Artificial Intelligence in Giethoorn

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Giethoorn is a small fairy-tale-like village in the Netherlands. The village contains hand dug canals and small islands, interconnected by bridges. The farm houses on these islands are built in the 18th and 19th century.  The only way of transport is by boat or on foot. Every year about 1 million people from all over the world visit this historic marvel to make a boat trip on these canals. Without a proper crowd management, that is a lot for a small village like Giethoorn to digest.

Since Giethoorn expects the amount of visitors to grow further in the near future, the city council had to adjust its policy and regulations. The main interests were to preserve the unique character of the village, enhance habitability and offer visitors a pleasant experience. For that to be achieved, the concerns and interests of all parties involved had to be taken care of.

One of the focus points in the new policy is the regulation of the amount of boats in the monumental part of the canals. When the city council approached AVUTEC, their purpose was fourfold:

  1. Regulate the amount of boats on the monumental part of the canals in the centre.
  2. Gain more insights in the distribution of the different types of boats.
  3. Automate the taxation of canal use for the rental and round trip offering companies.
  4. The solution must blend in with the historic character of the village that needs to be preserved.

1. Crowd management

The first challenge for AVUTEC was whether to determine the amount and classes of boats on the canals. The X-Series, our embedded smart camera line, offers the hardware solution to this challenge. On this embedded AI device, the camera system performs boat classification and counting to determine crowd levels. A camera connected management system overviewing the canals, can send out an alert when the amount of boats exceeds the preset threshold at a certain location. This can trigger traffic scenario’s to redirect boats to take the pressure off and smoothen the flow of visitors, boating through the canals.

2. Distinction between boat types

Since the X-Series camera systems are equipped with neural processing power, they can perform multiple video processing routines in parallel. A trained algorithm that recognizes these different boat types did not exist. It had to be trained. This is just the typical computer vision challenge that AVUTEC’s AI team appreciates. After installation of the X-Series Gatekeepers along the canals, the usable images were acquired to train a neural network to distinct a rental boat, a cruise boat and a kano/kayak. As soon as the training process was finished, the operational Gatekeepers were not only counting boats, but perform boat type classification at the same time, to report which boat types has been seen by the X-Series Smart City camera.

3. How to automate the taxation of commercial canal use

To address the third question the city council asked for, AVUTEC could offer its own AI based license plate recognition software to run embedded on the X-Series camera. As of 2021 each commercial boat has to pay tax in order to be allowed on the monumental part of the canals. Depending on the type of boat, the tariff varies. As a license plate recognition specialist, AVUTEC detects and reads license plates. For the task of tax automation, the city of Giethoorn redesigned their boat “license plates”. Mounted on the side of each commercial boat, AVUTEC X-Series cameras recognize the license plates and uploads the recognition results to an external database. The database is used to charge taxes to the rental companies.

4. Respect the historical character of the village

The final and fourth request was quite easily answered. Since AVUTEC is the manufacturer of the X-Series camera systems, all cameras can be coated in any RAL color available. In order to blend in with the environment, the Gatekeepers were coated dark grey to become one with the pole it is mounted on and with its environment. The end result is unobtrusive and stylish, often not even noted by visitors.

This project really demonstrates the power and capabilities of the X-Series camera systems. Especially in Smart City challenges. One single Gatekeeper performs three recognition routines in parallel and communicates its results to different connected end points. There is no need for extra server capacity because of the sheer embedded processing power. Each X-Series camera device just needs a single network connection providing PoE+, power over Ethernet.

We thank the city council and municipality of Steenwijkerland for their trust in AVUTEC. We were honored we could contribute to the manageability of the many visitors and the preservation of the historic beauty of Giethoorn.

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