Researchers from the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility partnered with Meshed IoT to examine the impact of the global pandemic on local economies and community vitality, across 24 Australian cities and regions.
The COVID19 Pedestrian Index Research was based on real time data collected from nearly 100 locations, sourced from counting devices that recognise mobile Wi-Fi signals. Researchers used baseline data from a pre-COVID time to compare how pedestrian activity had changed after mandatory social distancing and quarantining policies were imposed across the country.
The study found a 36 per cent drop in the median value of pedestrian activity after the initial lockdowns occurred, with some locations experiencing as much as a 60 per cent decline.
SMART Infrastructure Facility Director Senior Professor Pascal Perez said using technology to gather data helps make cities smarter.
“Pedestrian activity is the pulse of a city, so when that is taken away, you start to experience a downturn in both the economy and social health of an area,” he says
“Pedestrian data can also underpin investment decisions, which contribute to vibrant and safe places, creating community vitality.”
Professor Pascal hopes businesses can use the research to plan for their recovery back to full operation.
“The research showed a significant drop of 50 percent in pedestrian traffic on peak days, normally Thursdays, and a 44 percent decline on Sundays, which is the lowest traffic count day of the week,” he says.
“Businesses can use this information to plan their return to operating to full capacity, perhaps using the data sets to map out business hours and staff numbers for particular days.”
The data also showed a 17 percent drop in average dwell times during the crisis, with people unable to socialise in public spaces or make unnecessary trips.
“This pattern coincides with significant job losses in the food, entertainment, retail and services sectors, which heavily rely on passing trade for business,” Meshed IoT Co-Founder and Director Catherine Caruana-McManus says.
“With this data, the local authority can automatically see the areas that are most affected by the crisis in order to assist in recovery and targeted stimulus.”
The project is a finalist for the Social Good award at the IoT Alliance Australia Industry Awards.
The local government areas that supported this data sharing and research collaboration were: City of Ballarat (Vic), City of Burnside (SA), City of Canada Bay (NSW), Corangamite Shire (Vic), Dubbo Regional Council (NSW), Glenelg Shire Council (Vic), City of Greater Geelong (Vic), Greater Shepparton City Council (Vic), Lake Macquarie City Council (NSW), Lane Cove Council (NSW), Latrobe City Council (Vic), Liverpool City Council (NSW), Moreton Bay Regional Council (QLD), Parkes Shire Council (NSW), City of Parramatta (NSW), City of Prospect (SA), Southern Grampians Shire Council (Vic), Sunshine Coast Council (QLD), City of Tea Tree Gully (SA), City of Whittlesea (Vic), Wollondilly Shire Council (NSW), Eurobodalla Shire Council (NSW), Leeton Shire Council (NSW), City of Marion (SA).