Edinburgh spend £650k on old CCTV system as it aims to become a "smart city" coming out of Covid

New system could have talking cameras and number plate recognition

Monday, 1st June 2020, 7:30 am

MORE than £650,000 will be spent patching up Edinburgh’s ageing CCTV system until the Capital can introduce a “smart city” infrastructure with talking cameras and number-plate recognition.

The existing camera network covers public spaces, housing blocks, the transport network, and council buildings to maintain public safety and security and prevent crime.

But the analogue equipment has reached the end of its life expectancy and major investment is needed for an efficient system.

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Separately, work is already under way to explore using the latest technology and data systems to integrate various operations and turn Edinburgh into a “smart city” and now the aim is for the CCTV network to be integrated into that.

Possible developments which have been aired include cameras with microphones that allow the operators to speak to people on the street, smart lampposts containing small cameras which could stream live video from the scene of a street accident for a doctor to offer advice on patient care, traffic light sequences changed to get emergency services to an accident quicker and on-street sensors to track pollution levels far more closely than at present.

More sophisticated cameras would also be able to identify number plates to impose bus lane fines.

Contracts for the current CCTV network are due to run out next month and one of the two contractors has said it cannot renew because it would not be able to supply replacement parts or units.

The other contractor, which already runs 75 per cent of the network, will now connect all the cameras to its system and run the whole network for up to another two years.

Councillors have approved the arrangement which means combined operation and maintenance costs of £653,200 over two years.

But they are hoping for an update soon on smart city ideas the council has been evolving with its technology providers CGI and the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) initiative, run by the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University and funded through Edinburgh’s City Deal.

Depute council leader Cammy Day said: “We are developing a smart city strategy and trying to get the best brains of the city together to have that discussion about what should the smart city look like.

“CCTV is part of that, but it is a substantial investment and is moving from analogue to digital the best thing when we can have remote cameras and a whole range of things?”

Council chief executive Andrew Kerr said: “It’s really important we don’t consider CCTV in isolation because we are considering as part of the smart cities the whole issue about whether we have a city operations centre. We’re talking to both CGI and the university DDI programme about it.”

He said an update on the latest plans could be brought back as part of the proposals for coming out of Covid within the next two or three months.

“It is obvious to us the need to enhance technology and the way we deal with technology is going to be a big part of that plan.”