Wellington City Council in partnership with leading technology company NEC is running a Living Lab in Cuba Mall to explore how technology can make the city safer and smarter.
This pilot project is a collaborative initiative between the Council, NEC, a number of central government agencies, local retailers and residents to explore the business and community uses for sensing technology and data collection in a low risk way.
The Living Lab project does two things; it centralises a number of agencies’ existing data, such as records of accident locations, tagging incidents and crime reports, and it adds new technology, like sensors that can tell the difference between typical and unusual activity. This will provide insights into day to day street level trends, patterns and hotspots.
The project enables multiple agencies to collaborate more efficiently. For example it could help identify a vulnerable person needing assistance and enable Council to direct one of the local hosts, a community support person or even medical facilities to attend.
Mayor Celia Wade Brown says the initiative is a first for the Wellington City Council and will adapt technology innovations from NEC to an inner city situation to make our city safer for residents and visitors.
“Council and NEC working together have developed a way to centralise information from a range of government agencies and add new data from which we can monitor and gain insights into things like crowd behaviour and foot traffic patterns, without compromising the privacy of our residents and visitors”, she says.
The project is separate from the monitored array of CCTV cameras; for the purpose of the trial the data and sensor information will be available to senior Council community staff only. Staff will forward any alerts to other agencies when needed. Council has worked with the Privacy Commission to identify and address any potential privacy issues.
“If the trial is successful, it will provide greater understanding of foot traffic flow for better urban design. We may be able to offer non-sensitive, de-personalised data to our businesses to help them gain a better understanding of our city and its patterns. This could help retailers understand when to have more staff available and when to consider extending their opening hours”, she says.
Councillor Paul Eagle chair of the council committee responsible for city safety says, “This project will enable Council, the police, and other agencies to collaborate more easily to improve community wellbeing and aid crime prevention”.
“Technology will help agencies gain a greater understanding of micro level street trends for community issues relating to alcohol, graffiti and psychoactive substances, and provide timely responses”, he says.
Leonard Dench, Managing Director of NEC New Zealand says, “NEC is delighted to collaborate with Wellington City Council to explore how technology can support the safe and smart operation and planning of Wellington city”.
“We’re excited to bring NEC’s global safe city initiatives together with technology developed locally in our Wellington Technology Innovation Centre, and the Living Lab provides a great opportunity to demonstrate how technology can improve community wellbeing”, he says.
The Council and NEC signed an agreement in May 2014 focusing on leveraging Wellington talent and NEC global technology to facilitate Wellington’s Towards 2040: Smart Capital goals.