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Melbourne to use AI tech to keep streets clean

The City of Melbourne and Finland-based multinational telecommunications, information technology, and consumer electronics company have conducted a trial using the tech company’s Scene Analytics artificial intelligence (AI) technology to develop a deeper understanding of waste disposal behaviour.

This will help the city tackle the issue of waste dumping more efficiently and keep laneways even cleaner, safer and free of garbage. To reduce the frequency of waste contractor visits to busy areas, the City of Melbourne has offered residents and businesses subscription-based access to the large-capacity compactor facilities. With the compactor in place, Council wanted to understand how the service was being utilised and how to mitigate illegal waste dumping, which can create safety and hygiene issues in the area.

Under its ‘emerging technology testbed’ initiative, the City of Melbourne worked with the tech company to leverage an existing network of installed cameras as the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to monitor one of the compactors. The Nokia Scene Analytics solution employed an AI-powered algorithm to filter and collage data from the cameras, while also combining other data sources, such as operational data on the compactor itself, to create real-time alerts and produce reports. Initial trial results found that Scene Analytics can support the City’s objectives for better, safer citizen experiences while lowering maintenance and downtime costs for waste management services.

The trial allowed for real-time monitoring and detection of activity in the vicinity of the compactor using a virtual tripwire. Object detection and object counting was used to identify and count items to show how the compactor was impacted by items incorrectly placed within it, while also identifying potentially dangerous items. Anomaly detection identified unusual movements, such as illegal waste dumping during the night, while face and licence plate blurring maintained individual privacy during the trial.

Using these reports, the City of Melbourne can better understand the correlation between illegal waste-dumping activities and compactor downtime, to keep maintenance teams better informed and minimise issues.

It also allows the City to address waste dumping activities before they become a hazard, viewing locations in real-time to observe any obstructions to service vehicle access and adapting their schedule to reduce unnecessary visits and minimise their carbon footprint. By understanding patterns of compactor usage and waste dumping activities, the city of Melbourne can also patrol the area more effectively while developing a campaign to inform and educate the community.

This innovative use of Scene Analytics has been recognised, with the partnership between the tech company and the City of Melbourne shortlisted for the Communications Alliance’s ACOMMS awards in the Artificial Intelligence category. City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said this project will help to avoid hazards and make streets even cleaner by allowing waste services to better understand behaviour trends related to the illegal and dangerous dumping of waste.

The Lord Mayor of Melbourne stated that this is a great example of using new technology to help remove illegal waste more quickly, make the city cleaner and protect the environment. The partnership with the tech company is another way we are gathering data to make Melbourne a safer, smarter and more sustainable city.

Meanwhile, the Head of Enterprise of Australia and New Zealand at the tech company stated that the City of Melbourne is using robust AI technology to offer its citizens, visitors and businesses a greener and more liveable community.

He noted that in helping the City of Melbourne monitor and enhance services with real-time driven actions, the firm’s Scene Analytics is supporting the safety, security and operational continuity of this city in a proactive and automated way.

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