ORANGEVILLE, ONT. -- Ever since physical distancing became the new norm, many municipalities have struggled to deal with overcrowding.

But in Orangeville, town officials have a unique way to deal with the issue.

Smart cameras equipped with artificial intelligence have been installed to help monitor numbers in two public spaces in town.

The cameras alert officials when groups gather so they can break it up.

"When people come together within the six feet, if they were to cluster, then the camera picks up that clustering and sends us a little alarm. Bylaw or police will respond to break up the cluster," explained Raymond Osmond, Community Service general manager.

The smart cameras were installed by the Ontario-based company IRIS R&D and were initially used to detect potholes on roads.

Co-owner David Keaney said when COVID hit, shifting gears was a no-brainer, especially given the system's privacy settings.

"People's faces are automatically redacted, so there's no collection of private information," Keaney revealed.

The cameras currently monitor activity in both the community garden and the Rotary Skate Park, where Osmond said they were having problems with kids gathering.

"Once the province lifted the ban on using the park, we had to find some way of monitoring it," Osmond said.

The town plans to move the smart cameras to various locations as needed.