September 22, 2020

Smart Spaces & Cities: Impact of COVID-19 on Emerging Lidar Applications

In the last several years, there has been a growing demand for technology to support smart city applications. The idea being that a city empowered by data allows for greater efficiency in almost any aspect. Benefits range from ensuring faster, more accurate response times for first responders to analyzing traffic patterns for better infrastructure design. Big data, artificial intelligence, and reliable sensing technology are all essential for this to be successful.

Currently, interest in smart sensing is being pushed forward by the COVID-19 pandemic and growing concerns over crowd management, social distancing, and venue monitoring.

China has already begun implementing autonomous vehicles equipped with lidar sensors to create a safer, cleaner infrastructure. One example currently in use is the Apollo vehicle platform from one of the leaders in the industry, Baidu. There are already 104 vehicles across 17 cities fighting the pandemic with fully automated cleaning, disinfecting, and transportation services. This technology has provided:

  • Non-contact transportation of medical supplies & food to frontline workers.
  • An intelligent, self-propelled spray disinfectant tool. The vehicle is loaded with 160 liters of disinfectant and is sent to disinfect roads daily.
  • Monitoring tools for large gatherings or enforcing mask regulations

In a recent webinar, Velodyne & Knightscope, discussed significant opportunities for lidar sensors in autonomous security. Using AI, the K5 ASR (Autonomous Security Robot) is laying the foundation for a new norm of remote monitoring. Sensors will be able to identify the number of people in a crowd, identify the space between people, and make announcements to crowds. Previous results showed a shift in behavior when people know that they are being monitored and recorded. This decreases crime rates in major cities.

To enable these applications, lidar sensors need to perform reliably in a variety of environments and places (roads, sidewalks, etc.). Some considerations for lidar system design include:

  • Different lighting environments – night time Vs full sunlight
  • Target reflectivity – dim vs bright targets
  • Broad range of operation temperature
  • Adverse weather conditions – fog, rain, snow, etc.
  • Eye safety –pedestrians, animals, and other drivers must be protected from exposure.
  • Compact size and low power consumption
  • Field-of-view – compact sensors can be installed in multiple places allowing for 360-degree coverage
  • Shock & Vibration – rough terrain should not disrupt monitoring
  • High Resolution – both range and angular resolution are required for accurate sensing

To learn more about VCSEL illumination sources that can be used in lidar sensors for smart cities and other emerging applications, check out our recent webinar:

VCSEL Development for Lidar Sources

Leonardo US offers illumination sources for Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) providing integrated control electronics, laser diode source and beam shaping optics in a single module. Learn more about our edge emitting diodes & VCSEL arrays for lidar applications.