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What makes a city smart?

A city doesn’t become ‘smart’ overnight – it’s a continual process. There are many interpretations of a smart city.

  • A smart city provides open data
  • For a smart city to work it needs the involvement of stakeholders
  • A smart city is connected

1. Open Data

Sharing data is essential for the city to be smart. Sharing data within the city but also sharing data between cities. It can benefit citizens, industry, services, retail, businesses, the public and private sectors. We’re not saying that all data should be released to everyone – smart city systems have the capability to integrate and make data available from all different areas as and when required.

Sharing data can result in better transport, reduction in pollution, healthier lives, energy saving and many other benefits.

2. Collaboration and Involvement of Stakeholders

Smart cities are there to benefit people. They show visible results for citizens and stakeholders. Some will be immediately obvious, others, in areas like healthcare and transport may take longer. Monitoring traffic and vehicles is one example of a component of a smart city. Sharing information like which car parks are full is an immediate result. Knowing exactly how much traffic is on which streets at any time opens opportunities for cities to give the information directly to the public.

Counting passengers on buses can benefit the bus companies by helping to reduce fraud. When integrated with bus location it can show how many people get on a bus at each stop.

The smart city data helps quantify the use of footpaths and cycle ways. It shows the use of roads, including commuter routes around schools and major routes through the city centre. Creating a city that uses technology to meet the complex needs of its people. Driving urban planning to make the city easier to navigate by foot or bicycle. Automatic, continual, collection of data enables analysis of change over time.

Asking people in organisations which projects are most important to them helps direct the direction of the growth of a smart city. Like any project – taking people along with you makes everything easier.

3. Understanding the Technology behind Smart City Connections

For a city to be smart it needs to be connected. It needs the digital infrastructure transmit the smart city data and make it available to interested parties. For example, sensors and devices around the city might collect data and upload it wirelessly to “brokers”. The brokers process this data and then make the information available to everyone who needs it, in the format they need it in. A scaleable platform which grows as needed.

There are many communication networks and protocols which cities can use – Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 4g, LoRa Wide Area Network (WAN) for IoT, SigFox, MQTT and so on.

Find out More

To find out more about Smart City systems call us on +44 (0)161 839 6437 or see Smart City Solutions.

How wide should a people-counting zone be?

When using video to count people, you position a cctv camera above the counting area or zone. The system detects and counts people as they cross through the zone. Typically a zone will cover a doorway but it might instead be across a corridor, outside a shop window, above a turnstile or over a store display unit. For extra-wide counting-zones you simply connect several cameras together.

The size that a counting zone under a camera can be depends on two things:

  • the focal length of the camera and
  • the distance that the camera is from the floor.

This table shows the maximum counting width in meters for differing focal lengths and heights of camera. As the distance of the camera from the floor generally can’t be changed, you should choose the focal length of the camera accordingly. Remember, these are maximum widths – you can change these by up to 25% using our people counting software.

Maximum width of the people counting zone for different heights of camera and lens focal length

Lens Focal Length 2.9 mm 3.6 mm 4.6 mm 6.0 mm 8.0 mm
Height of Camera above Floor Maximum Width of Counting Zone
2 m 1.66 m
2.5 m 2.07 m 1.67 m
3 m 2.48 m 2.00 m 1.57 m
3.5 m 2.90 m 2.33 m 1.83 m
4 m 2.67 m 2.09 m 1.60 m
4.5 m 3.00 m 2.35 m 1.80 m
5 m 2.61 m 2.00 m 1.50 m
5.5 m 2.20 m 1.65 m
6 m 2.40 m 1.80 m
6.5 m 2.60 m 1.95 m
7 m 2.10 m
7.5 m 2.25 m
8 m 2.40 m

The lens most often chosen has a 3.6 mm focal length. This is suitable when the distance between the floor and the camera is between 1.7 and 3 metres. As you can see from the above table though, by changing the focal length the camera can be as much as 8 m from the floor.

As the cameras only provide images, another component is required to analyse the images and allow people counting: the Video Turnstile units. The camera plugs into the VT unit which analyses the video and stores the people counts.

Smart Cities Technology Markets Grow by 15.8% Annually to 2023

With the number of smart cities increasing from about two dozen to more than 100 in just a few years, the market for smart city information and communication technology is anticipating steady growth, according to a report by BCC Research.

These early cities are just the tip of the iceberg.

The overarching landscape is one of increasing population density that will require solutions to preserve the environment and operate cities more efficiently. By 2025 it’s thought that 60% of the world’s total population will be living in cities. Without advances in technical solutions to solve problems of congestion and pollution, population growth in urban centres will have a negative impact on the quality of life. The goal therefore is for smart cities technologies to manage and improve the quality of life as the urban population grows.

By size, the market will be led by North America, with an anticipated 2023 value of $419 million, though the Asia-Pacific region will dominate growth.

The leading technology will be smart sensors.

The smart cities market opportunity is driven by the convergence of information and communications technology in a number of areas, in particular the development of advanced connectivity and analytic software and hardware,” said Senior Editor and report author Michael Sullivan. “A branch of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities leverage the array of connected sensors and analytics platforms to drive stronger coordination within departments and across city agencies and community groups. Everything from video surveillance for security and traffic management to emergency coordination and public events participation benefit from smart city technology.”

