping of waste.”

Rob Mccabe, head of enterprise of Australia and New Zealand, Nokia, says, “The City of Melbourne is using robust AI technology to offer its citizens, visitors and businesses a greener and more liveable community. In helping the City of Melbourne monitor and enhance services with real-time driven actions, Nokia Scene Analytics is supporting the safety, security and operational continuity of this city in a proactive and automated way.”

Trial details

The trial allowed for real-time monitoring and detection of activity in the vicinity of the compactor using a virtual tripwire. Object detection and object counting was used to identify and count items to show how the compactor was impacted by items incorrectly placed within it, while also identifying potentially dangerous items. Anomaly detection identified unusual movements, such as illegal waste dumping during the night, while face and license plate blurring maintained individual privacy during the trial.

Using these reports, City of Melbourne can better understand the correlation between illegal waste-dumping activities and compactor downtime, to keep maintenance teams better informed and minimise issues. It also allows them to swiftly address waste dumping activities before they become a hazard, viewing locations in real-time to observe any obstructions to service vehicle access, and adapting their schedule to reduce unnecessary visits and minimise their carbon footprint.

By understanding patterns of compactor usage and waste dumping activities, the city of Melbourne is also able to patrol the area more effectively, while developing an ongoing campaign to better inform and educate the community.

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