Belfast City Council is trialling a range of smart technologies from small businesses in its parks and open spaces.
The Amazing Spaces, Smart Places initiative has seen five companies granted funding of up to £20,000 to trial their technologies in the city. Three of the projects use sensors that track Wi-Fi connections to record footfall in Belfast City Cemetery, the Botanic Gardens and Girdwood Hub, the last to better understand how its sports pitches are used.
The sensors detect mobile devices’ MAC addresses when they attempt to connect. The city said the work will not identify anyone as the data is pseudonymised. The city cemetery is also trialling technology that uses artificial intelligence on feeds from mobile cameras to detect antisocial behaviour automatically, providing alerts outside staffed hours.
A final project, CivicDollars, allows users who download an app to earn ‘currency’ for time spent in Victoria Park and Connswater Greenway or for reporting issues to the council such as damage to street furniture. The CivicDollars can be spent on rewards including free swims at a city leisure centre. In May, the council announced plans for Belfast Coin, another reward currency using an app.
The work has been jointly funded by Belfast City Council and Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice via the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), as well as Dublin City Council, which is interested in how the technologies could be used in its parks and open spaces.
“Under our Smart Belfast programme, we’re committed to working creatively with digital SMEs to encourage innovation in areas such as big data and new technologies, to come up with smart solutions to everyday challenges for our city,” said Councillor John Kyle, deputy chair of Belfast City Council’s People and Communities Committee.
“Looking at how we make our parks and open spaces welcoming and safe for everyone and reduce incidences of vandalism and anti-social behaviour, are crucial; and this project will look at how smart technology can play a part in that.”
Image of Councillor John Kyle and representatives of participating businesses by Belfast City Council.