AFL semi-finals boost pedestrian activity across Launceston

Last weekend’s two AFL semi-finals didn’t just benefit football fans, with Launceston hotspots seeing a huge spike in pedestrian movement according to new data from the City of Launceston.

Bluetooth detection devices around the city’s public hotspots showed a significant uptick in pedestrian movement over the weekend, measured through devices like smartphones and smartwatches passing smart sensors at defined points across the city.

Areas like Riverbend Park, City Park and the Brisbane St Mall saw high detections of pedestrian Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices between Friday August 27 and Sunday August 29, as did the Inveresk Precinct for the weekend’s two AFL matches.

Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten said the data provided an interesting insight into how people were moving through and around the city.

“The Launceston City Deal includes a focus on introducing smart city projects and initiatives in Launceston, including expanded public Wi-Fi, the digitisation of the QVMAG’s collection, and smart sensor technology,” Mayor van Zetten said.

“We’re now in a position where Bluetooth and Wi-Fi sensors in various locations around the city are able to record anonymous detections of smart devices as they pass by.

“They count detections of devices such as mobile phones and smartwatches — and in 2021, like it or loathe it, these serve as good indicators of human activity.

“The data we’re collecting is not an accurate count of people, but it’s very good at showing trends in pedestrian movement.”

Data collected over the weekend showed a 61% increase in pedestrian activity past a sensor located in the Brisbane St Mall, compared to the August weekend average, an 77% increase in pedestrian traffic in Riverbend Park, and a 172% increase in pedestrian activity in City Park.

The City of Launceston’s Team Leader of Economic Development and Analytics Jarred Ranson said the pedestrian activity data would help guide future decision making.

Mr Ranson said each sensor could detect Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals within a limited range, providing indicators of where people were moving within the city, what days and times they preferred to visit certain locations, and how long they stayed.

“We’re capturing data like this because it can help aid future decision making around pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, public events, or even the frequency of rubbish bin collections in our public parks,” Mr Ranson said.

“What we can see from the weekend’s data is obviously a very big upswing in pedestrian movement in the Inveresk Precinct on the Saturday and Sunday, peaking at more than 6000 detections past a single sensor at Inveresk for Sunday’s Essendon vs Western Bulldogs match.

“But we can also see increased pedestrian movement around the Brisbane St Mall, Riverbend Park and City Park preceding both matches, which is a strong indicator that many people are experiencing all the other things Launceston has to offer before making their way to the football.

“Because we are particularly interested in pedestrian movement, rather than vehicle movements, we discount counts of devices that pass by the sensors faster than walking speed. “It’s a highly visual way to understand the movement of people through our city and allows us to make decisions based on evidence, rather than assumption.”

“It’s really interesting data. In the future our intent is to make this kind of data publicly available — along with our other open data resources — to benefit the wider community.”

The installation of networked sensors was made possible through the Australian Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program delivered in partnership with the Tasmanian Government through the Greater Launceston Transformation Project, a Launceston City Deal initiative.

The Launceston City Deal aims to make Launceston the most liveable and innovative regional city in Australia.

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