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UoW to develop AI to aid women’s safety on public transport

Researchers from the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong (UOW) are developing software that will allow existing closed-circuit television cameras to automatically identify and report suspicious or violent incidents.

The project was one of four winners of Transport for NSW’s Safety After Dark innovation challenge. Research into women’s safety revealed that girls and women do not always feel safe participating in our city at night, the brief stated.

While many factors contribute to this, transportation was identified as an area where improvement could be made. A team led by Dr Johan Barthelemy will develop artificial intelligence (AI) software that will automatically analyse real-time camera feeds and alert an operator when it detects a suspicious incident or an unsafe environment. The AI will be trained to detect incidents such as people fighting, a group of agitated persons, people following someone else, and arguments or other abnormal behaviour. It can also identify an unsafe environment, such as where there is a lack of lighting.

The system will then alert a human operator who can quickly react if there is an issue. The data and reports automatically generated by the software can then be used to help prevent the abuse and violence committed towards women after dark in public transportation. Helping him on the project will be a PhD student whose thesis looks at using computer vision across multiple cameras to understand traffic and pedestrian flow. The team is using open-source code that tries to estimate the poses of a human being and predict if there’s a fight.

The incident will then be reviewed by a human controller who will accept or reject the suggestion made by artificial intelligence. In this way, the program will become smarter, learning in a similar way to a human being. As far as the team knows, nothing like this has been attempted globally. The researchers are pushing the limits of technology.

The SMART Infrastructure Facility 

One of the largest research institutions in the world dedicated to helping governments and businesses better plan for the future, SMART brings together experts from fields such as rail, infrastructure systems, transport, water, energy, economics and modelling and simulation, providing 30 state-of-the-art laboratories to facilitate this important research. When the $62 million SMART building opened in 2011 as Australia’s first multi-disciplinary applied infrastructure research and training facility, it represented a commitment by the Australian and NSW Governments to apply a more scientific approach to infrastructure planning.

Since opening, SMART has built an international profile working with government agencies in Australia and around the world and has developed a strong network of global collaborators. SMART brings together experts from fields such as rail, infrastructure systems, transport, water, energy, economics and modelling and simulation and provides 30 state-of-the-art laboratories to facilitate this important research.

SMART in collaboration with UOW is leading the digital revolution in the Illawarra with the creation of the Digital Living Lab, a smart city initiative using IoT technology. SMART and UOW have deployed a radio communication network across the region using LoRaWAN technology in a bid to improve the quality of life for people in the community.

NSW’s Safety After Dark challenge

Transport for NSW’s Safety After Dark initiative is focused on making women feel and be safer when travelling in the city. Research into women’s safety revealed that girls and women do not always feel safe participating in the city at night. While many factors contribute to this, transportation was identified as an area where improvements could be made.

Transport for NSW is collaborating with other government agencies, local councils and industry to work on solutions to make the city safer for women.


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