COVID19 Pedestrian Index

Australian Wide Research into the Economic, Social & Environmental Impacts of COVID19 on Communities

&

Recommendations as the Road to Recovery


The Study

The COVID-19 Pedestrian Index is a research collaboration between Meshed IoT Integrators and the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong.

With the consent of 24 Local Government Councils in Australia, real time data sets, consisting of millions of data points, were collected from over 90 Meshed nCounter Pedestrian Counters and was aggregated and analysed to examine the effect of COVID19 on pedestrian traffic in public places and activity centres.

The Meshed nCounter is a 100 per cent Australian innovation developed in partnership with local government, as a low-cost, accurate solution for pedestrian counting data, which counts the number of smartphones in a configurable range of up to 50 metres. The nCounter collects fully anonymised data and transmits the data every 10 minutes using LoRaWAN and The Things Network.

The nCounter's are being used by many Local Governments across Australia in a range of scenarios including:

  • CBD/Main Street Activity
  • Library and Council Building Occupancy
  • Parks, Gardens, Running Tracks, Walkways and Cycleways
  • Sporting Facilities such as Stadiums, Ovals and Swimming Complexes
  • Beaches and Marinas
  • Festivals and Events

  • COVID19 has radically changed the city urban landscape from bustling places of commerce, events and socialisation to urban “ghost towns”.

    With this situation, Meshed and the University of Wollongong have applied pedestrian counting data to better understand the real effects of loss of pedestrian activity at the local community level.

    The Aim of the Research is to:

  • 1.Gain a better understand of the mobility, economic and social impacts of COVID19 on local communities using pedestrian counting data as the basis for the insights and recommendations.
  • 2.Assess the effectiveness of Government (Federal and State) Policies and Regulations with regards to social distancing and mandatory quarantining.
  • 3.Highlight which areas are most affected by the crisis in order to assist in recovery and targeted stimulus 
  • 4.Provide high-level recommendations and ideas to encourage people to get back to the streets and engage in social and economic activity
  • 5.Encourage Cities to share data sourced across public and private sector to build a model to visualise the impact and plan for Post Recovery.
  • 6.Inform Policy Makers as to the critical role that smart cities (technology and data) can play in building recovery: and
  • 7.Highlight Governments (Federal, State and Local) COVID19 Recovery and Stimulus packages at the time of conducting this Interim Findings Report. 

  • The Data

    Using nCounter's deployed across Australia the COVID19 Pedestrian Index commenced in April 2020, tracking in near real time, the economic and social impact of social distancing in 93 locations across 24 Local Government Authorities in 4 Australian states.

    Prior to COVID19 pedestrian counting data had been used by Councils to support their economic, social, recreational, environmental and land use planning.

    The Pedestrian Index tracks the impact of Federal and State Government policies related to Social Distancing and associated COVID19 regulations. The diagram below shows the diversity of distribution of the real time people counters including city, regional and remote locations.

    Aggregated data sets from all across all locations from the 31st of August 2019 to the 1st of August 2020 were used, and the following key intervals were defined

  • Baseline - 31/08/19 to 25/11/19
  • Pre-Holiday - 26/11/19 to 23/12/19
  • Pre-COVID19 - 24/12/19 to 24/03/20
  • National COVID19 Lockdown Regulations - 25/03/20 to 25/5/20
  • Post Lockdown Regulations - 26/05/20 to 01/08/20
  • Note the research period focused on the period leading up but not including the second wave in Victoria and the subsequent lockdown restrictions that came into effect.

    The Findings

    Impact of Government Mandatory Social Distancing and Quarantining on Pedestrian Flow

    The immediate impact of Federal and State Government Policies in the wake of the outbreak are illustrated by a 36 per cent drop in the overall medial pedestrian count across all locations and cities and regions.

    Dwell Times

    The aggregated nCounter data also showed a reduction of 17 per cent in the average dwell time, which is reported every 10 minutes, suggesting less interaction and more mission focused outings which is in line with Government initiatives to reduce socialisation at the time.


    Dwell time correlations were also grouped into the 3 variables of:

  • 1.Urban type and dwelling time delta before and after February are correlated
  • 2.Distance to transport is opposed (anti-correlated) to the urban type, and dwelling time delta before and after February. The further the distance to a transport hub, the lower the dwelling time delta
  • 3.Before/after weekday/end dwelling time are correlated with before/after weekday/end dwelling time are relatively independent from distance to transport hub and the urban type, and dwelling time delta before and after February.

  • Road to Recovery

    Ideas for Reactivating Economies and Places for Thriving Communities


    The Research Report also provided suggestions as to how pedestrian flow data, combined with other mobility, commercial, environmental and socio-economic data sets, can assist a Smart City to help their local businesses, industries and communities in their recovery journeys. 

    Footfall traffic is typically the lifeblood of local communities and small business. With the advent of online shopping and the shift to a virtual world, creating customer experience is critically important in attracting people to venture into the streets for shopping, entertainment and services.  These changes are also creating pressures on rental prices and long term tenancies in the retailing and services sectors. 

    The Australian Financial Review noted in their article dated 22nd June that footfall traffic in major Australian centres fell by 80% year on year during the peak of the lockdown as sourced by ShopperTrak.

    This finding directly correlates with the COVID19 Pedestrian Index findings. Local Councils particularly those who are responsible for activation of main street CBDs and strip shopping centres, are investing in innovative measures such as pop-ups, new outdoor dining areas and “parklets” to encourage street eating and safe places for recreating, and for work-at-home “entrepreneurs”.

    Other Councils have instigated very successful Buy Local Campaigns and Trader Coupons for people to purchase local goods and services. One example is the highly successful City of Prospect in South Australia, COVID19 Recovery Package which has seen over 4,500 vouchers being issued to provide meals by local restaurants to vulnerable families, the elderly and people at risk.  https://www.prospect.sa.gov.au/council/news-and-media/prospect-helps-struggling-businesses



    We would like to thank the Councils who gave the support for this data sharing and research collaboration.

  • City of Ballarat (Vic)
  • City of Burnside (SA)
  • City of Canada Bay (NSW)
  • Corangamite Shire (Vic)
  • Dubbo Regional Council (NSW)
  • Glenelg Shire Council (Vic)
  • City of Greater Geelong (Vic)
  • Greater Shepparton City Council (Vic)
  • Lake Macquarie City Council  (NSW)
  • Lane Cove Council (NSW)
  • Latrobe City Council (Vic)
  • Liverpool City Council (NSW)
  • Moreton Bay Regional Council (QLD)
  • Parkes Shire Council (NSW)
  • City of Parramatta (NSW)
  • City of Prospect (SA)
  • Southern Grampians Shire Council (Vic)
  • Sunshine Coast Council (QLD)
  • City of Tea Tree Gully (SA)
  • City of Whittlesea (Vic)
  • Wollondilly Shire Council (NSW)
  • Eurobodalla Shire Council (NSW)
  • Leeton Shire Council (NSW)
  • City of Marion (SA)