New Surveillance Technology Applied To Enhance Urban Transportation Safety

New Surveillance Technology Applied To Enhance Urban Transportation Safety
Photo Credit: Reuters / 達志影像

What you need to know

An intelligent surveillance system is planned to be applied to urban transportation in Taiwan, which may reduce risks of anti-social actions.

Compiled and translated by Yuan-ling Liang

On May 21, 2014, a man armed with two knives appeared in Taipei MRT station, killing four people and leaving 22 injured. Passengers have since then felt insecure with Taiwan’s urban transportation, including the MRT, trains, and High-Speed Rail.

General Hu Hsiang-lin, director general of the BOHSR (Bureau of High-Speed Rail), also the director of Supervision Task Force, states that a smart CCTV (closed-circuit television) system was conducted with the help of National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST).

By integrating the video surveillance system, several safety mechanisms would be launched; monitoring passengers’ movements close to the platforms, mysterious objects left in the station, and abnormal crowd streams would all be detected and reported instantly to the security guards. The broadcast system would also inform passengers immediately.

Berlin inspiring the advanced modification

Hu says, after the MRT killer incident, he visited the Berlin Central Train Station to consult passenger agencies regarding public safety policies. During Hu’s visit, he witnessed the McDonald’s in the train station catch fire. Recalling the accident, Hu says the monitoring screens switched to the same view and security guards were sent to the location to put out the fire without any alarming procedure.

The BOHSR has been working with the CSIST to develop an intelligent integration program ever since Hu returned from his visit to Berlin. By connecting all the CCTV screens with software and applying several settings to the monitor, the system can automatically connect situations that are defined as “suspicious,” such as high-speed-moving crowds or suspicious behavior in prohibited areas. This technique may promote work efficiency of security agents, avoid accidental falls off platforms, or even minimize the damages of terrorism attacks.

Cheng Chung-young, secretary general of the BOHSR, says that the trial for the program l would be completed in June. The BOHSR would select several new train stations for primary tests, and collect shots to define different situations. If it performs well, next year in June, the Ministry Of Transportations And Communications would apply it in both HSR stations and railways stations. Mandatory regulations of applying the system may also be implemented for MRTs.

Photo Credit: Christian Schnettelker @Flickr CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit: Christian Schnettelker @Flickr CC BY 2.0

Privacy invasion issues of surveillance cameras

Last December, the system was already applied in Taichung HSR Station and worked pretty well on spotting several abnormal situations. In the original plan, a facial identification system was also included; however, due to personal privacy concerns, it was then modified into “feature identification,” filtering several features, such as the clothing and height of a person.

Privacy concerns regarding the use of CCTV has also been argued in other countries.

A report, “Privacy and Video Surveillance in Mass Transit Systems,” published by the Canadian province of Ontario, writes that expectation of privacy in public places, especially urban mass transit systems, is usually considered unreasonable. Since video surveillance in such places enhances public safety and the ability to observe surroundings, it is not a right people can claim as in other situations.

However, the report also says, “while the expectation of privacy in public may be lower, it is not entirely eliminated.” It mentions that personal information should only be collected under legitimacy, based on limited and specific purposes, and that video surveillance systems should, at least, conform to such general principles.

Edited by Olivia Yang

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