Enabling Next Generation Security for Smart Cities with Intelligent Lidar

By Neil Huntingdon

The IoT has dramatically changed the security industry over the past few years. Connected devices like smart doorbells, door locks, and security systems have enabled consumers to better monitor their property and keep their families safe. For commercial and municipal applications, however, many connected security systems still have a number of drawbacks that limit their usability. Lidar technology has the potential to solve many of today’s security challenges, and will help reshape the future of safety and security in smart cities.

The Third Dimension of Security Systems

Lidar sensors enable high-resolution perception, providing an extremely accurate 3D representation of an environment. With a detection range of up to 300 metres, lidar can be used for short, medium and long-range detection applications. Lidar also generates 3D information, unlike 2D camera imagery. This third dimension – distance – enables lidar to accurately perceive the size of an object, its location, and its velocity. As lidar can deliver high resolution sensing in a wide range of weather and lighting conditions, it can work hand-in-hand with other sensing technologies, such as cameras and radars, to augment existing security systems.

Perception software is the key to processing lidar data to bring intelligence to security and safety systems. Combined with perception software, lidar can detect, track and classify different objects and various behaviours in real-time. Lidar-based smart security systems can tell the difference between humans, vehicles, big animals, and small animals, and can even identify behaviours such as loitering and running. These capabilities open up an incredible number of applications for the security industry.

Maximising User Privacy with Anonymised Data

As privacy issues continue to dominate headlines, now more than ever companies and government agencies need to take privacy into consideration for security and safety applications. Facial recognition systems, which use artificial intelligence to match images against various databases, are one example of a security application that is facing significant backlash. In fact, some cities like San Francisco have banned facial recognition by city agencies over concerns about how this data could be misused.

Lidar information is anonymised, so no biometric or otherwise identifying data will be captured or stored. This means lidar can be used for monitoring crowds, providing information about the location, size and speed of people, without showing facial features. This is particularly beneficial for venues with specific customer groups that are even more data privacy sensitive, such as theme parks for children.

Minimising Data Burden for 5G IoT

Another major advantage of lidar is that systems can be configured to process information at the edge instead of sending everything to the cloud. This enables systems to only output metadata, dramatically minimising bandwidth and storage costs. With a fraction of the data output of a video-based system, lidar enables information to be analysed instantly for real-time decision making. Plus, it’s cost-efficient for companies to store lidar data for longer, as historic data can be useful, especially in the event of crimes or other incidents.

De-centralised computing at the edge also opens up the possibility for large-scale deployments of lidar. For example, a large number of lidar sensors can be deployed around the perimeters of airports, factories, or critical infrastructure where there is limited connectivity. And since lidar can be deployed using standard security camera housing, bracketry and connectivity, installation, deployment and maintenance remain straightforward. With a 5G modem attached, a smart lidar system could even become part of the IoT network to enable highly connected security applications for smart cities.

With its anonymised surveillance, lidar will help keep people and properties safe in a wide range of private and public venues, such as school and corporate campuses, government facilities, critical infrastructure, and tourist sites. Its use cases include:

  • Perimeter protection: Monitor perimeters and restricted zones to raise alarms when intrusion occurs, while keeping false negatives down with increased data accuracy to reduce the staffing costs for surveillance.
  • Access control: Detect tailgating and unauthorised entry to trigger immediate attention inside manufacturing facilities, corporate buildings, and government facilities.
  • On-site safety: Ensure worker safety in manufacturing facilities, railway systems, and construction zones by keeping track of the movement of people, machinery and vehicles to enable collision avoidance and trigger alerts when people enter or have dwelled in danger zones for an unusual amount of time.
  • Crowd analytics: Keep track of crowd flow and room occupancy to prevent accidents, and trigger actions when people start running suddenly or when the crowd is congested.
  • Behaviour tracking: Classify movement patterns, such as loitering or crawling, to identify behaviours associated with smuggling, stealing, or suicidal attempts, and help train and metro platforms, ports, and parking lots ensure people’s safety and prevent damage or loss of assets.
  • Suspicious package warning: Flag dropped packages and unattended backpacks to address threats at airports, transit systems, and other public venues.

While lidar was traditionally expensive, new innovations in lidar technology have made smart lidar systems much more cost-efficient. These innovations are helping lidar companies achieve higher resolution, longer range, and a wider field of view, without having to rely on the use of rare and expensive materials – significantly reducing the cost and complexity of manufacturing at scale.

Lidar truly has the potential to transform the future of smart cities by enabling intelligent, data-efficient security systems to help prevent accidents and save lives. Smart lidar products are being tested by security companies across a wide range of applications, and have proven to have largely improved traditional security systems by increasing data accuracy, while minimising the data burden and maximising protection of data privacy. We look forward to seeing lidar widely deployed for next-generation security solutions to help build future cities that are smarter and safer.

Neil Huntingdon is the Vice President of Business Development at Cepton Technologies, Inc.