How we can use IoT to support South London’s COVID-19 response

In October 2019, the South London Partnership (SLP) boroughs were awarded £4m for an Internet of Things project to help people live better, healthier lives and to generate economic growth.

7th October 2020

Since the project launch, we’ve worked in partnership with the innovation agency Digital Catapult and Kingston University, and engaged with businesses operating within the IoT space, about how they can help us to deliver our goals.

The Council’s COVID-19 response

As we move into the post-Covid 19 environment – the “new normal” – it is clear that the strategic outcomes the Councils require from the InnOvaTe Project are changing.

We’ve taken stock of InnOvaTe in light of recent events, and are now in a position to relaunch a changed vision for the project which focuses on supporting boroughs to:

  • enable ways to manage and mitigate new challenges arising from Covid-19
  • help drive local economic recovery and adaptation
  • generate insights about how IoT can support economic recovery to lead to growth

The project intends to apply ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) technology in three recovery focussed use cases.

COVID-19 Early Response (Lead borough – London Borough of Sutton, London Borough of Richmond)

Objective: Deploying a remote, unobtrusive single sensor to provide carers early warning of vulnerable residents with declining health.

As a result of the pandemic, demand for social care support will increase, as people recover from the virus, or suffer adverse mental health impacts as a result of the pandemic or recession.

In Sutton almost two thirds of the Council’s budget was allocated to social care – over £100 million. This includes the Council’s social care teams and the services that they commission from care homes and providers who give care in residents’ own homes.

At present, there are a number of vulnerable residents that the InnOvaTe Councils are not able to proactively monitor for signs of physical or mental deterioration.

In Sutton, the Council relies heavily on weekly telephone calls or scheduled physical visits to residents in order to discover issues.

In response to this, the InnOvaTe project will pilot the use of 200 in-home IoT sensors across the boroughs of Sutton and Richmond.

The trial of this use case is estimated to take 6-12 weeks to implement and will run for a period of 6 months to gain insights and quantify benefits.

Examples of these benefits and insights are:

  • How we can discover if vulnerable residents are becoming unwell between visits or calls to residents by the Council
  • If there is a way of alerting a decline in activity that provides an indication of the wellbeing of a vulnerable resident?

Digital Town Hub Engagement Platform (Lead borough – London Borough of Croydon)

Objective: Deploying footfall sensors to create a platform that connects local businesses directly to customers that allows them to engage in real-time.

As part of Croydon’s Digital Strategy 2019 – 2024, the Council aims to harness the potential of digital design, data and technology to work efficiently, transform the relationship between residents and the council, and make Croydon a leading destination for growth, opportunity and quality of life.

The Council is well underway with some £5bn of borough-wide investment that will be completed over the next few years, transforming Croydon into a world-class destination for the high numbers of residents and businesses moving here.

The idea for the Digital Town Hub was identified through the Croydon business engagement workshop which touched on various economic growth challenges within the borough.

It was identified that there is a need for direct engagement with residents, customers, and visitors to local town centres to improve business promotion and the delivery of local information including traffic, construction, re-routing, as well as local events and offers, in real time.

A Digital Town Hub will provide every community in the borough with a locally managed platform to support social cohesion, resident engagement and local economic growth.

Initially, this will be implemented as a pilot scheme to trial the launch of an app centred on 3 different Croydon high streets (local communities) dedicated to local businesses and resident engagement within the London Borough of Croydon.

The trial of this use case is estimated to take up to 6 months to implement and will run for a period of 1 year to gain insights and quantify benefits.

Examples of these benefits and insights are:

  • Businesses and residents being able to engage more directly on a hyperlocal basis
  • Through a free to download app, residents will be able to access local news, events, notifications, business listings, local offers, maps, mobility information, feedback and consultation tools.
  • Residents will be supported to ‘socially distance’ with (near) real-time information about how busy the premises of local businesses are.

Social Distancing and Traffic Insights (Lead borough – Royal Borough of Kingston, London Borough of Sutton)

Objective: Using smart sensors to gain up-to-date data needed to support Council decision-making for social distancing measures in high footfall areas.

Within the boroughs of Kingston and Sutton, there has been a strategic requirement to better understand how the council could support the reopening of the high street (and other areas in the borough) whilst still helping to protect its residents.

Kingston Council has recently introduced three new ‘school streets’ to help make public spaces safer and aid social distancing in line with the phased reopening of schools.

The Council also remains fully committed to their sustainable travel agenda and are urgently looking at more ways to adapt their programme of cycle and pedestrian improvements to maximise streetspace and enable social distancing.

The need for improved data insights about human movements and interactions at a street-level could help the Councils to provide tailored and timely interventions where they are deemed necessary, and in the public’s interest.
A pilot to trial the use of 30 “smart video” sensors, in combination with the integration of 10 existing CCTV feeds is estimated to take 6-12 weeks to implement will run for a period of 12 months to assess and quantify benefits.

Examples of these benefits and insights are:

  • Tailored support and interventions from the council to assist with crowd management and store re-openings within a COVID-19 situation.
  • If there is a way of monitoring people’s movement and proximity to others so that we can use the data to identify areas where social distancing is not happening
  • Monitoring the impact of changes to roads or pavements to gather evidence as to whether the changes were successful or not
    Reduced infection risk for residents due to better open space management. 

Get involved

Many local authorities have started to implement IoT systems for a number of reasons. Our approach is to work with our residents and businesses to turn challenges into opportunities for improvement.

If you have some feedback or an idea of how we can improve our services through the use of IoT technology, we’d love to hear from you. Email Andrew Parsons or Pierre Venter to share your thoughts.

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