Impact Story – AI Technology: A Realistic Approach to Enhance City Safety and Life Care

 The Report of Unintentional Injury Survey 2018 published by the Centre for Health Protection revealed that 4.4% of respondents sustained injury episode(s) in the preceding 12 months, with falls accounting for a significant 39.4%. The elderly, in particular, faced a higher incidence of unintentional injuries, leading to hospitalization. In 2022, public swimming pools recorded 18 rescue cases and 489 give-a-hand cases, while bathing beaches reported 5 drowning cases. Recognizing the critical role of public safety in individual well-being and urban development, numerous start-ups in Hong Kong have emerged, offering innovative solutions designed to address safety challenges across diverse scenarios and needs.

Recently, LBS interviewed Hong Kong Univisual Intelligent Technology (“HKUiT”), a provider of AI detection technology and solutions. Co-founded in 2019 by CEO Ms. Carol Chen, who brings extensive scientific research experience, and Dr. Wilton Fok, a professor at the University of Hong Kong, HKUiT has developed an AI detection system capable of identifying human behaviors in specific environments. This system promptly issues alerts when personal safety is at risk or in danger in public places, enabling on-site staff to take appropriate actions swiftly. The scope of behavior recognition also extends beyond accident detection, applicable in various scenarios to promote behavioral development and enhance work efficiency.

Expanding safety boundaries with technology

“In summer, all we want is to release dopamine safely.”

One of the early applications is the AI drowning detection system at swimming pools, particularly at the Kwun Tong swimming pool. The enhanced system, adopted last year, garnered widespread praise for its impressive accuracy rate of over 90% in detecting drowning incidents, greatly reducing lifeguards’ workload. Concerns about personal information security are addressed through the system's backend, where monitoring screens display only colorful stick figures and without saving personal information, ensuring individual identities remain indistinguishable. This is a testament to the robust protection of personal privacy through advanced technology.

The AI drowning detection system can differentiate movements of a drowning individual from other swimmers. 

“In public places, accidents are not welcome.”

AI safety monitoring systems are now being implemented in multiple metro stations to enhance public safety. These systems monitor and broadcast reminders to elderly, disabled and passengers with large luggage, urging them to use elevators instead of escalators. This precautionary measure aims to prevent accidents caused by unstable weight distribution when passengers carry heavy or bulky items on escalators, a common cause of falls and injuries.

AI monitoring systems have proven to be effective in enhancing safety not only in metro stations but also in large public venues and high-security public events.      HKUiT has implemented human behavior monitoring technology for the 25th HKSAR Establishment Ceremony to prevent unexpected incidents that might lead to panic. This advanced technology can identify abnormal behavior exhibited by individuals in public spaces.      

“The elderly falling can lead to irreversible consequences.”

In elderly care homes, staff shortage is a persistent issue with no long-term solution, posing safety concerns from old age, especially in addressing the risks of falling. Occasional cases of delayed assistance after a fall and the fear of unnoticed falls among those living alone have been reported. Given the potentially fatal consequences, it’s crucial to address this safety need, especially considering that, as of 2021, nearly 190,000 individuals aged 65 and above in Hong Kong lived alone, accounting for 13.6% of the total population.

Fortunately, HKUiT's security system can, in part, address staff shortages and delayed detection of accidents. In Hong Kong, several care homes for the elderly have implemented this system, which promptly alerts staff when a fall is detected. Given each individual's unique circumstances, the security system generally requires the user's consent to utilize live video footage in situations where they live alone or in environments with higher accident risks.

Monitoring screen of the security system at a care home for the elderly

“Place to exercise is not restricted.”

HKUiT has developed RoboCoach, a mobile application utilizing body movement recognition technology. This app offers training programs catering to the increased demand of over 100,000 residents for home workouts amidst the pandemic. Family members can use the application as individual users and engage in training programs with their children, proving an effective way to strengthen familial bonds during these challenging times. On top of that, over 100 primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong have subscribed to its services, encouraging students to exercise at home while teachers gather individual training data through the system to assess students' performance in physical education courses. A specialized version for the elderly, catered to their unique needs by adjusting exercise content and modes, aims to enhance their quality of life and support ageing in place.

RoboCoach application

In addition to these scenarios, HKUiT is considering strategic expansion into various other settings, such as bus stations, hospitals, supermarkets, prisons, and other public places. Notably, substantial progress in bus stations, with collaboration from KMB, shows promising results. Installed equipment at bus stations uses thermal imaging analysis to monitor senior citizens with mobility difficulties and detect incidents like pedestrian falls, contributing to smart transportation and enhanced travel safety.

Social commitment: The heart of technological development

HKUiT, established with authorization and funding from the University of Hong Kong, developed its technologies independently. Dr. Fok, one of the co-founders, highlighted the significant shift in public attitudes towards AI and the growing demand for its application, driven by the recent rise of safety incidents and the global pandemic’s sudden impact. While talent shortage remains a pressing issue, it is being addressed through practical and advanced technological products as viable alternatives to the scarcity of human resources. From this, it is clear that AI technology has extended human senses and behaviors to execute repetitive tasks on a wide scale, meeting both individual and societal needs.

Dr. Fok also believes that accepting innovative concepts among residents is tightly tied to the collaboration between diverse communities and the prevailing educational environment. Public safety remains the foremost concern in any city’s development, with HKUiT receiving multiple Hong Kong ICT Awards in recent years, showcasing its technological research and development.

As a start-up, HKUiT is committed to leveraging technology for public safety, serving people’s instinctive needs in this AI era and addressing social challenges. Through various applications, SIP has witnessed technology’s impact on public safety and personal well-being, bolstering confidence in HKUiT's future research and development capabilities. We are consolidating every practical and resolute commitment from various directions for the city’s sustainable development to unfold gradually but clearly.