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Location intelligence: case studies

The video highlights representative case studies that span many local public service functions and outlines the potential value of their implementation. Here, we provide more detail on best practice, both in the UK and overseas, across the breadth of local authority activity where location intelligence can make real and measurable impacts on service delivery and outcomes.

In addition, we explain how the wide range of open data, much of it location-referenced, and national data access initiatives, such as the Ordnance Survey Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), One Scotland Mapping Agreement and GeoPlace street address database, provide the fuel for location intelligence.

1. Health and social care integration

Closer working between the NHS and local authorities is allowing integration of databases that provide opportunities for better targeting of resources and for revealing fresh insights into behaviours that were not previously possible.

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Strategic Health Asset Planning and Evaluation (SHAPE) – is a web-enabled, evidence-based application that is built around accurate location information and can radically improve the planning and redesign of health and social services. It is used in many ways, including:

  • Assessing performance against key indicators on health inequalities and equity of service;
  • Testing the impact of plans and presenting them in a visual and easily understood way.​

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust – needed to assess how well the service was meeting its population’s needs, so that barriers to accessing services could be identified and overcome. Demographic analysis indicated that fewer women from Asian (especially Bangladeshi, Indian and Chinese) and black communities were being seen by the community perinatal teams than would be expected. This led to better targeted campaigns of awareness aimed at these groups.

Stoke-on-Trent’s Health and Spatial Planning Programme – the World Health Organisation accredited Healthy City has developed an urban planning approach that ensures health inequalities are considered when making building decisions. The City Council’s Planning and Regeneration teams, in collaboration with NHS Stoke-On-Trent, published a Healthy Urban Planning Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) that provides practical guidance for planners, developers, investors, health professionals and the public when involved in policy making and planning decisions. The SPD includes a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) checklist for significant planning applications and planning policy documents.

2. Emergency services — benefits of predictive analysis

Emergency services are very reliant on accurate location information for many functions such as rapid despatch, destination mapping and strategic planning. Their task is fundamentally location-centric. Increasingly, location data is also enabling patterns of behaviour, hot spots of service need and factors affecting these needs to be identified using machine learning and location data analytics.

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Flood Footprinting – this is the term coined for geospatial tools that extract meaning from complex data sets for better, more targeted and timely decision-making. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being utilised in a project covering the whole of Greater London to enhance flood forecasting and monitoring. It combines satellite and digital terrain data with Meteorological Office weather predictions, Twitter and other social media feeds to more accurately predict flood risk and impact on houses and infrastructure in real time.

Reduced response times – it is difficult for the emergency services to know exactly what will happen when and where, but with the latest technology and the most accurate geospatial data available, it is possible to crack down on crime and antisocial behaviour. Understanding predictable patterns of where and when crimes occur can save lives and save time and by locating services in the right place, faster than ever before.

Fire and Rescue – risk-based intelligence analysis is being used within Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue service to combine workflow, location and risk modelling into a single solution. Workflow modelling provides detailed resource and demand analysis and allows the service to run a range of “what if” scenarios. Risk modelling and GIS is then used for creating multiple risk maps that can react to historical and projected data, and to changes to population distribution, demographics and transport links.

3. Highways management

Highways management is an expensive and labour-intensive activity. Ways of being able to improve operations and service delivery can have a significant effect upon budgets. The following case studies give examples of different applications within this domain of local authority activity.

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Asset management – Kent County Council inspects and maintains more than 8,500 kms of highways and 6,000 kms of footways. The challenge for the council has been to enable fewer inspectors to carry out more inspections and to be able to administer works more swiftly. They have implemented a system that integrates databases of location-intelligent information to improve route optimisation, using smartphone technology to pinpoint defects in the field rapidly and accurately. The initiative has reduced actual and potential hazards to citizens and businesses. Compensation claims are down around 35 per cent; repair orders have reduced by 36 per cent; the number of highway inspectors reduced from 40 to 12, leading to estimated cost savings in the region of £5 million per year.

