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Live Labs blog: Birmingham test-bed for innovative video analytics

The Network Resilience Live Lab is progressing well in its aims to use innovative video analytics to help combat road congestion in Birmingham and Solihull. 

In this blog, we take a look back at the very first trials conducted in February 2019 and how these tests were vital in gathering valuable insight that continues to inform our project activities and deliver best practice.

Identifying the ideal test route 

The A34 is a busy arterial route north of Birmingham that connects the city centre with Walsall. One of the main reasons it was identified as an ideal test-bed for the innovative video analytics was because of its connection with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. With the event’s potential to cause congestion in north Birmingham, the A34 is a route that stands to benefit greatly from the work that the Network Resilience Live Lab is carrying out. 

Hanwa and Samsung cameras were selected for the initial trial and 4Sight provided video analytics via an encrypted wireless feed. The images generated were monitored at Transport for West Midlands’ Regional Transport Coordination Centre (RTCC). 

Valuable lessons for future success  

A number of valuable lessons were learned from the A34 trial that have helped inform subsequent project activities: 

  • The trial helped to rule out technologies and providers that were not closely aligned with the project’s aims
  • We switched our focus from purchasing and installing all new assets, to a more efficient blended approach, utilising existing cameras where possible and installing additional infrastructure to enhance coverage
  • Through stakeholder engagement, we identified the merits of a partnership with West Midlands Police, as discussed in more detail in our previous blog
  • We identified synergies with camera deployment for other projects, avoiding duplication of efforts and extending the reach of each project budget 
  • Further work was required in order for our team to access data in real time, something that is essential to achieving our objectives
  • 4G was found to be more cost-effective than fixed fibre optic transmission, due to the scale of annual leasing costs
  • It became clear that predicting scale-up costs would be more challenging than expected, due to the varying length and existing camera infrastructure of each route 

The initial A34 trial led to a further technical test with West Midlands Police on the A34 south in October 2019, further strengthening the foundations of the project and extending its capability. 

In innovation projects such as these, it is essential to reflect upon learnings at every stage and share findings that may have far-reaching benefits. While Live Labs is a two-year project, it will continue to have significant effects on the infrastructure of the West Midlands road network long after the project ends. 

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