More and more of us are living in towns and cities today. It’s estimated that by 2028, more than 5 billion people – over 60 per cent of the world’s population of just over 8.4bn – will be living in our towns and cities worldwide (Source: Worldometer). In the UK, there is an increasing need for urban regeneration to make better use of the available urban space. We need to create new, modern spaces that are pleasant to live in, work in and visit.
For these new spaces to work optimally, it’s important to build ‘smart place’ thinking into urban regeneration planning today. Smart and interconnected technologies need to be considered to ensure the areas we are building are not only safer for those living, visiting or working there, but also generally more enjoyable to be in.
What are the criteria for greater enjoyment of these new modern public spaces?
It is about feeling safe at any time of the day, not being caught up in congested traffic or at transport hubs, making it easier to travel to work, do the shopping, meet up with friends and visit arts and sports venues for example. Urban areas need to offer clean, tidy, well-lit spaces which are safe, convenient and pleasant to travel around.
Connected, smart technologies to support this vision
Specialist environmental sensors, combined with network cameras with built-in intelligent analytics make it possible to provide much better information for automated and rapid decision making in town centre control rooms.
For example, it is not uncommon today to see traffic lights in a town centre to be linked to an intelligent camera system. This enables highways teams to keep the busiest roads running on green lights for longer, both in the early morning and the evening rush hours. By linking messaging boards to traffic management systems as well, it becomes possible to provide timely information to road users to help them avoid areas where an accident has happened, helping to improve the experience for commuters and other town users.
It is also possible to integrate available parking space information, weather forecasts, air temperature, pollution monitors and environmental warnings to town-specific mobile apps, helping town councils to communicate up to date and requested alerts to subscribers’ mobile devices as and when they need it.
For all expanding and regenerating towns and cities to remain comfortable, liveable places which protect and enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors alike, adoption of the latest smart towns and cities technologies is increasingly being used by town planners, developers and local authorities.
Smart Town thinking in the regeneration of Whitehill & Bordon
NW Security Group has recently completed the installation of a smart place solution as part of Phase 1 of a major redevelopment of Whitehill & Bordon town in East Hampshire. When the British Army’s Defence School of Electronic and Mechanical Engineering relocated from Whitehill & Bordon to Wiltshire in 2015, this freed up approximately 200 hectares of land for redevelopment.
Plans drawn up by the Whitehill & Bordon Regeneration Company included construction of 2,400 homes and creation of a new vibrant town centre with restaurants, food concessions, an outdoor market, shops, a leisure complex, a large park and public entertainment area, collectively called The Shed . The Shed was opened in May 2021.
What mix of technologies are used in smart place projects like this?
The smart safety and security system developed for Whitehill & Bordon (W&B) included installation of approximately 100 new AXIS Q61 PTZ Network Cameras with in-built intelligent video analytics, connected to IP audio speakers. Careful siting of AXIS V59 PTZ Network Cameras enabled live streaming of broadcast quality images from The Shed’s outdoor entertainment areas for those that preferred to view the fun remotely.
This smart town solution enabled safe gathering of large numbers of people for weekly events including live bands, big screen viewings of major sporting events and even a state-of-the-art outdoor cinema.
People counting analytics within cameras proved useful in public spaces during the pandemic when the numbers gathering in close proximity were sometimes monitored and audio alerts provided where necessary. This information also provides valuable footfall statistics for town planners, retailers and landlords in the area.
The smart system assists the W&B control room operators and managers by highlighting the most relevant information to them, enabling faster decision making and better town centre management day to day.
There is scope to go further with the use of additional communication tools, for example using connected big screens and smart phone text alerts linked to timely information associated with traffic jams, crowds building, rubbish non-collection or dumping, accidents, vandalism incidents and much more.
It is the availability of ever greater connectivity through the 5G network and Internet of Things, together with the intelligence now offered by cameras, sensors and audio systems, which makes the creation of smart places that much more feasible as well as more worthwhile as we regenerate our urban areas.