City councils are facing ever-growing challenges to improve the way they manage their transport networks. Since 2018, Hamilton City Council has been partnering with Aware Group to develop innovative solutions to solve urban transport problems under their Smart City initiative. As a very forward-thinking council, HCC had been exploring ways to incorporate technologies like computer vision and Artificial Intelligence into their operations to help manage traffic. That’s where we came in.
The first solution that Aware Group and Hamilton City Council co-developed was the Transport Data Analytics Platform (TDAP). We worked with HCC in codeveloping a solution to display a real-time view of all available transport data from multiple systems in a centralised location, including traffic and bus network data, incidents, and alerts.
The end result was TDAP, an interactive dashboard that identifies abnormal transport trends and provides traffic operators with instant alerts when problems are identified in the network. This significantly reduced the time it takes for HCC to respond to urgent traffic problems such as faulty traffic signals, and provides citizens with a safer and more efficient traffic system.
Envisioning and Development
While Hamilton City Council now had systems in place to better manage their transport network and gain insights into traffic and incidents across the city, the next big challenge was managing non-vehicle traffic such as pedestrians and cyclists. The council was looking to gain access to richer data related to micromobility traffic throughout key areas of the city.
They noticed that existing options were either prohibitively expensive or didn’t provide all of the features they wanted. So, through a three-way partnership between HCC, Opito, and Aware Group, we established a plan to work together to build and implement a new system that could count and classify micromobility traffic in an affordable and scalable manner.
Alongside HCC, a robust solution was developed to achieve the council’s goals in providing a safer transport system for all. Aware AI™ for Pathways is a solar-powered hardware and software solution that uses a custom computer vision model to turn raw video footage from outdoor cameras into data. With mobile connectivity, the devices don’t have to be hardwired, and the maintenance required is very minimal. The solution is able to count and classify micromobility traffic such as pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles with an accuracy of over 90% even in poor weather conditions (per tests we ran with HCC). Results are readily available on an interactive dashboard, providing valuable insights that can be acted upon.
Aware AI™ for Pathways informs planning decisions, allows councils to see the impact that changes like roadworks or new routes have on traffic, and supports working with micromobility initiatives such as Lime scooters. The solution is simple and impactful, providing more benefits than traditional sensors while reducing costs.
In developing Aware AI™ for Pathways with HCC, one of our collective focuses was ensuring that the privacy of those in view of the camera was completely maintained. We are committed to ethical AI, and while developing Aware AI™ for Pathways, we built the solution with that concept in mind every step of the way. Our Pathways Counters perform video processing on the device, so the footage is never stored or transmitted anywhere – meaning very limited risk to privacy.
The device consists of an AI-enabled camera, a custom machine learning hardware platform, and a modem in a weatherproof enclosure, with a standard solar panel attached. Installation is quick and easy, as the devices can simply be attached to existing infrastructure like poles and buildings, and no hardwired connection is necessary. We wanted to make sure that the process of converting to the Aware AI™ for Pathways system was as efficient as possible for HCC, and for all of our customers utilising the platform.
Aware AI™ for Pathways gave HCC significant cost savings along with all the benefits it provides to the transport network. John Kinghorn, Hamilton City Council’s Transport Systems Engineer, says, “Aware AI™ for Pathways has enabled Council to deploy a higher number of devices, covering a greater area of the city, to provide useful data on a wider range of road users. This data will be very beneficial for a range of our city’s transportation projects and initiatives moving forward.”
By switching from traditional devices to Pathways Counters, HCC has been able to address many needs that historically were either very expensive or very difficult to fulfil. We’re very proud that we were able to help HCC address their needs, and that we have come out of the development journey with both a working system to manage Hamilton’s pathways and a productised solution that is available to councils, campuses, and organisations anywhere in the world!
“The information collected through the counters allows us to make decisions backed by real data, analyse how changes impact usage, monitor patterns in foot traffic in front of businesses and much more. The devices have received a lot of interest, with two other New Zealand cities already placing orders for them,” said Hamilton City Council’s City Transportation Manager Robyn Denton back in 2021.
Hamilton has a vision for road safety with an emphasis on providing separated facilities and infrastructure improvement to encourage high levels of walking and cycling, supported by their “Access Hamilton” strategy and Biking & Micro-Mobility Citywide Network Plan. It’s a top priority for HCC to be a city that provides a safer transport system with choices for all ages and abilities.
The data from Aware AI™ for Pathways supports this goal by helping the council understand how people move around the transport network and how infrastructure changes affect people’s journeys. By automating the collection of this data using our cameras, Hamilton City Council was able to more accurately collect pathway usage information at a fraction of the cost of alternative systems. We’re very grateful for our continued partnership with HCC – we’re now working together to carry out the 2nd phase of a 40-unit roll-out next month, increasing the system’s coverage across the city.
We’re beyond excited to bring this solution to cities worldwide and help them obtain the same benefits that HCC received.
Aware AI™ for Pathways is available now. For more information, visit the Aware AI for Pathways web page, or read more on our blog. Your organisation can experience Aware AI™ for Pathways via a flexible trial of the system, or you can request a demo so we can show you what it can do – just get in contact with us at [email protected]!