Tech

Seoul using AI to detect people who might be intending to jump off the Han River's bridges

Business Insider US
The 28 bridges that cross the expanse of Seoul's Han River are known to be suicide hotspots. Now, new AI-based technology is hoping to minimize the number of deaths from those who make attempts to jump off these bridges.
Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images
  • Seoul has put in place an AI-based technology to try to prevent suicides.
  • The South Korean capital's bridges along the Han River are known for being suicide hotspots. 
  • The technology detects people who might be lingering too long on the bridges and alerts dispatch teams.
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Seoul is employing AI-based technology as a novel way to prevent suicides.

The South Korean capital's bridges along the Han River are known for being suicide hotspots, with around 500 people attempting to kill themselves each year, according to the Korea Times.

Seoul's new system involves a network of video cameras programmed to detect behaviour typical of those who may be considering a suicide attempt, the outlet reported.

Through machine learning, these cameras zero in on people lingering too long on the bridge while corroborating their findings from other surveillance recordings from the area. The system will then send signals to rescue teams stationed near the bridges. This is so dispatchers have a head start to deploy rescue boats and personnel quickly, either to try to stop the suicide attempt from happening or to rescue the person. 

The technology was developed over the last year and a half by the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Headquarters, in collaboration with the Seoul Institute of Technology.  

"The most important thing in rescuing people who are trying to commit suicide is that they must be stopped before they're in the water. Once that happens, the survival rate drops below 50%," a spokesperson from the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Headquarters told the Korea Times. 

"We monitor 572 CCTV cameras in the control centre, so it is not easy for a handful of workers to catch everything. But now the AI system selects footage of a person showing suspicious behaviour and sounds an alarm so that rescue teams can respond much faster," he continued.

Local news site Korea Bizwire reported that the cameras are linked to a control centre staffed by officials around the clock. 

The Korea Times noted that of the 28 bridges that line the Han River, those known to be hotspots for suicide attempts have had various suicide-prevention measures installed. This includes a pressure sensor on the Mapo Bridge that detects a person gripping the guardrails harder than usual and sensors on the Seogang Bridge that alert rescuers to bodies that fall beneath it.

Additionally, an 8-foot safety fence with guardrails has also been installed on the Mapo Bridge to make it more difficult for people to jump over its sides. 

South Korea has consistently clocked the highest suicide rate amongst developed nations; in 2020, the country recorded 25.7 suicides per 100,000 people. Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in the country, and has been since 2007, as per reporting from The Korea Herald.

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