OpenSpace and Connected Places Catapult partner to help reduce COVID19 transmission in railway stations

UK cognitive digital twin startup OpenSpace has partnered with Connected Places Catapult (CPC) to create operational intelligence at London St Pancras to help reduce COVID transmission, and build confidence with rail customers that it is safer to return.

Despite the UK Government reducing social distancing to 1m+ on public transport, and encouraging people to return to the office, passengers are still staying away from the rail system. This is an existential threat to the railway, a critical component of getting to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The challenge now is how to bring passengers back, and safely, and OpenSpace and Connected Places Catapult will use digital twin and AI technologies to help address how to reduce COVID19 transmission at Railway Stations.

Funded by Innovate UK, the project will enhance the functionality of OpenSpace’s existing next-gen crowd management platform at St Pancras. The HS1 station team already uses the platform as a data-driven decision-support tool to inform day-to-day operations and forward planning, but a new COVID-specific module will be developed.

Through collaboration with expert epidemiologists, the new module will provide operators with real-time and predictive social distancing and COVID transmission risk heatmaps, novel KPI metrics, and an operational playbook for reducing transmission.

OpenSpace CEO Nicolas Le Glatin said: “It’s fantastic to be working with Connected Places Catapult to fuse together Transport Planning, Modelling, Operations and Epidemiology for the very first time to make our stations safer from a COVID19 perspective.”

The OpenSpace cognitive platform integrates 3D geometry information, passenger flow monitoring sensors, train arrival data feeds, and AI analytics to measure passenger separation and optimise people flow in real-time.

The new functionalities will empower the team to understand and respond to the new challenges posed by the post-Covid-19 world. The platform will enable station management stakeholders to better plan, monitor and communicate station performance as government advice and public behaviour changes, and resulting passenger levels vary. As the station team starts to use and understand the new COVID19 metrics it will be able to share with the wider industry and feed into a broader debate on applying the principles at a network level.

Louise Fildes, Director of Applied Data & Digital Technologies from Connected Places Catapult said: “Connected Places Catapult are delighted to be collaborating with OpenSpace on this exciting project, the collaboration demonstrates the benefits of bringing together multi-disciplinary expertise from across a broad range of domains to help address the challenges transport authorities are currently facing due to the impact of COVID-19. The OpenSpace platform will provide transport authorities with the tools to make better informed decisions and the opportunity to share findings across the wider transport community. 

The goal is to support train stations across the UK to help prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks and release the railway to power the UK’s economic recovery.

OpenSpace will feature on the 19 September episode of BBC Click, covering “computer vision for social distancing”. Find out more here.