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 – have been 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 will take place from 3-17 June 2019 in Botanic Gardens, Victoria Park, Connswater Greenway, Girdwood Community Hub sports pitches and Belfast City Cemetery.

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


Pilot Projects in Belfast

Civica Pilot Project – Botanic Gardens

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

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

A real-time heat map of visitors in the park can be viewed at https://parkkeepr.azurewebsites.net. Citizens can 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 aims to enable Belfast City Council to monitor Belfast City Cemetery after hours, and provide real-time notifications.

The SparroCam will support 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.

iSensing Pilot Project – Belfast City Cemetery

iSensing Ltd is using anonymous WiFi connection data to find out how many people are visiting Belfast City Cemetery, when and where.

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 detect mobile devices (using MAC addresses) when they try to connect to WiFi, and count them as visitors to the area.

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

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

Pitchbooking Pilot Project – Girdwood Community Hub Sports Pitches

Pitchbooking is using anonymous WiFi connection data to find out more about how and when the sport pitches at the Girdwoord Community Hub are being used. This includes pre-booked sessions as well as use of the pitches that hasn’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 are 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 has 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.


WiFi Connection Data – Q&A

What is a MAC address?

When a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, has WiFi enabled, the device will continually search for a WiFi network to connect to. When searching for a WiFi network, the device sends out a probing request which contains an identifier specific to that device known as a Media Access Control (MAC) address.

Why is Belfast City Council collecting MAC addresses?

If you are near a WiFi access point in one of the pilot project trial areas, and have WiFi enabled, Belfast City Council will collect device MAC addresses to help better understand how parks and open spaces are being used and to plan improvements. They will be able to tell how many people are visiting the area and when, including after hours when the parks are closed.

Will Belfast City Council be able to identify me?

No, Belfast City Council will not be able to identify any individuals. Each MAC address collected during the pilot projects will be de-personalised (pseudonymised) and encrypted to prevent the identification of the original MAC address and associated device.

Can I opt out of my data being collected?

Yes. If you do not want Belfast City Council to collect your device’s MAC address, you can either turn off the WiFi on your device or put the device in airplane mode whilst visiting one of our pilot project trial areas. Once you have left the area, you can simply switch your WiFi back on or turn airplane mode off.

Can I request a copy of my data?

As Belfast City Council will not be able to identify the original MAC address, because the data has been de-personalised, they will not be able to identify you and so cannot provide a copy of the WiFi data generated by your device.

Which parks and open spaces are included in the WiFi connection data pilot projects?

Botanic Gardens, CS Lewis Square, Girdwood Community Hub sports pitches and Belfast City Cemetery.