Belfast is exploring how data and innovative technologies can help us manage our parks and open spaces, ensuring they are safe, accessible and enjoyed by all.

Five companies – iSensing, Civica, SparroWatch, Pitchbooking and Bann Technology – were awarded up to £20,000 of funding each, as part of our Amazing Spaces, Smart Places competition, to develop and trial an innovative solution in one of our parks and open spaces.

Belfast City Council, working in partnership with the Department of Justice, applied for £100,000 of Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) funding to support the projects, with Dublin City Council contributing a further £10,000.

The projects use a range of technology including:

  • Internet of Things (IoT) sensors;
  • WiFi connection data;
  • an intelligent monitoring camera with artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision; and
  • a community currency app which rewards citizens for using our parks and open spaces.

The pilot projects in Belfast took place from 3-27 June 2019 in Botanic Gardens, Victoria Park, Connswater Greenway, Girdwood Community Hub sports pitches and Belfast City Cemetery.

A further two projects took place in Dublin parks in collaboration with Dublin City Council.

Phase one of the project ended in June 2019.

Phase two, with total potential SBRI funding of up to £215,000, is now open, with projects scheduled to start at the beginning of December 2019 until March 2021.


Completed Pilot Projects

iSensing Pilot Project – Belfast City Cemetery

From 20 – 27 June 2019, iSensing Ltd used anonymous WiFi connection data to better understand the flow of people and footfall in Belfast City Cemetery.

The aim is to keep the cemetery safe and reduce incidents of vandalism and antisocial behaviour, especially after hours when the cemetery is closed.

Various sensors in the cemetery detected mobile devices (using MAC addresses) when they tried to connect to WiFi, and counted them as visitors to the area.

No individuals were identified as all data is de-personalised (pseudonymised).

For more information on iSensing, visit www.iSensing.co.uk.

Civica Pilot Project – Botanic Gardens

Civica’s ParkKeepr application used anonymous WiFi connection data to understand the flow of people and footfall in Botanic Gardens, including after hours when the park is closed.

They used various IoT sensors to detect mobile devices (using MAC addresses) when they tried to connect to WiFi, and counted them as visitors to the area. No individuals were identified as all data is de-personalised (pseudonymised).

A real-time heat map of visitors in the park was also developed at https://parkkeepr.azurewebsites.net. Citizens could also report issues in the park, such as damage to street furniture and graffiti, via this website.

For more information on Civica, visit www.civica.com.

SparroWatch Pilot Project – Belfast City Cemetery

SparroWatch’s intelligent camera system, SparroCam, uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to determine what is happening in a location, without the need for human intervention.

The system aimed to enable Belfast City Council to monitor Belfast City Cemetery after hours, and provide real-time notifications.

The SparroCam supported the council’s existing mobile CCTV cameras which are used to reduce incidents of vandalism and antisocial behaviour in parks and opens spaces.

The battery-powered solution ensures a simple and low cost alternative to a full CCTV system in remote environments.

For more information on SparroWatch, visit www.sparrowatch.com.

Pitchbooking Pilot Project – Girdwood Community Hub Sports Pitches

Pitchbooking used anonymous WiFi connection data to find out more about how and when the sport pitches at the Girdwoord Community Hub were being used. This included pre-booked sessions as well as use of the pitches that hadn’t been booked in advance.

Various sensors located at the pitches are able to detect mobile devices (using MAC addresses) when they try to connect to WiFi, and count them as visitors to the area.

No individuals were identified as all data is de-personalised (pseudonymised).

For more information on Pitchbooking, visit www.pitchbooking.com.

CivicDollars Pilot Project – Connswater Greenway and Victoria Park

Bann Technology developed a community currency mobile app called CivicDollars which rewards citizens for using our parks and open spaces.

  1. Download the CivicDollars app from the App Store or Google Play Store.
  2. Earn Civic Dollars for every 30 minutes you spend in Victoria Park and Connswater Greenway, as well as for reporting issues such as damage to street furniture.
  3. Exchange your Civic Dollars for rewards such as a free swim or gym session.

The app, which uses geo-fencing technology and is based on a social cryptocurrency platform, aims to encourage citizens to be more active and improve their lifestyle.

For more information on CivicDollars, visit www.civicdollars.com.