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Smart technology pilot scheme for Belfast parks

4 Jun 2019
A ‘smart’ pilot project using sensors, artificial intelligence and community currency is underway in a number of locations across Belfast, aimed at helping Belfast City Council manage its parks and open spaces.

The ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ initiative is being trialled for two weeks as part of Council’s Smart Belfast programme to get a better understanding of how residents and visitors use green space in the city.

Following a competition launched last October, five companies have been awarded funding of up to £20,000 each to explore how data and innovative technologies can help Council manage open spaces in Belfast, looking at issues such as safety and the user experience, as well as encouraging people to visit parks.

Councillor John Kyle, deputy chair of Belfast City Council’s People and Communities Committee, said: “Under our Smart Belfast programme, we’re committed to working creatively with digital SMEs to encourage innovation in areas such as big data and new technologies, to come up with smart solutions to everyday challenges for our city.

“This pilot project gives us a unique opportunity to capture important data which will help Council improve how it manages our city parks and open spaces, and further enhance the experience for all users.

“Looking at how we make our parks and open spaces welcoming and safe for everyone and reduce incidences of vandalism and anti-social behaviour, are crucial; and this project will look at how smart technology can play a part in that.”

Phase one trials are taking place in Botanic Gardens, Victoria Park, Connswater Greenway, Girdwood Community Hub sports pitches and City Cemetery.

The projects use a range of technologies to capture and analyse data.

• iSensing Pilot Project, Belfast City Cemetery – using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors this project uses anonymous WiFi connection data to record footfall and better understand the flow of people through the area.

• Civica Pilot Project, Botanic Gardens – using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors this project uses anonymous WiFi connection data to record footfall and better understand the flow of people through the park.

• Pitchbooking Pilot Project, Girdwood Hub – using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors this project uses anonymous WiFi connection data to better understand the use of sports pitches in the area.

• Bann Technology Pilot Project, Connswater Greenway and Victoria Park – using a community currency app, users can earn CivicDollars by using parks and open spaces, and then exchange these CivicDollars for rewards such as a free swim or gym pass, or a voucher for public transport. The app aims to encourage people to be more active and improve community wellbeing. You can download the CivicDollars app from the App Store or Google Play Store.

• SparroWatch Pilot Project, Belfast City Cemetery – this project uses an intelligent system, with artificial intelligence and computer vision, to detect activity in a particular location and provide Council with real-time notifications.

The ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ project has been jointly funded by Belfast City Council and the Department of Justice via the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), as well as funding from Dublin City Council.

Anthony Harbinson, Director of Safer Communities, Department of Justice said: ”The management of public open spaces is a key element in developing a safe community where we respect the law and each other.

“The technology trials being conducted by tech-based businesses in liaison with Belfast City Council have the potential to deliver real benefits to local communities by improving the safe use of this part of our city environment.”

Jamie Cudden, Smart City Manager, Dublin City Council added: "We are delighted to be working with Belfast City Council on this challenge which is exploring how smart technologies can help address anti-social behaviour in parks and open spaces, making them more welcoming and enjoyable for citizens and visitors alike.”

For more information about the project, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/amazingspaces
: Councillor John Kyle, deputy chair of Belfast City Council’s People and Communities Committee, is joined by representatives from some of the businesses taking part in the ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ project in a number of parks and open spaces Councillor John Kyle, deputy chair of Belfast City Council’s People and Communities Committee, is joined by Laura Soutar and Jake Mercer from Civica, one of the companies taking part in the ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ project Councillor John Kyle, deputy chair of Belfast City Council’s People and Communities Committee, is joined by Fearghal Campbell and Chris McCann from Pitchbooking, one of the companies taking part in the ‘Amazing Spaces, Smart Places’ project