On February 3, 2019, the city of Atlanta hosted the Patriots and Rams as they fought for football supremacy. And while the story of the game itself is well known to fans, there was plenty of off-the-field storylines that deserve attention as well—including the challenge of keeping the host city running smoothly and safely. How was Atlanta able to handle such a large influx of people? What did they do to keep the city safe and navigable? Over 1,000,000 tourists flooded the Twin Cities in the runup to last year’s game, attending concerts and events over the course of the ten-day festival, and, although the final tally has yet to be released, Atlanta surely faced similar numbers this year. Fortunately, city institutions like law enforcement and traffic operations were well prepared to meet this unique challenge.
Atlanta is ahead of the curve when it comes to keeping a city operational during peak tourist times. The city has been making steady improvements to both security and operations management since 2015, when its first video surveillance cameras were installed. The intervening years have seen a dramatic increase in the capabilities of those cameras, as improved smart technology has allowed the city to analyze collected data to improve city operations as well as the safety and general wellbeing of its citizens.
In 2017, Atlanta selected a new, high-tech image processing application designed to provide real-time traffic data and statistics while allowing the cameras within the city’s network to communicate with traffic controllers and the traffic management system. This enabled Atlanta to use the high-tech cameras that were already deployed throughout the city to collect data and share resources to improve the lives of both current residents and outside visitors. And because the intelligence technology is located within the cameras themselves and hosted on a sophisticated cloud platform, the city was able to do it without adding unwieldy technology to already crowded traffic controller cabinets.
Atlanta’s dedication to using state-of-the-art smart cameras and information processing has helped keep the city functioning smoothly and safely during even the most challenging situations. Designed to leverage the many advanced smart technologies that the city had adopted in recent years, Atlanta’s newest smart technology undertaking is Operation Shield, a video integration initiative that pulls video resources from both public and private entities into a single command center. This smart city initiative gives the Atlanta Police Department (APD) greater visibility into more areas, providing businesses and residents greater peace of mind that APD can see what’s going on and respond quickly if the need should arise.
Centralizing the city’s video surveillance resources under one platform was able to provide Atlanta’s law enforcement and first responders with a more holistic, real-time view of the situation on the ground during the week leading up to the game. The advanced capabilities of these cameras allowed law enforcement to better protect the lives of both Atlanta residents and visiting fans without a disruptive increase in police presence. Thanks to the city’s innovative use of smart technology, the people of Atlanta remained well protected amid the excitement and chaos of one of the biggest tourist events of the year.
The cameras in use during Operation Shield weren’t just there to support law enforcement—in many cases, they serve a dual purpose within Atlanta’s “smart corridor” initiative. Located on North Avenue, a heavily trafficked area with over 29,000 vehicles and bicycles a day, the smart corridor serves as an important east-west artery for the city—one that visiting fans often traversed during the many activities surrounding the big game. Today, the corridor uses smart technology to make real-time adjustments to traffic operations, improving traffic flow and quality of life for residents.
The North Avenue Smart Corridor represents one important way that Atlanta is embracing the “Smart City” concept, and the resulting improvement in traffic patterns and decrease in pollution and emissions are obvious everyday benefits. They also allow the city to handle large and sudden influxes of tourists while remaining confident that the system will minimize backup and keep the city moving. While managing traffic patterns may not be as exciting to the casual observer as the cameras’ law enforcement applications, ensuring that large numbers of people were able to reach the game and its surrounding events on time was a critically important aspect of the initiative.
Hosting a large-scale event is a challenging proposition for any city, but Atlanta’s status as an early adopter of smart city technology put both the city’s infrastructure and law enforcement in the best possible position for success—and that preparedness was on full display before, during, and after the game. As smart technology grows ever more ubiquitous in today’s society, we expect to see more cities follow in Atlanta’s footsteps to improve the lives of their residents.
About the author: Kevin Taylor is the Business Development Manager for Smart Cities at Axis Communications, Inc. In this capacity, he is responsible for developing strategies and building channel relationships to expand Axis’ presence as a thought leader and facilitator in the rapidly emerging Smart Cities space in North America. Taylor has more than 17 years of experience building market share in the Low Voltage and Physical Security industry.
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