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Cleveland wants to use artificial intelligence to fight illegal dumping

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The City of Cleveland will work with Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University on a solution for illegal landfills that is powered by artificial intelligence.

The end product will ideally provide new city-owned technology that Cleveland could use to identify those responsible for the dumping, according to Roy Fernando, chief innovation and technology officer under Mayor Justin Bibb, who promised to use the technology to improve city services.

The Cleveland City Council on Monday approved legislation allowing students and faculty, who are part of the two universities’ Internet of Things collaboration, to start working. It’s one of two initiatives approved this week that aim to bring “smart” technology to city devices and operations.

Students and staff will use smart cameras to develop and test an AI model designed to identify illegal dumps. Such work would be done in a controlled environment, likely on campus, “where students will come into a monitor’s line of sight” and leave an object behind, Fernando said.

Once the model has been tweaked and perfected, it will be able to identify that person as having illegally thrown the object on the ground, Fernando said.

Next, the city intends to deploy smart cameras equipped with the new technology on two corridors known to be dumping hotspots. One would be deployed on the east side of the city and the other on the west side, Fernando said.

Once someone throws an object and the AI ​​model detects it, it automatically alerts authorities, so they can investigate and potentially ticket the perpetrator.

If the test projects are successful, the technology could then be expanded for use elsewhere in Cleveland. The technology could also serve as a guide, of sorts, to creating different smart city solutions for other problems, Fernando said.

Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack, a long-time advocate for Cleveland to start using smart city technology, welcomed the idea during a committee hearing on Monday. He identified illegal dumping as one of the city’s biggest problems.

Ward 14 Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, who said illegal dumping was a big concern in the alleyways of her neighborhood, was a little skeptical. “We [already] know the hotspots of illegal landfills. That’s not the question,” Santana said. “[The issue is] capacity within the illegal dumping task force and cameras.

The second smart city initiative approved by the Council on Monday was a no-cost partnership with Honeywell, a manufacturing and technology company, to develop a “smart city roadmap” that could be used to guide future use of technology by Cleveland in the delivery of municipal services.

Cleveland was one of five cities selected for the partnership by Accelerator for America, which is a coalition of US mayors that researches and shares innovative solutions to common problems faced by municipalities.

The technological advances identified by Honeywell could relate to a certain number of services or needs of the city. Examples mentioned by Fernando and McCormack include uses for transportation, sustainability, smart buildings, smart sensors embedded in roads or other infrastructure, meter reading for utilities, efficiency improvements traffic lights or air quality monitoring or waste collection.

Over a period of two or three months, Honeywell will interview the leaders of several city departments about the challenges they regularly face. Honeywell will then present its findings on how to address these challenges with smart technology, Fernando said.

Bibb intends to use those findings and recommendations to apply for federal grants that would be used to pay for necessary technology upgrades, he said.

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