Peachtree Corners camera system to monitor compliance with COVID-19 protocols

Peachtree Corners now uses camera technology inside its city hall that detects if visitors comply with COVID-19 protocols. (Courtesy City of Peachtree Corners)
Peachtree Corners now uses camera technology inside its city hall that detects if visitors comply with COVID-19 protocols. (Courtesy City of Peachtree Corners)

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, Peachtree Corners is using new camera technology to monitor whether city hall visitors wear masks and practice social distancing.

Powered by artificial intelligence, the technology upgrades existing “dumb” cameras into “smart” cameras to automatically alert city personnel if someone walks through the building without a mask or stands too close to another person. To ensure privacy, the cameras use object detection without facial recognition software, meaning they will create an alert to a web dashboard without identifying individuals.

There are no punitive measures for those violating distancing and mask protocols, said Brandon Branham, chief technology officer and assistant city manager. The city will use the system to determine how well city employees are maintaining safety measures. Peachtree Corners is the first city to use the system, which was installed at no cost to the city or taxpayers, Branham said.

Cawamo, an international company focused on developing artificial intelligence software and the creator of the camera technology, worked alongside The Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, the city’s publicly funded innovation lab, before installing the technology. The technology can be used with any existing camera system.

“As further reflection of our smart city leadership, our work with Cawamo to customize a COVID-19 monitoring system for city hall shows how technology is helping to solve modern problems, while also prioritizing privacy,” said Branham in a press release. “Allowing us to instantly convert existing cameras into smart cameras also shows promise for wider deployment across the city, in addition to within workplaces in the near future.”

Facing criticism from some community members who see the technology as an invasion of privacy and government overreach, Branham stressed the cameras use no facial recognition software.

“We have taken the steps to ensure that it’s not (overreach),” Branham said. “Most of your public spaces that you go into today already have cameras out there. This is just using a piece of technology to help us maintain safety through COVID-19 and get us all back to work.”

Peachtree Corners may add the technology to other cameras scattered throughout the city, including ones installed at the Town Green. So far, the system has created few alerts, Branham said. But if alerts spike, the city will increase its messaging on the importance of following COVID-19 protocols, he said.

David Yakov, CEO of Cawamo, in a press release commended Peachtree Corners for being the first to use the new system. He added the company would like to expand to other municipalities and businesses.

“Peachtree Corners is a premier smart city known around the globe for its dedication to the development of emerging smart city technologies, so it was a no-brainer for it to be the first city in the United States to deploy the technology,” Yakov said.

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