March 31, 2021

Why You Need to Incorporate Pedestrian Analytics into Your City Planning.

Whether it’s Times Square or a small-town shopping center, understanding pedestrian foot traffic activity is critical for urban planning, public safety, transit design, and even economic development initiatives. According to a paper published by the National Institute of Biotechnology Information, by 2050 “66% of the world population is expected to live in urban areas”. Now more than ever before municipalities need to plan and build sustainable infrastructure. Not just green stuff, but flexible solutions that will provide value and fit evolving needs in 100 years when urban populations have skyrocketed, and the hovercraft is just a little outside the average family's price range.

Most experts acknowledge that growing populations will require roads more friendly for multi-modal transportation. For generations, our infrastructure has catered to the automobile, the transit medium that demands as much space as 20 pedestrians or 6 bikers, all for just one or two lucky travelers. To accommodate for our growing urban populations, cities must start to make roads more friendly for pedestrians.

That sounds simple enough: build more sidewalks, more crosswalks, maybe a footbridge in the busiest parts of town. But not too many places can finance a city-wide sidewalk-campaign in one go. City managers need to prioritize and plan. Alas, pedestrian analytics to the rescue.

OK, you need Pedestrian Analytics, now what?

First, you need to start counting people. A 2020 MDPI research study conducted in New York City suggested people counting “provide[s] insights on walking for urban designers and transportation planners to improve predominantly automobile-dependent cities and lifestyles”. This can help “to posit new, as well as confirm, established theories of walking”. The common methods of counting pedestrians often involve humans using handheld tally devices or expensive in-ground cabling. Archaic, pricey, and time consuming, these methods were holding our customers back, preventing public servants from effectively solving city problems. To be functional decision-makers in this new age of urbanization city managers need accurate data. More importantly, they need a flexible and future-proof platform that can scale and evolve as needs change.

In some environments, optical sensors are a great option for pedestrian counting; video analytics are quite effective at identifying and counting objects. But when you try to install cameras outdoors, on city streets, you’ll run into problems.

For starters you need to power the camera. The great outdoors is not exactly well-equipped with 120v wall-warts for permanent use. You can pull a wire from a telephone pole, but you’ll have to ask your Utility for permission to borrow that power (most are not too keen on giving away their main source of revenue).

You’ll also need to find a way to get the data aggregated back to your database, which is challenging but not impossible with the global proliferation of LTE and 5G.

And, unless you want to be spending millions of dollars to send 24/7 video stream over cellular networks to your on-prem VMS, you’re going to need processing power at the edge to sift through the feed and send relevant data only.

If these hurdles aren’t enough to scare you away and you’re ready to install cameras anyway, you’ll need to start wiring and integrating the camera to your existing video management system.

There must be a better way!

There is, our NearSky Platform is the best way to collect pedestrian (or any object) data counts in outdoor environments. CIMCON’s Pedestrian Analytics solution arms municipalities with the data they need to make informed decisions and manages the complications of outdoor technology installation.

Municipalities can target their efforts and improve the citizen experience, employing data to measure the impact of commercial developments (or lack thereof), civil engineering optimization, public transit planning, and predictive maintenance. When leveraging our NearSky360 IoT device in conjunction with our visualization platform, StreetVibe, city officials have access to both real-time data points and historical trends for pedestrian activity.


Philadelphia smart city project


In 2019, the City of Philadelphia deployed our Pedestrian Analytics solution around the convention center to measure the impact large events had on foot traffic in the area.

The inherent flexibility of our NearSky platform ensures deployment friction is eliminated; our outdoor-graded IP PTZ cameras draw power from the NearSky360, so there is no need to drill into the pole or conduct site surveys. LTE communication capability eliminates the need for expensive fiber, and cities with existing lighting networks can even utilize mesh to transfer foot traffic data. No personally identifying information is recorded, guaranteeing that data rights and privacy remain protected.

Because we build all these features into one plug-and-play device, our Pedestrian Analytics solution is simple to employ and easy to maintain. We’ve set our customers up for counting applications in as little as 7 minutes. This means that in a short time, one Pedestrian Analytics kit can support vital work across your municipality.

Say you are considering deploying Pedestrian Analytics to determine whether you needed to install an additional cross walk near the back entrance of the library, where your city manager has just responded to a near-miss incident involving a jaywalker and a car. You deployed the solution, collected several months of data, and quickly determined that intervention is necessary. With that project complete, you will be able to easily move the kit to another location to do similar analysis, perhaps a section of the city park that has foot paths but no paved walkways, to decide whether foot traffic in the area warrants a paved path.

What we love most about people counting on the NearSky Platform is that Pedestrian Analytics is just one of many possible smart city applications that a city can choose from. On one NearSky you can deploy up to three different sensors, which means three different data sets, all coming together in StreetVibe to build contextual intelligence into every decision you make. We help our customers build future proof IoT canopies, empowering city leaders and improving communities.

To learn more about how our customers are using Pedestrian Analytics to improve situational awareness and make smart decisions, watch our case study about how the city of Philadelphia used the solution to track foot traffic around their convention center. You can also contact our in-house expert, Ramon Romao:


Written by: Ethan Sweeting
Associate Product Manager, CIMCON Lighting
Date: March 31, 2021

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