Sony Europe is leading a mobility monitoring trial in Rome incorporating embedded vision sensors with on-board artificial intelligence. The project is testing the paradigm that surveillance cameras are no longer going to produce video but data, enabled by millisecond processing allowing real-time tracking of objects within a single video frame. A key advantage is privacy issues are avoided, as only data is produced.

Three devices have been installed in Rome’s key thoroughfare, Via Vente Settembre to provide real-time information about free parking spaces, identify overcrowding on buses, and warn drivers when pedestrians are crossing the road.

The devices, called Genius Tips use Sony’s IMX500 sensor, launched last year and the first image sensor equipped with AI processing functionality.

In the trial, due to begin this month, the sensor will extract metadata about where free parking spaces are located. The information will be streamed in real time, and the coordinates overlain on a map for a driver to find the parking place.

Antonio Avitabile, managing director of corporate alliance and investment at Sony, emphasised that the Genius Tips are not cameras as no images are stored or leave the sensor – processing happens on the sensor to convert images into data.

The edge processing means the devices put little burden on the network, as only metadata is generated. This coupled with the fact that different neural networks can be deployed on the same hardware wirelessly makes the solution scalable to cover the city.

Envision, which develops infrastructure for smart cities, built the Genius Tips, which consist of two sensors directed on the road. Along with the parking application, the devices have also been trained to detect a pedestrians’ presence and alert a driver, and to monitor the number of people queuing at bus stops.

The Rome trail involves a number of start-ups in the Italian smart city ecosystem and supported by Sony Europe. TTM Group is responsible for installing the IMX500 image sensor in the smart tip, Envision developed the smart tips and Citelum installed the devices on traffic lights.

Speaking about the Rome trial, Avitabile said, “We have a vision of achieving more sustainable and liveable cities, and through the IMX500 scalable platform we can substantially accelerate this process.”