Gritting – Norfolk County Council’s transport directorate needed to review its service delivery model and make substantial savings. There was also one very practical problem for the drivers. With much of the gritting being undertaken at night, they struggled to see street names. The use of location analysis software and highly attributed street data has enabled them to deploy a solution that overcame this problem and, in the process, yielded:

  • Total savings in excess of £300K per winter period;
  • Reduction by six gritting trucks of their fleet saving £70K per vehicle;
  • A more dynamic routing system capable of daily adjustment;
  • Capability to supply the public with up to date information on gritted and un-gritted travel.

Field force efficiency – Dorset County Council previously used an asset management system that could not be used on mobile devices. Residents’ concerns were entered into the system, then a paper record was created that required collection by highway engineers, inspectors and operational works gangs, for recording on site and then returning to the administrative staff to update. Now, residents can report concerns online, identifying on a map exactly where each problem lies. Inspectors immediately receive an alert, and their mobile-enabled system gives them access all relevant data in the field. After completing an inspection or repair, field staff can remotely upload their record of the work. Meanwhile, dashboards provide instantaneous access to performance data, helping managers and staff to spot productivity issues.

4. Data analytics — new insights leading to better strategic prioritisation of resources

Local government requires up-to-date understanding of the populations of small areas to be able to plan for and provide essential services such as schools, housing, health and transport. Small area population statistics underpin the allocation of billions of pounds of spending at a national and local level. Census data provides an accurate source of population statistics, but it is only available every ten years. Statistics that are reported by fixed areas change rapidly and do not reflect the actual population distribution. Projections from previous censuses can therefore be inadequate for predicting service needs. More holistic analysis based on linking relevant data sets is necessary. Location is one of the key ingredients, with its unique ability to link data with no other common references other than position in space.

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Causes of Poverty – this is an ambitious project, led by London Office of Data Analytics, to track over half a million low-income households in the capital city to understand how they are impacted by welfare reforms and other government policies over the course of almost two years. Using councils’ anonymised household level geospatial and statistical data, the project tracks the impact of welfare reforms and rising rents across London. It aims to show which local support programmes are most effective at tackling poverty and the characteristics of households in poverty, revealing why some people are able to escape, and others are not.

Dashboards – in Boston, USA, the incoming mayor requested the creation of a dashboard for Boston’s performance. Their City Analytics team pulled together an initial version within a week and have been refining it ever since. The dashboard displays daily data about city performance in areas ranging from potholes filled to serious crime. The metrics it displays are based on the city’s current priorities.

Environmental Protection – the New York Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics (MODA) is improving service delivery in the city by using new approaches to analyse and join up data. A central element to MODA’s approach is to take information from different city organisations and spatially overlay the data. By geotagging all records and using a common location identifier, MODA has successfully worked on illegal apartment conversions that present both health and fire hazards to tenants. MODA created a model for the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to identify restaurants illegally pouring cooking oil into sewers, which is considered to be responsible for more than half of New York’s clogged drains. MODA compared data on restaurants that had not paid for a service to legally dispose of their cooking oil with locational data on sewers to generate a list of potential offending restaurants for DEP inspectors. The result was a 95 per cent success rate on tracking down unlawful cooking oil disposal.

Big Data Briefing – this Socitm briefing provides practical insights into what we can learn from around the world and provides a checklist for undertaking successful data analytics in localities.

5. Integrated transport planning

Making urban areas more liveable as they grow and change is one of the biggest challenges for local authorities wherever they are in the world. Location intelligence, applied to the rapidly increasing volume and scope of open (free) and crowd-sourced data, is leading to the creation of many new applications that aid planning and provide money-saving, real-time advice to citizens.

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Journey planning – the public release of detailed and real-time location-referenced information has had a major beneficial impact on the transport sector. Transport for London (TfL) is leading the way in increasing the availability of high quality data to improve the service to its eight million customers. Substantial amounts of information on the London transport network are available to the public and to developers of associated products and services. Using smartphone apps, TfL’s customers have access to maps, timetables and live network updates on disruption, enabling them to plan and navigate their journeys more efficiently.

