IoT sensors identify urban mobility changes during COVID-19 pandemic

Study will give insight changes in movement patterns as physical distancing rules ease.

IoT sensors identify urban mobility changes during COVID-19 pandemic

SMART Infrastructure Facility will help governments better understand and anticipate people’s mobility changes during COVID-19 pandemic in a new collaborative research project with Meshed IoT.

The study will look at how various locations responded differently to social distancing and partial confinement, while also providing meaningful insights into the way they might respond to gradual relaxing of the current rules according to various policies and interventions put in place by governments.

Partnering with Meshed IoT, SMART researchers will access anonymised nCounter data from nearly 180 locations, in order to move away from local anecdotal evidence and build a broader and more robust narrative about fundamental drivers of mobility changes.

Meshed IoT is the largest provider of public and private LoRaWAN solutions for local governments and infrastructure operators in Australia and New Zealand. LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) is a wireless network that allows Internet of Things devices to communicate efficiently over large distances.

The company designed and the nCounter device – a smart Wi-fi sensing solution used by 26 local government authorities to monitor people’s movement at transport hubs, public spaces, community facilities, walking trails, parks and beaches.

SMART’s Director Senior Professor Pascal Perez said this study is essential as “we need to detect and understand, within the overall sharp decline in urban mobility since March 2020, different patterns that could, for example, characterise affluent inner city suburbs or working class outer city suburbs”.

“Bringing together socio-economic profiles and current levels of mobility can provide indications on which areas are most suffering and should be targeted by recovery measures and assistance. The next stage is to develop more sophisticated models informed by smart devices such as nCounter,” he said.

The research methodology ensures the anonymity of monitoring locations, as all results will be aggregated according to socio-economic and place-based categories in order to detect significant drivers at play in several unrelated locations.

“The study aims for overarching causality relationships rather than local anecdotal narratives,” said Professor Perez.

This project highlights the critical role smart technologies and the IoT can play in building more resilient communities through direct access to crucial information and the development of more sophisticated data-driven models.

Professor Perez believes this project also demonstrates the power of collaboration between universities, the IoT industry – represented in Australia by the IoT Alliance – and local governments to deliver timely solutions to critical issues.

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