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Annie Brown, Contributor AI writes in Forbes that developing Coherent AI Infrastructure for Smart Cities is a case in which the Emerging technology in artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming cities, making them smarter, faster, and predicting opportunities for improvement. So here is her write up.

The picture above is for illustration and is of SmartNations.

Developing Coherent AI Infrastructure For Smart Cities

Crowd in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. MATIAS MALKA VIA UNSPLASH

56.2% of the world’s population lives in cities. The issues that impact cities are felt everywhere. From commuting and congestion to economies and supply chains, increased efficiencies in urban areas are net positive for communities around the country, and the world. 

Emerging technology in artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming cities, making them smarter, faster, and predicting opportunities for improvement.

Myriad fresh-off-the-R&D stage AI tools proliferate in urban environments. Because of dense populations, and a concentration of equipment and machine based projects, AI’s ideal testing ground is a city. The truth is that AI is also most aptly applied in an urban environment.

Overhauling infrastructure is often associated with large capital expenditure and timelines spanning decades. Those barriers are being addressed through innovative solutions: AI and machine learning can upgrade the urban infrastructure fast, and at a fraction of the cost. 

AI-Powered Smart Transit to Get Cities Moving Again

Innovators in the space are leveraging innovative computer vision technology—aided by machine learning—to transform the urban transit infrastructure and deliver reliable, sustainable and equitable public transportation. For example, Hayden AI, based in Oakland, CA, has built the first autonomous traffic management platform with vision-based perception devices. 

These devices are mounted in a city fleet, such as transit buses, street sweepers, and garbage trucks. Each vehicle-mounted perception device is equipped with precision localization technology, enabling it to detect and map objects such as lane lines, traffic lights, street signs, fire hydrants, parking meters, and trees. This data then creates a “digital twin,” or a rich 3D virtual model of the city.

Vaibhav Ghadiok HAYDEN AI

According to Vaibhav Ghadiok, co-founder and VP of Engineering with Hayden AI, “The network of spatially aware perception devices collaborate to build a real-time 3D map of the city. These devices learn over time and from each other to provide data and insights that can be shared across city agencies. This can be used to make buses run on time by clearing bus lanes of parked vehicles or help with city planning through better parking and curbside management.“

Ghadiok leveraged his expertise in robotics, computer vision, and machine learning to architect the Hayden AI platform with a firm belief that efficient and improved access to transit systems lies at the heart of building sustainable cities.

One of Hayden AI’s first tests was on inner city traffic. Stop-and-start, people circling for parking, and blocked bus lanes cause traffic jams everyday in major cities. When bus lanes get blocked by motorists, it slows down buses, decreases ridership, and increases costs for the MTA. Ridding bus lanes of parked vehicles can positively impact millions of lives. 

It can also be used to identify parking meters, so cities can improve parking management. In addition, it can be used to alert drivers to available parking spaces nearby, alleviating the problem of driving around continuously looking for parking. The technology can even perform traffic pattern analyses to determine how many pedestrians are walking across an intersection at certain times of the day.In the future, these systems could be used to schedule curb space, enabling, say, a delivery truck to park in a typically restricted area for 15 minutes to drop off packages.

Take asset management, as an example. If a city wants to know when to trim a tree, data can be provided to assess the need for maintenance. How many fire hydrants are there and are they accessible?

Achieving this with fixed cameras is impractical given the steep cost of installation that can exceed $100k, time required to install, coordination of multiple civic agencies overcoming red tape and multiple rounds of approval. Ghadiok commented, “Mobile perception systems can be easily installed and are not only more cost-effective but accomplish more with fewer devices.” He further added, “An advantage of being a non-safety critical device is that we can rapidly iterate and deploy state-of-the-art algorithms to a street near you.”

The possibilities for what perception systems can convey, and the strategic decisions that can be made, are virtually endless. Social responses to these proposed improvements have been countered by concerns about privacy and regulations. That, too, is being proactively addressed by the global community of innovators.

New Paths for Politics and Society

AI unlocks the capacity for data to be used in transformational ways, but it still requires guidelines. A growing body of AI specialists see the powerful potential of AI to play a role in both politics and society, if the right standards are in place.

It’s called the AI World Society (AIWS) and aims to build “A Better World With AI.” Composed of leaders from around the world, this body is attracting leaders from technology, world governments, and innovators who recognize AI’s key role in building a better tomorrow. 

With representation at the UN, the G7 Summit, the AI International Accord Conference—and with a growing body of sponsored research and thought leadership—AIWS may provide much-needed guardrails to the ever-increasing supply of AI-powered tools, including smart cities.

Tuan Nguyen AIWS

AI has the potential to optimize life-saving, life-sustaining resources, including water, electricity, traffic, housing, and education. As the prevalence of AI tools increases, politicians and citizens alike must be empowered to understand and use technology.

Two initiatives by AIWS that have sparked worldwide interest are the AIWS Ecosystem and AIWS City. Co-founder Tuan Nguyen, an esteemed mathematician, explains the concept of the AIWS Ecosystem in this way: “Many things function with a team of systems. AI makes it possible to need and use only one. Enhanced applications make it possible for people to become innovators.”

Data scientists, technologists and other leaders are supporting a structure of models for facilitating a digital age. As an example of their activities, at the 2020 Riga Conference, leaders from AIWS relayed a new policy brief entitled “Social Contract for the Artificial Intelligence Age: Safety, Security, and Sustainability for the AI World.” 

AIWS has a growing presence in Paris, Rome, Riga, Vienna, Munich, and now further west into the United States. This body could make it possible for every person to have access to AI tools that make their lives better and easier. In fact, it is their stated mission to provide support to urban environments, but also to rural areas, reducing inequality and connecting people to centralized tools and information.

The City of the Future

Emergency services, community improvements, infrastructure, and the very roads that convey vital goods could all be enhanced by AI-fueled technologies. Some of the simplest ideas have the potential to go the furthest. Dedicated leaders are committed to using AI in safe, thoughtful, and tested ways. Their shared goal? To improve the quality of life for every person in every community around the world.

Annie Brown is the founder of Lips, a feminist technology organization at the forefront of the inclusive design movement, building products designed to unlock opportunities for previously underserved and intersectionally marginalized communities. Currently, Lips is building more inclusive Machine Learning and Contextual AI technologies that can be used across industries to improve the online experience of traditionally marginalized communities. 

Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out her websiteAnnie Brown