London, Dublin and Israel Use Big Data to Measure Social Distancing

Big Data to Measure Social Distancing

By now, most cities have overcome the initial panic of COVID-19. They are now beginning to manage long-term restrictions and consider the easing of restrictions. Some form of social distancing is expected to remain and play a role throughout 2020. To help cities understand what technology solutions are currently available to help monitor the effects of social distancing, the City Innovators Forum convened a webinar to share technology solutions from two companies and show how cities can use big data to measure social distancing.

The first company that joined us was Mobi. Led by ex-NYC CIO Samir Saini, Mobi processes telco data with an original focus to understand mobility in cities for traffic and congestion. To now fill a need for new data during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have adapted their product to understand the movement of people during the lockdown period. As they explained in the webinar, there are four different types of datasets to provide location analytics:

1. Telco / Cellular

2. Apps / SDKs

3. Operating Systems e.g. iOS

4. IoT / Wifi

Mobi uses three indexes they have developed – Total Count Ratio, Stay At Home Ratio, and  Mobility Index – to analyze the impact of restrictions on a city or country over time. Because the dataset being used is telco data, it was pointed out that a large portion of the population is captured, which is useful to understand the macro movements of residents in a city. They suggest using the ‘Trend, Track, De-densify’ cycle which is being implemented by public safety agencies across the globe. 

We also heard from Lorcan Burke, Chief Commercial Officer for Digital Strategy at Taoglas. He discussed the Taoglas ‘Crowd Insights’ platform, which uses data from Wifi networks to determine how many people are congregating in an area. A great example of how and where they are collecting data would be the city of London where they are working with a large supermarket chain, the local police, and local authority to determine if there are too many people gathering outside the store and in the surrounding areas in London Docklands. If this happens, a ‘threshold breach’ notification SMS and email is sent to the local enforcement to disperse the crowds gathering, again using the same ‘Trend, Track, De-densify’ cycle.

Taoglas ‘Crowd Insights’ is also in use in Ireland, where they saw an example of a pier which is a popular walking location in Dublin. Using the analytics tools the local authority can see a significant decrease in the use of the pier from week-to-week and also use it in real-time to activate law enforcement to disperse a crowd. Lorcan highlighted that establishing a workflow is essential to the success of any data analytics platform, to ensure once a new insight is created, it is actionable by enforcement.

Both solutions provide fascinating insights for cities that want to monitor hotspots for people congregating and better understand the movement of people in their city. 

The city of Amsterdam also shared the results of a recent hackathon which aimed to find solutions to contact tracing apps. While it is still a work in progress, their initial analysis suggests it may be better to re-deploy people to physically count and monitor popular areas and enhance manual contact tracing, to overcome the privacy and ethics concerns.

You can watch the full recording of the webinar below.

Webinar video:  Technologies for Measuring Social-Distancing as Stay-at-Home Mandates Lift 

If you would like more information on either of the solutions you can follow find further information and contact details below:

Lorcan Burke – Taoglas Crowd Insights:

Samir Saini / Charlotte Pearlstone – Mobi: /


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