Artificial intelligence changes Idemia’s image

Idemia pledges to make life safer for VRUs with new products based around existing technology, Jean-Paul Baldacci tells Adam Hill
Enforcement / May 13, 2021 3-Minute Read
Idemia pedestrians image processing cameras © Frans Blok |
There will be more and more vulnerable people in cities that we have to take care of © Frans Blok |

Gathering and processing traffic data to create safer roads is what drives a great deal of the ITS sector these days, and French company Idemia is making strides in this area.

It is already known for speed and red-light running enforcement solutions, but is now looking at ideas such as measuring and addressing pollution, or helping local authorities reallocate street space away from motor vehicles and towards active travellers such as pedestrians and cyclists.

“We think we have a card to play,” says Jean-Paul Baldacci, Idemia product manager, road safety. “We are including two or three different technologies inside our products, not only speed sensors or red-light running sensors, but we add some Lidar sensors and video sensors and that paves the way to embed some image processing and artificial intelligence. That gives a new way to be aware of what happens in front of the product, which is installed on the roadside.”

As cities begin to think more about congestion and pollution, Idemia’s automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) can be useful to detect if an unauthorised car, for example, enters a low emission zone, he says. Vehicles can be identified at given days or times, “depending on the needs of specific customers” and emissions can be reduced with enforcement of intersection restrictions too.

Image processing

“Thanks to these new features, especially AI for the image processing, we can detect if there is congestion in the middle of a crossroad, yellow boxes, for example,” Baldacci explains. “If we can manage this kind of thing, we can give - not the complete solution - but some way to address the pollution problem inside the city.”

Mesta Fusion is widely used in the Middle East and North America
Mesta Fusion is widely used in the Middle East and North America

Vulnerable road users will also benefit from the technology. “People want to live in a safe way in urban areas and there are a lot of issues that have to be solved, I think,” says Baldacci. “The first one is safety: you don’t want to be crushed by a car when you cross the road.”

The Covid-induced trend for more walking and cycling in urban areas “means there will be more and more vulnerable people in cities that we have to take care of”.

Of course, as the old saying goes: ‘You’re not in traffic – you are traffic.’ Many of us make journeys by car that we could make in other ways. “Even if you have just 1km to go, you drive - so we have to have a different mix between car, public transportation, bikes, something like that,” Baldacci says.

Idemia’s new solutions will be based on existing technology: its Mesta series – radar and camera unit in an air-conditioned housing – has been a familiar sight at roadsides for around for 40 years.

Five years ago the company unveiled Mesta Fusion, which has been widely used in the Middle East and North America.

“We have developed a lot of products but, thanks to the new technologies that we are developing - especially AI - we have developed a new portfolio,” Baldacci says. “And the first new product, which is able to address those trends in urban cities, is called Mesta Compact.”

It has already been sold in France and other countries, and includes radar, Lidar and a video platform for image processing “to give a more complete situational awareness of the road”.

Vehicle classification

“On the same technological platform we are on the point of delivering a son, or brother, of Mesta Compact and his name is Mesta Mobile,” Baldacci says.

It will be “more likely dedicated” to speed enforcement, he says, aimed at police forces which will need to use it on a tripod, in vehicle or on a bridge, for instance. Its classification features, which are already present in the Mesta Compact, will be useful.

“We can tell if it’s a lightweight vehicle, heavy goods vehicles and so on,” he explains. “With this portfolio we are able not only to follow, but to push some new solutions for the high-end market - more specifically for urban cities with the Mesta Compact and Mesta Mobile.”

As well as Europe, North America and the Middle East, Idemia also has a presence in Asia.

“We have no limitation, you know,” smiles Baldacci. “So, of course we started many years ago in France because you usually start from your home. But since three or four years, we target the export market. We have succeeded in winning some good contracts in Asia, especially in Indonesia with the Mesta Compact, and that’s the first time we will give a customer these kind of new features.”

The company is developing others using AI, “for example, detecting if the driver has a cellphone in his hand while driving”.

“Another feature we propose is to detect if he wears a seatbelt or not,” Baldacci continues. “And we have developed detection of helmets for motorbike drivers. And that’s the complete package that we are delivering this year in the Asia-Pacific region with those new features that come to life in a city for Indonesian customers.”

The contract in Java was won last year and has already been installed. It began with traditional red-light running and has now built up to include these newer features.

AI performance

“AI needs a lot of data to be able to give back good performance,” explains Baldacci. “So you have to get a lot of pictures that have videos from the specific location you’re installed on, and then you can train your algorithm to have the best threshold and the best behaviour of the software. And that’s why there is this time to between the first installation and the first release of those kind of AI features.”

Idemia’s Mesta Compact is already installed on an Indonesia contract
Idemia’s Mesta Compact is already installed on an Indonesia contract

Idemia as a group is very well known for biometric products, and there may be some future crossover here into mobility when it comes to transport hubs – moving people more quickly through security, for instance.

While Baldacci says that there is not much overlap there at present with his field of road safety, he says there is great value in being part of a global brand which has a large footprint, experienced sales teams and partners all over the world, exchanging ideas and practical help.

2021 is shaping up to be a good year, despite the pandemic’s restrictions on global business. It has been a challenging time for everyone during Covid but Baldacci thinks that the company is resilient, and is well-placed to successfully continue its work. “Idemia’s motto is to ensure a safer world for everyone,” he concludes.

For more information on companies in this article