A new report suggests how Australian councils and other city authorities could use pedestrian flow data in pandemic recovery efforts.

The new COVID19 Pedestrian Index Research Report, by Meshed IoT Integrators and the SMART Infrastructure Facility, University of Wollongong, suggests how pedestrian flow data could be combined with data about mobility, commerce, environment and socio-economic factors to inform recovery initiatives.

Local authorities could use pedestrian data to see which areas are most affected by the pandemic, in order to target stimulus initiatives and other recovery efforts.

Better understanding of pedestrian flow could also help when encouraging people to venture into streets for shopping and entertainment, the report’s authors state. They point to pedestrian traffic as an important factor in the recovery of local businesses, industries and communities.

The report also details changes in pedestrian numbers and dwell time in 2020, using anonymised and aggregated data from the Meshed LoRaWAN based nCounter Pedestrian Counting Solution. The devices send encrypted counts via LoRaWAN networks to The Things Network in ten minute intervals.

The data for the research was collected with the support of 24 Local Government Authorities. Millions of data points were collected from more than 100 nCounter devices. 

Data collected before mid-March 2020, when social distancing and quarantining policies came into effect, was compared with data collected later.

Meshed reports there was a 36 percent decrease in the median value of pedestrian activity immediately after pandemic restrictions came into effect in March. This fell by 60 per cent in some locations. On the peak day of pedestrian traffic, Thursday, pedestrian traffic decreased by 50 per cent. Average dwell time decreased by 17 percent.

Footfall traffic is the lifeblood of shopping centres, which have seen huge decreases in visitor numbers. Earlier this year, the Australian Financial Review reported that ShopperTrak recorded an 80 percent year-on-year decrease in shopping centre footfall “during the peak of the lockdown measures”. That correlates with the COVID19 Pedestrian Index, Meshed reports.

The report makes recovery recommendations for Councils. Its authors point out that many cities are using new technology, data and place-making initiatives to assist recovery. For example, City of Prospect in South Australia provided more than 4,000 trader vouchers for community members to use at local restaurants and cafes. The City of Fremantle converted un-used parking spaces into parklets. 

Meshed and the SMART Infrastructure Facility, University of Wollongong, are sponsors of this COVID-19 discussion hub.

Focus is increasing on use of real-time data to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. See our special coverage about key issues.