Smart city projects span a broad range, including smart grids, smart meters and pedestrian and vehicle counting. While the decision to become a smart city is less controversial than it once was, the process is no less complex. The process of becoming a smart city, the report notes, requires long-term planning and consensus from a variety of stakeholders. Further, there is no one path to becoming a smart city – each locality has its own needs and evolves from a different baseline, meaning that the use of key performance indicators is critical.

Why counting pedestrians is at the heart of a smart city

A city’s vitality depends upon pedestrians. There is a direct link between economic prosperity and the safety and ease of being a pedestrian. The more we who live in cities walk, the better the city in almost all respects: health, retail spending and emissions pollution.

Find out more about smart cities, or read on to discover how individual cities are using smart pedestrian counts.

Manchester, UK

Manchester wants to use big data to provide real-time information for residents and workers, and to better use information to help policy makers. The city is aiming to:

  • Identify opportunities to improve city “walkability” and transport.
  • Measure the impacts of events and specific marketing campaigns on pedestrian activity
  • Monitor retail activity in the city
  • Assist the business community in developing marketing strategies to maximise their exposure and identify staffing, security and resource requirements.

Melbourne, Australia

The City of Melbourne in Australia has developed an automated people counting system to better understand pedestrian activity within the municipality. The information is being used to examine how people use different city locations at different times of day to better inform decision-making and plan for the future.

They use the information gained to

  • inform decisions about urban planning and management
  • identify opportunities to improve city walkability and transport
  • measure the impacts of events and specific marketing campaigns on pedestrian activity
  • monitor retail activity in the city
  • assist the business community in developing marketing strategies to maximise their exposure and identify staffing, security and resource requirements.

The locations for pedestrian counting were selected based on three criteria – retail and event activity, regular pedestrian use and the egress and entry flow to these areas.

Chicago, USA

Chicago’s cameras capture images, which are locally processed and reduced to an extracted measurement, such as the count of trucks or pedestrians that passed by in a 30-second window. The count – but not the images – are saved and made available as open data.

They aim to use the data, amongst other things, to help in both the last-mile planning for deliveries and in the last-meter planning. The most time-consuming portion of a short-range trip may be getting into or out of a loading dock, and avoiding heavy pedestrian times at a given location can add up.

Find out More

To find out more about counting in the smart city,
get in touch.

Retail Sensing launch new occupancy display meter

Our new occupancy meter shows the number of people, or vehicles, inside a designated area.

The meter can show counts from -999 to 9999. You can set two alarm levels to alert you to when occupancy is nearing its limits – first a warning alarm and then a critical alarm. The Meter will blink and flash to show when the levels are breached.

Part of the Video Turnstile system, you can configure the meter to count people or vehicles going in and out of several entrances at the same time. When monitoring the number of cars in a car park, for example, the data can be integrated into our Smart City system and information made available to all authorised end users around the city.

You can automatically reset occupancy levels at specific times – just before a building opens for example.

As well as showing occupancy levels on the meter, the readings can also be shown on remote computers. Historical records are saved to aid future planning and to give proof of compliance with health and safety regulations.

Find out more: send us an e-mail or telephone +44 (0)161 839 6437.

Store Traffic Analytics are Transforming Retail

E-commerce stores can’t survive without counting visitors and analysing key performance indicators, but relatively few bricks and mortar businesses count how many people enter their stores. Without this knowledge retailers can’t calculate sales conversion or other traffic analytics. What might they gain from doing so? According to Tony Costa, writing in the Harvard Business Review

  • A chain of grocery stores used dwell-time and traffic analytics to understand customer queuing times in various departments and at the check-out. This let the company hold managers accountable for queue times, and gave insight into staffing needs for each department throughout the day.
  • After analysing store traffic flows, a retailer realized that less than 10% of customers visiting their shoe department engaged with the wall display of footwear. The problem was a series of benches placed in front of the wall, limiting access. Moving the benches lead to a double-digit sales increase in the department.
  • A restaurant chain wanted to find out whether sponsoring a local music festival affected the number of people diners. By capturing data on 15,000 visitors passing through the festival entrances and comparing it to customers who visited their restaurants two months prior to the festival and two weeks after, they concluded the festival resulted in 1,300 new customer visits.

From our own experience,

  • A clothing retailer vastly increased sales conversion by connecting store traffic counts to the POS (point-of-sale) database. They calculated conversion in near real-time and generated rolling sales targets. Shop assistants equipped with pagers were told every 15 minutes whether their targets were being met, and what their new target was.
  • Video footfall counting increased sales over a 1000-strong chain of stores. Pulling all the data in centrally, as well as letting shop managers compare figures, enabled the chain to successfully implement business strategies to increase performances across clusters of stores.
  • A sports shop boosted sales by 30% without any increase in store traffic. They did this by focusing on increasing the average shopping time, increasing the number of items bought by each shopper and increasing the amount spent.

Store traffic analytics not only let retailers identify problems and opportunities, but also test solutions and measure results.