IT Systems and Data Protection

25.02.19

Thinking digitally: Greenwich Borough Council

Source: PSE Feb/March 2019

Local authorities across the UK are exploring how digital innovation can improve their constituents’ lives; and the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council is no different. Cllr Stephen Brain, chair of the Digital Cities department at the council, tells more.

The borough is forward-thinking in relation to all matters digital and is working towards being a ‘digital Greenwich.’ It is fair to say that Greenwich is a leader on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) having been involved with major players in the sector for some years.  We will be testing driverless cars on public roads in two areas of the borough in 2019.

Another new project we are pioneering is Access Route: a localised project promoting access for disabled people (in the first instance), and we are seeking financial support from the Geospatial Commission for this.

The project’s start-up area is the Peninsula area close to the O2 Arena (part of the much larger Peninsula ward). This is an area undergoing huge physical regeneration. We have a number of local partners inputting their skills and telling us what they want from the project, including the Greenwich Disability Forum and Visit Greenwich. Our direct involvement will be project management, data sources and formatting, user trials of the app, and access and local service integration.

Access Route is a routing app that will use crowd-sourced data to complete, update, and maintain geographical location information, improving the delivery of public services at local authority level and enhancing existing public sector open data sets for the target users. Access Route will be built on the iTravel platform and app. 

Whilst projects use street-view cars for data, they cannot view an area on a daily basis. Access Route gets around this shortfall to allow app users to provide crowd-sourced geotagged data via images, free texts, and audio to complete, update, and maintain the data used for routing disabled people or people with special needs. The focus of the project is to use crowd-sourcing data collection to maintain the information’s validity – they know what they need. 

As well as the projects above, we are working on an EU-supported project. We are working with 1715 Labs, a crowd-sourced data labelling platform working with images, text audio, and video files to access the platform and manage data. Our other partner is Telespazio, a satellite operator. They provide earth observation imagery to support the project with limited geographical scale.

The aim of the project is to adopt industry best practice methodology to test quickly and grow understanding of potential uses of satellite data in dense urban environments (such as the Peninsula). Our approach is to complete five micro-projects in 10 months, having a broad range of potential applications in a dense geographically-limited environment, to build a depth of understanding, and look for new and interesting intersections – linkages – between data sets generated.

How does it work? The satellite image data will be annotated by a crowd of civic volunteers looking to contribute to their local environment. 1715 Labs provides a highly-adaptable platform to allow the crowd to annotate satellite data to the specification of desired applications in focused project formats. The suggested micro projects are:

  • Trace building outlines, detailed mapping; 
  • Identify items of interest, entry points into residential complexes;
  • Identify building sites, tracking changes over time;
  • Identify items of interest, domestic solar panels and/or renewable energy utilisation;
  • Annotate land use, track changes over time.

The learning from this first project would be used to update further iterations. By being in a small area, it enables a richness of data outputs - with the links between being the desired outcome.

The result is five labelled datasets providing unmatched density of labelled data in a focused geographical area for onward analysis and interpretation. Not only this, but we are also able to take up a rapid evaluation of various applications of satellite data and their potential complementarities.

The Geospatial crowdsourcing competition referred to in the article closed 30 January.

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