The value of time saved due to the avoidance of disruption on the transport network in 2012 is estimated by a Deloitte study at between £15 million and £58 million, depending on the modelling assumptions used. This is considered to be a conservative estimate. The figures would be higher if the valuation was based on working time rates, as opposed to commuting rates. Further, the calculation does not include the benefits to travellers of using the data to plan their routine (non-disrupted) journeys more efficiently.

Active Travel – Glasgow’s Active Travel Demonstrator aims to show how technology can help to make the city friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians, encouraging people to get active as they go about their daily lives. When seeking to encourage cycling, the City Council wanted to provide an easy platform for cyclists to share their experiences of cycling within the city, opening up this data to other users and the council to better target specific and effective improvements to the cycling network based on real user data. Using a location-based app, cyclists can record their routes, capturing and publishing their journeys. Other users can then access information on the best routes around the city, allowing them to better plan journeys and encouraging more uptake of cycling.

Traffic data from rideshare companies – congestion in metropolitan Manila costs the economy more than US$60 million per day. It is not unusual to spend more than 2 hours to travel 8 km during the evening commute. Until recently, however, very little was known about Manila’s congestion, because the equipment and manpower required to collect traffic data had far exceeded available resources. Traditional methods of collecting traffic data rely either on labour-intensive fieldwork or capital-intensive sensor data networks. In the era of big data, this has been revolutionised.

Three ridesharing companies which, combined, cover more than 30 countries and millions of customers are working with the World Bank and partners to make traffic data derived from their drivers’ GPS streams available to the public through an open data licence. Issues that this data will help to address include, amongst others, traffic signal timing plans, public transit provision, roadway infrastructure needs, emergency traffic management, and travel demand management.

Parking management – Barcelona City Council has, in recent years, invested heavily in technology to transform itself into a “smart city”. One of the Council’s many successful initiatives is a data-driven approach to traffic flow prediction. Working with a commercial partner, the Council has developed an application that uses wireless sensors embedded in tarmac to sense whether parking spaces are occupied. The system directs drivers to available parking and allows them to pay for parking online. It also efficiently captures parking patterns and trends, informing parking management and reducing traffic congestion.

Since its inception in 2013, an average of 4,000 tickets have been issued per day and 650,000 tickets issued in the first year. A review of the project by the Harvard DataSmart team suggest that parking revenue has increased by US$50 million (£40 million) since the scheme was introduced.

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) – is using a joined up approach to tackle the increasing problem of traffic congestion in the region. TfWM’s approved Congestion Management Plan includes significant investment in new technologies to tackle travel disruption such as intelligent traffic lights, cameras to monitor traffic, the use of more real time information and a new website to provide journey planning advice. Drones will also be used to help emergency services respond to road accidents. A Regional Transport Coordination Centre (RTCC) is also included in the plan: a multi-agency operation with a unified and common view of the transport network. The RTCC will manage all travel disruption which will help to reduce congestion and provide travel information in times of planned and unplanned disruption.

Navigation aid for the visually impaired – St Albans Unlocked is building a navigation aid to help visually impaired visitors explore the city more easily. This is an independent project, which the St Albans Museums are supporting by hosting the workshops and connecting them with local groups who could support them. The group is working with Guide Dogs to develop a new ‘Soundscape’ based app (currently available on iphones). The app gives you 3D narration to help you orientate yourself and move from A to B. It takes all of its information from Open Street Map , pinpointed with audio cues to help map out landmarks and points of interest.

6. Environmental management

Location intelligence is being applied to a wide range of applications within the environmental management responsibilities of local authorities. These include energy efficiency, using analysis of heat loss derived from aerial imagery, and noise pollution monitoring, using 3D city models.

