IT Systems and Data Protection

02.07.18

How councils can better understand citizen movement in urban areas

Local authorities are being urged to consider the benefits of using anonymised data to improve the way they shape and deliver public services, as well as to plan ahead by predicting how the urban environment will change in the future.

By taking advantage of GDPR-compliant and census-level big data produced by Vodafone’s 3G and 4G networks, councils can better understand how people interact with the city, identify pinch-points or gaps in provision of public infrastructure, and shape public services accordingly.

Stephen Leece (pictured), managing director of Citi Logik, said his company has been working with Vodafone to provide this unique service to councils so that they can focus their time and resources on policymaking rather than the process of data collection itself.

It’s a big and much-needed leap from the days of roadside transport surveys, where travellers were asked to answer questions about their movement patterns while commuting. As well as being expensive and inefficient, these surveys did not provide a comprehensive multimodal picture of the environment.

Analysing anonymised data via the mobile phone network can help councils identify changes in commuting behaviour – which is especially important in light of changing working patterns, where the traditional 9-5 job and city centre commute are no longer relevant today.

Examples of where anonymised data from mobile phone networks can be used for the public good include transport and health services, urban planning, pollution mitigation and public inquiries – as well as other, more modern problems such as online shopping, with the sheer volume of freight road vehicles becoming a growing threat to congestion and the environment.

“Understanding the impact of all these new movement patterns is critical,” said Leece. “You can see the full spectrum of smart city benefits if you understand demand.

“The urban environment is no longer what you imagine it to be. If you look at a city, for example, we know that a large amount of time was traditionally spent finding a parking space. But a lot of people are no longer buying into the idea that a car is even something they want to own. People’s movement patterns are fundamentally different.”

Some local authorities are already stepping up to the challenge, with a city council in the north east of England recently asking Vodafone and Citi Logik to analyse data across the region so that all parts of the organisation can make changes to the way services are wrapped around citizen needs. But there is still a long way to go.

“It is important to understand what public behaviour looks like, because you have to change the dynamics of the way the city is set up,” explained Leece. “That is the call to arms, really, for why we need to do a better job.”

To discuss these issues and find out how you can learn more about smart city technology, join Vodafone and Citi Logik at a live webinar on 9 July. To register, click here.

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