New ‘nerve centre’ to control CCTV cameras in Edinburgh

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A new “nerve centre” capable of connecting and controlling key parts of the Capital’s infrastructure from its CCTV cameras to its traffic lights and even a new licence plate recognition system is set to be built.

The long-term vision has been aided after council officers visited Bristol, which is a similar size to Edinburgh and has recently set up a Smart City model – from which the authority is hoping to learn.

The new hub will harness technology to react to real-time events.

The new hub will harness technology to react to real-time events.

The English city has pioneered the model, where whole sections of their services can be controlled from one room, in real time.

In a report to the council’s culture and communities committee, officers said: “This capability will enable Edinburgh to develop a proactive rather than reactive management response, creating a cross-domain opportunity to leverage the city’s strengths in data driven innovation to improve city functioning.”

The new facility will also monitor “a new Automatic Number Plate Recognition camera network to be installed in the city” which police could use to track vehicles and could help enforce motorists flouting bus lane rules.

The council currently has 226 CCTV cameras across Edinburgh including 17 that are re-deployable. Around £634,000 is spent on staff operations of the service and almost £62,000 goes towards maintenance.

The new centre will control CCTV cameras, traffic lights and include licence plate recognition technology. Picture: REX

The new centre will control CCTV cameras, traffic lights and include licence plate recognition technology. Picture: REX

Conservative Cllr Mark Brown, who chairs a working group looking at the future of the city’s CCTV network has welcomed the plans.

He said: “It’s absolutely paramount that all stakeholders work together to make sure major incidents are few and far between from this collaborative work. The operations centre is part of a wider strategic programme. It’s no secret the CCTV system within the council is urgently in need of an upgrade.”

Green Cllr Alex Staniforth said: “I welcome the proposed changes which will keep Edinburgh’s civic CCTV in the hands of Edinburgh City Council. Obviously all CCTV has privacy and human rights implications and that is why as part of the update I have been convening a policy sub-group in order to produce policy guidelines which not only comply with GDPR but go even further towards making sure Edinburgh’s CCTV is the gold standard for privacy protection.”

The city council has applied for £365,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the Scottish Cities Alliance smart cities initiative for the operation centre. Funding of £534,000 is being made available from the council’s capital budget for its CCTV upgrade.