Internet of Things
Move towards a connected future
The City of Charles Sturt Council partnered with Outcomex to deliver a proof of concept (POC) for an innovative advanced technology solution to benefit Council services in community spaces, by improving Council’s responsiveness in dealing with illegal dumping. The concept was designed to see if the Council could pre-empt customer calls by using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), combined with advanced camera analytics. The demonstrator project, known as the Advanced Technology Pilot (ATP), was also created as a means for Council to progress its Smart City Plan 2018-2025.
The City of Charles Sturt is a local government area located in the western suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. It is considered one of South Australia’s largest metropolitan council areas, spanning approximately 5,500 hectares, with an estimated population of 120,000 and over 59,000 rateable properties. The council area is a mix of residential, industrial, and commercial land, with contemporary and highly valued heritage areas. This expansive area, stretching from the city to the sea, has a community that is diverse, vibrant, and inclusive.
This area has long been considered the sporting and entertainment hub of Adelaide, with national sporting stadiums, golf courses, an international rowing course, the River Torrens (Karrawirra Parri) Linear Park and more. The Council’s vision for its community and organisation is to continue to create and maintain a ‘Leading, Liveable City’.
As a local council, the City of Charles Sturt’s primary role is to serve the community by making responsible decisions for the community, developing initiatives to improve quality of life, and representing the interests of the local area to the wider community.
Council’s Smart City Plan (2018-2025) focuses on using emerging technology and innovative information to better respond to its community and environmental and business needs.
Progressing this plan requires funding for ‘innovation’ projects. This can be difficult to secure, particularly as Council must account to the public for its expenditure, requiring any innovation to also provide demonstrable benefit. So, when some funding to Council became for precisely this purpose, Council enthusiastically embraced the task. This was an opportunity to do something of benefit to the community, whilst at the same time giving a ‘leg up’ to the long-standing Smart City Plan.
A list of candidate projects was developed, with the common goal of reducing the number of incoming calls from the community. This was to be achieved through proactive use of automation and / or modern technology, like IoT.
For the ATP project, the Council wanted to focus on combatting illegal dumping. Although Charles Sturt already looks at ways to do this, they have done so without the benefit of modern technologies. Council anticipated that by identifying instances of illegal dumping before customers had the chance to call in about them, Council could improve the service levels to customers behind the scenes.
Outcomex provided a pilot solution leveraging advanced technology to assist the Council in their ongoing endeavour to combat illegal dumping. The Council’s aim was to find a solution that was effective, and which could also provide further opportunities for enhanced scope and operationalisation in future.
We developed a working proof of concept that utilised artificial intelligence (AI), minimising human intervention. Working with the Council, we installed and mounted a moveable 360-degree camera tower onto a bin collection truck. The camera had a small footprint and was very discreet. The bin collection truck was chosen because it travels over 100km across the city every day, making it the most practical vehicle to use. Since bin collection trucks drive in the early hours of the morning, the camera needed to be able to detect items in low light and poor visibility.
Taking this into account, we ensured that our AI technology solution worked with the mounted camera to scan roadsides and verges for shapes that ‘looked like’ illegal dumping. To increase the efficiency of this detection, we provided our AI solution with 6,000 images of illegal dumping from Charles Sturt’s database. The information collected from the camera was automatically sent to a central server and marked on an internal Outcomex map identifying potential illegal dumping incidents.
The information and data collected by the camera was handled by our core solution, 365mesh AI and Analytics engine. This solution was responsible for creating the detection analytics as well as implementing a custom AI model for detecting dumping sites and vehicle number plates. The Council was able to view all information and data on Outcomex’s Smart City Deck, a user-friendly, centralised dashboard that provided real-time insights into reporting and analytics.
To increase the accuracy of the operational AI solution, information on whether shapes are illegal dumping or not will be fed back into the AI model.
Additionally, we also supported a second scenario for Council, to identify activity in a known illegal dumping host spot. A tower bolted onto a trailer hosted a 360-degree camera with number plate recognition. This camera collected video data and used the same central server and AI technology to identify shapes that look like illegal dumping from vehicles pulling up. The intent of the video data was to use it as supporting evidence should an alleged illegal dumping transgression go to court.
The POC aimed to provide a proactive innovative solution to a community problem, using advanced technology. We were able to assist Council in decreasing the need for members of the community to call into Council to report illegal dumping. Several customers reported that they were pleased to see that Council was on top of the illegal dumping problem in their area.
Through AI and machine learning technologies, our solution offers the Council real-time visibility and analytics, allowing them to monitor their environment in new ways and make swift informed business decisions.
The City of Charles Sturt will continue to receive support and managed services from Outcomex. This will ensure they continue to receive elevated management and maintenance services, designed to minimise outage impact, and reduce complexity in times of crisis and failure.
A key benefit is that Council has started to identify how AI technology could be further leveraged to improve the efficiency of other Council business services. They are keen to see where the technology can lead it into the future.