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Warmer Worcestershire – the aim of the project is to encourage energy efficiency and save residents money on their bills, particularly those on low incomes and vulnerable householders. In a typical British home, one third of the heat produced by central heating systems is lost through the roof, walls and windows. For a poorly insulated property, this means that £1 out of every £3 spent is wasted. The project is based on a thermal image survey of Worcestershire to highlight heat loss from roofs of properties, converted into a map that can then be queried by citizens and businesses online.

Smarter energy solutions – supporting sustainable growth in one of the fastest growing cities in the UK without exceeding the capacity of the infrastructure and meeting key carbon reduction targets is a challenge for Milton Keynes. Using various location-based datasets, a council-led consortium is creating an Open Energy Map that will help identify properties suitable for various sustainable energy options. Large-scale mapping, satellite or aerial imagery, as well as geo-referenced address data, will identify which properties are suitable for ground source heat pumps that extract warmth from the ground to heat radiators and water in the home.

Monitoring noise pollution – about one-third of the Helsinki land area is classified as a “high-noise exposure area”. Road traffic is the greatest source of noise; nearly 40 percent of Helsinki residents live in areas where traffic noise exceeds the recommended highest daytime limit of 55 dB. Noise can impact people’s quality of life especially those living in housing or using recreational areas, causing problems with health and well-being. To more effectively control and prevent noise pollution, the city has created a 3D information model that allows users to perform a variety of analyses focusing on the environmental impacts of traffic.

Flood risk modelling – The prediction of flood inundation through the development of new computer models, the use of data from new airborne, satellite and ground sensors (including laser altimetry terrain data and satellite flood imagery) and through the better characterisation of risk and uncertainty has advanced rapidly in recent years. The LISFLOOD-FP computer model developed by Professor Paul Bates’ Hydrology Research Group at the University of Bristol to predict flood risk has served as a blueprint for flood-risk management worldwide. This has not only saved commercial developers’ time but also improved the predictive capability of models used in a multimillion-pound global industry that affects tens of millions of people annually. The model is now being used to make flood-hazard information available to the general public via Google Earth through a start-up company.

7. Urban planning

The ultimate goal of urban planning is to be able to bring all of the considerations that need to be balanced in achieving sustainable development into the “evidence base” available to decision makers. Many citizens and decision makers find it difficult to visualise planned changes in 2D maps. The availability, at reasonable cost, of fully rendered 3D maps that are the digital twin of the real world is a “game changer”.

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New Tools for Planning – the States of Jersey Planning Department has created a system for members of the public to view planning proposals in the town area of St Helier in simulated, three-dimensional form. This innovative system replaces the need for the public to look through and interpret many two-dimensional technical drawings in order to understand how a planning proposal might impact on their property or neighbourhood.

The model gives an interactive overview of the scale of a proposal, as well as showing how a development might overlook another property, impact on the visibility or generate more shade. For members of the planning committee the three-dimensional form gives an instant and comprehensive appreciation of the proposal and its impact on the urban landscape. Use of the system has the potential to speed up the planning process. The public benefit from a much-improved visual impression of the planning application and the planning committee’s decision making is made easier and more efficient. The project is due to be extended over time to cover all parts of the island and to enable online access.​

Smart Nation – as part of a whole-of-government approach this initiative is aimed at improving risk management, facilitating collaboration and enhancing decision-making among Singapore’s public agencies. Traditional 2D town planning maps were recognised as inadequate to represent their complex environment, but when city planning scenarios were translated into a 3D “real world” view, design could be achieved with much greater clarity and precision. The project has also produced the biggest geospatial dataset ever collected homogenously in Singapore, featuring more than 100 terabytes of data, together with products that can be used by multiple agencies to create 3D maps and models for many purposes.

Economic Benefits of 3D Geo-information – a recent study for a European research organisation (EuroSDR) indicated that at return of Investment of between 2.5 to 3.5 could be achieved for each of a series of planning and environmental protection applications where 3D City models and Digital Elevation Models (DTMs) had been created. The returns were also significantly higher where the data was applied for multiple purposes.​

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