Researchers trial sensors to manage summer crowds


Tuesday, 22 January, 2019


Researchers trial sensors to manage summer crowds

With the heat of an Australian summer in full swing, people are flocking to the beaches, causing high levels of congestion and limited parking. 

RMIT and Mornington Peninsula Shire have collaborated to install hundreds of sensors at Rye that will monitor traffic, parking, crowd numbers and toilet usage over this summer and next summer. They aim to demonstrate how smart city technology such as this can improve the livability of busy towns and change how future cities operate.

The initial trial will monitor more than 650 parking spaces, 20 bins, five toilet blocks, four BBQ facilities as well as 1 km of the main shopping street and 9 Ha of foreshore area.

Flora Salim, lead researcher and RMIT University Associate Professor, explained that traffic sensors would feed into smart signs displaying real-time availability of parking, while also guiding traffic to the least congested route.

“We’re also putting sensors on BBQs and in bins to let council workers know when they need attention, and air quality sensors at toilet blocks,” she said. “Even the historic Rye Pier will have air and water quality sensors.”

Mornington Peninsula Shire Mayor Councillor David Gill said the project — which was funded by the federal government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Program — was driven by high tourism demand on the Peninsula during the summer season.

However, smart street signs and facility monitoring may be just the beginning, with the system expected to be replicated and scaled up for other beachside towns along the Mornington Peninsula.

“Eventually we’ll be using artificial intelligence for predictive modelling of all this data for towns all along the coast, trained on historic data but also informed by weather and events information,” Salim explained.

“Local government will have dashboards with all this real-time information as well as forecasts for infrastructure development, while visitors can use an app to plan their ideal trip to the beach with the best route, parking and beach facilities.

“In the decade ahead we’ll see an explosion in services and facilities that are responsive to population movements and changing conditions, using data from the increasing number of sensors, mobile phone location data and so on to make our cities more responsive.

“Truly smart cities need to be able to aid both the citizens as well as local governments in making intelligence-informed decisions or even automating and delegating some of these planning decisions.

“For planning purposes, operational managers will be able anticipate seasonal, regular and irregular mobility and usage patterns by residents and visitors, who in turn can truly enjoy living in and visiting the shire without the stresses or traffic, finding a car park, knowing which beach is least crowded or which BBQs will be available along their route.”

Other project partners include Downer, Broadspectrum and the Australian Road Research Board with support from Meshed, the Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board and the Rye Beach Business Association.

Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Trout55

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