Surveillance for Sustainable Cities

Surveillance: An Essential Ingredient for Sustainable Cities


Data can be instrumental in the world’s pursuit of sustainability. Aside from turning to more renewable energy sources to power the cities of the future, the global community should look at new ways to leverage technology to become more sustainable. Surveillance technology could be one contender.

Surveillance equipment like video cameras and sensors traditionally used for security purposes can also monitor environmental activities, especially in population-dense cities. The data collected from surveillance networks can then identify problems and develop solutions at a broader scale.

Areas That Can Benefit From Surveillance Technology


If cities worldwide aim to be sustainable in the future, they should act on the problems their surveillance technologies detect. Authorities should create policies to strengthen sustainability efforts and enforce laws to maximize their effects.

Surveillance is a helpful tool to drive growth in both aspects as it can provide concrete evidence backed up with data. Treating it like a data-gathering tool can be a viable approach to sustainability. Here are some areas it can help with the future in mind.

Public Safety


Leveraging surveillance technology is one way to create and develop sustainable cities. By 2050, 68% of the world’s population will live in highly-urbanized cities. This forecast should make authorities consider public safety a top priority for sustainable cities.

Currently, video surveillance in busy urban areas can help prevent crimes and make apprehension easier for authorities. Monitoring areas that can be a hub for criminal activities will help make cities safer for all occupants and promote a more sustainable life overall.

Video surveillance will serve as a deterrent and a solution for future sustainable cities. By improving surveillance networks regarding video quality, connectivity, and analysis, cities can benefit from lower crime rates and quicker response times by first responders.

Mobility and Transportation


Urban cities are prone to worsening traffic and regular gridlocks. As the world moves toward a sustainable future, these problems should be addressed accordingly. Surveillance technology can also help alleviate the negative impact of these problems through analysis and pattern prediction.

Interconnected surveillance cameras and movement sensors throughout highly-urbanized cities can help detect the ebb and flow of traffic. Traffic control can divert vehicles into less congested areas while pinpointing problematic areas for improvement.

Emergency services can also dispatch more quickly to traffic accidents, effectively reducing damage and alleviating terrible traffic situations. Citizens should be able to move freely and safely in sustainable cities, regardless of their chosen mode of transportation.

Energy Savings


Sustainable cities can save on energy costs by using light-sensitive sensors to change the intensity of street lighting depending on the time of day. This can go even further by utilizing movement sensors to detect activity in different areas and divert more power to regions that need it more.

Adaptive lighting can help cities become more sustainable as street lights will only use power when necessary. This leads to more efficient city lighting and decreased power consumption.

Environmental Impact


Video surveillance and sensors can also be used to monitor for environmental damage by spotting illegal waste dumping, detecting fires, and monitoring air and sound quality levels across a city. With various surveillance systems in other areas, cities can develop plans to address possible environmental threats and help warn the public in emergencies.

China implemented a different approach to gather information and improve mobility. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) partnered with the Chinese company Environmental Thinking to turn 146 taxis in Shenzhen and 19 in Tianjin into pollution-tracking vehicles in 2020.

The taxis were equipped with sensors to gather data during transit. In addition, CMU and Environmental Thinking developed a pollution-mapping tool that tracked information about air pollution, including the location, weather, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone pollution.

Taking it Further


While devices may seem advanced now, surveillance technology will only improve from here. Using it to become more sustainable is a step in the right direction. Cities can go beyond physical security and invest more in environmental monitoring to protect citizens and the environment from threats and disasters.

Cities can also benefit from recognizing areas to improve by using surveillance technology. Achieving a sustainable future may just be a matter of maintaining a delicate balance between data gathering and taking action.