Peter Mildon, COO of Vivacity picks up the story: “Vivacity supported DfT by providing a daily view on national traffic trends across each mode of transport including active travel. Within a week of the COVID-19 lockdown we developed a tool to measure social distancing initially reporting the number of 2m interactions at 450 sites across the UK. Our AI sensor network provides continuous streams of data on urban transport monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on highways. By 25 March 2020 there was a 60% reduction in traffic across the country. In Oxfordshire, data from the sensor network was processed to calculate whether social distancing rules were being followed by pedestrians. It found that peak daily pedestrian interactions fell by 70%. This type of tracking technology is now being trialled in keeping workers distanced and safe on site.”
The issue of privacy in a COVID-19 world
In the wake of COVID-19, especially in the febrile context of track and trace apps and other such approaches to tackling the pandemic, the issue of privacy frequently raises its head.
Which is why anonymity was a crucial consideration for Vivacity with 363 sensors installed across city centres, residential zones, business/retail parks and canals in London, Oxford, Manchester, Cambridge, Peterborough and Liverpool.
Having demonstrated the capability of their solution to monitor mobility activity whilst respecting privacy concerns, Vivacity’s analysis was able to show numbers of interactions within 2m in city centres declined by 95% after the lockdown. The data further highlighted however that more recently only 54% of pedestrians have strictly followed the 2m guidance – a critical insight for the government in understanding how the nuance of messaging is impacting on behaviour and outcomes.
All of which was made more achievable by Connected Places Catapult, as explained by Peter Mildon: “This social distancing product directly benefits from work we did with the Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keynes [now Connected Places Catapult] on two early contracts. It helped us focus on developing road transport solutions rather than concentrating on rail.”