FlowX: Our work within the GovTech Catalyst

Helping transport authorities react quicker to traffic incidents

Context

In November 2018, FlowX (in partnership with Vivacity Labs) won a £50k contract with the Department for Transport & Digital Greenwich. This was part of the GovTech Catalyst process led by the Government Digital Service (within the SBRI — Innovate UK framework).

The competition is focused on “harnessing the power of data to better understand and respond to road congestion” 😎

The competition is split into two phases:

  • Phase 1: £50k feasibility study to develop an early prototype
  • Phase 2: £500k R&D contract to commercialise the prototype

We recently completely Phase 1 and submitted an ‘End of Phase 1 Report’ to our friends in central government.

This article gives a high-level overview of that report so you know what FlowX is up to 🧐


Summary

FlowX and Vivacity are helping transport authorities react quicker to traffic incidents. Our aim is to reduce the detection time for traffic operators from 10 minutes to 10 seconds. To do this, we are integrating with authorities’ existing CCTV camera network.

How it works

Step #1 — We integrate with a transport authority’s existing CCTV network. We ensure to have in place extremely robust data security agreements.


Step #2 — We use the latest computer vision techniques to anonymously classify objects (car / pedestrian / cyclist / truck etc).


Step #3 — We track these anonymous, classified objects across the screen — creating anonymous, granular data (counts / occupancy / speed / path etc).


Step #4 — We use this anonymous, granular data as an input into machine learning models to flag when traffic conditions are abnormal.


Outcomes from Phase 1

#1 — First of a Kind

To the best of our knowledge, this is the UK’s first integration of deep neural networks on existing highways CCTV cameras in production.
We have successfully integrated with a total of 14 cameras across Devon, Leeds, and Exeter Councils.

#2 — Repeatable data privacy agreements

Data privacy is rightly a primary concern for stakeholders at local authorities, so we have in place extremely robust data security agreements.

#3 — Integrated with analogue cameras

Exeter & Devon Council cameras are analogue. We therefore needed to install Analogue-to-Digital converters for each feed. This provides us with confidence to tackle the large proportion of existing public CCTV feeds which remain analogue.

#4 — Solved the Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) problem

Most existing public CCTV cameras in the UK are not fixed, and instead can be moved by an operator for a better view of the roadspace. This means a simplistic system returns erroneous data after a PTZ camera is moved.

We therefore wrote software which can automatically ‘understand where it is looking’. This method successfully identifies a pre-set view at any time of day, even if the position is 30% out of alignment from the exact pre-set in direction or zoom. The count line and zone positions adjust automatically.

#5 — Data for strategic decision making

We are continuously extracting anonymous, classified data from the CCTV feeds. This data itself is useful for longer-term strategic decision making, providing:

  • Reliable, city-wide, real-time information
  • Of vehicle traffic, cyclists and pedestrians

#6 — Prototype system of real-time incident detection

Using unsupervised anomaly detection, we flag when traffic conditions deviate past a configurable standard deviation — based on the norm for that day of week at that time of day. Traffic conditions are defined by their flow (counts / occupancy / speed / path etc). 
Real-time incident detection helps operational traffic control centres:

  • Respond to incidents in real-time
  • Preventing the build-up of congestion
  • While being less resource-intensive

Transition into Phase 2

Our key users are traffic operators in traffic control centres. Our principal priority moving forward is to add genuine value to our users, building a robust system of real-time incident detection which seamlessly complements existing workflows.

We will find out soon whether Phase 2 is going ahead. 
Watch this space 👀


A big thank you to the heroes at LeedsCC (Joel & Jack) and DevonCC (Chris) for our work together so far.

The same goes to the Gs in central government for their continued guidance (James Kim Fran Darren Rob Kay Ian Breandan).

And as ever to Peter & Yang at Vivacity 💪

My inbox is always open
richard@flowx.uk
http://flowx.tech