A million-pound project to develop “smart” cameras that sense violence on the streets is being developed by Cardiff University researchers.

Fights on the street cost the taxpayer millions of pounds each year. The Home Office estimates that an average violence incident costs more than £33,000 in NHS and criminal justice costs, lost working hours and the impact on victims.

CCTV camera

In Cardiff, computer science and violence experts are teaming up with technology specialists from Airbus Group to develop a system that will spot trouble brewing and guide police to it before anyone gets hurt.

The study will develop imaging technology that will automatically alert CCTV operators when fights are detected on city centre cameras. Smart CCTV already exists to count people and identify cars, but the Cardiff project will go further by analysing night time crowds to provide “real time” alerts, helping to prevent serious injury and reducing costs to health services.

Professor Simon Moore, from Cardiff University’s violence and society research group, said: "Developing smart camera technology that can pinpoint violence is a really cost effective way of helping police to do their jobs. Officers can’t monitor hundreds of city centre CCTV cameras all the time.

"By using imaging technology, officers will be alerted to “violence hotspots” in real-time, helping to further reduce violence. It’s a great way of using technology to make the streets safer for all of us."

The project is a partnership between Cardiff University, Airbus Group (formerly EADS) and the Welsh Government. Airbus is developing the technological infrastructure, whilst the Welsh Government is providing funding. The project is also backed by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The project has grown out of original research work carried out by Kaelon Lloyd, a PhD student at the university’s school of computer science and informatics. Lloyd said: "As a research student, I was involved in developing software that assisted CCTV observers with the identification of violence by modelling scene dynamics. The experience helped me understand the positive impact that video analysis holds for society.”