The Secur-ED European project foresees a world where security data are shared between transport companies in real time

Public transport 'Big Brother' project to help fight threats

A pan-European security research project wants to enhance information exchange between cities and public transportation services across Europe to make it easier to catch criminals.

In the centre of the Secur-ED (for Secure Urban Mass Transportation – European Demonstrator) project are security cameras and systems already in use by companies and municipalities but without sufficient level of data sharing.

Instead of relaying information to each other directly, the parties involved are forced to turn to police, who can only reconstruct the complete picture of the movements of suspicious individuals with a considerable delay.

But in the future world, as envisioned by the 39 partners of the €40.2m (£32.1m) project, such information could be shared in real time, using smart algorithms and allowing for much faster reaction.

“Since most major cities already have numerous sensors – like video cameras – and control centres for security in local transit, we initially analysed where the duties lay for those participating partners as well as for the existing IT systems,” said Wolf Engelbach, Project Director at Fraunhofer IAO research institute in Germany.

“For this purpose, we have developed an interoperability concept: It describes the best possible ways for participants to share their information during crisis situations. Building on that foundation, concrete formats that regulate the exchange can be developed and implemented.”

Parties to such a future security network will be able to see data captured by cameras and sensors of all the network’s members at the same time and dynamically respond to the situation.

For example, a suspicious individual could be singled out from a crowd in a train station by a simple touch on a camera image on a screen in the control centre. Using smart algorithms, all cameras connected to the network would then be on the look-out for the selected individual. Moreover, the software would propose several possible routes the suspect might have followed, focusing on cameras along the projected trajectories.

The recently concluded project involved four practical experiments in major European cities including Berlin, Madrid, Milan and Paris.

During the tests, the researchers integrated security systems of train stations and railroad networks in the four cities.

In the Madrid experiment, the researchers managed to transmit an image of the individual being sought via an LTE cellular network to city busses. Cameras in the busses compared the faces of boarding passengers with that of the target individual. If the face was a match, the system dispatched an automatic message to the bus driver and the control centre.

In another scenario played out in Milan, an unauthorised individual trespassed into a railroad storage depot but was detected by heat-sensitive cameras with zoom lenses and intercepted by the station’s staff.

The findings of the Secur-ED project will be presented at a final conference in Brussels on 17 September.

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