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Case studies

Our videos and supporting material showcase how location intelligence is being used to better understand the characteristics of communities, infrastructure and places, and when and where they need particular services.

Authors and contributors: Andy Coote, Martin Ferguson
Video: Location Intelligence – Case Studies

Our video highlights representative case studies that span many local public service functions and outlines the potential value of their implementation. On this web page, 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.

This provides links to resources covering the following:

  1. Case Study Databases – collections of case studies
  2. Health and Social Care Integration
  3. Emergency services – benefits of predictive analysis
  4. Highways Management
  5. Data Analytics
  6. Integrated Transport Planning
  7. Environmental Management
  8. Urban Planning

Case study Databases

There are several collections of Case studies relevant to location intelligence:

GeoPlace case studies demonstrate the value of location data, supported by unique, common referencing, for society, people, businesses, decision-making and helping to realise the power of place.

Ordnance Survey also has a database covering case studies using a wide range of geospatial datasets.

Local Government database has a large collection of case studies, select UPRN or mapping as keywords in the query dialogue to see those most relevant to location intelligence.

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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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Barnsley Vulnerability IndexThe Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) played a key role in the development of the index, which was a composite of 26 different data sources, all combined through their common location. Data from NHS England was also linked with the UPRN to support Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) and shielding members of the population. The index was used to identify 330 additional households as in need than had previously been known.

Sheffield City Council – Support over 70’s living alone – the council didn’t have an effective way of identifying this target group. Data sharing was made easier when laws were lifted at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic and the council had recently matched council tax data for the elections department so had already undertaken the background work. The council holds 252,382 cross references but found 182 anomalies, local officers then visited these properties and identified additional people in need of extra support.

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.

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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Greater London 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 predict flood risk and impact more accurately on houses and infrastructure in real time.

MAIT Faster emergency response – the emergency services are continually looking to improve the time between incident occurrent and resource deployment. Adopting technologies such as MAIT provides an important opportunity to improve the communication process, accuracy and situational awareness resulting in improved outcomes and efficiencies.

The time and errors this solution prevents will save vital minutes in our responses which, in emergency situations, can save lives.  Atos said that more than 15,000 incident messages had been shared over its hub in the first month of use.

Lincolnshire 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.

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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Conwy Environment Roads and Facilities (ERF) digital transformation projectthis involved bringing three departments together Highways and Infrastructure, Environmental Services and Property Services and integrating their IT systems. Using the UPRN to link disparate systems was a key decision. The results are impressive. In Street Lighting, for example, streetlamp failures being repaired within 5 calendar days rose to 89.94% during 2017/18. And the average number of days for responding to a streetlamp issue dropped from 4.75 days (2014-15) to 2.56 days during the same period. In the first full year of the Customer Portal going live, 47.2% of all Street Lighting requests were reported online. This channel shift away from phone enquiries delivers an annual saving of over £25,000 in staffing levels. The rationalisation of IT systems has led to further software and licenses savings: previously retained services would have incurred costs in the region of £50,000 per annum.

Kent County Council Asset management – the 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.

Norfolk County Council Gritting Strategy – the 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;
  • more dynamic routing capable of daily adjustment; and
  • capability to supply the public with current information on gritted and un-gritted surfaces.

Dorset Council 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.

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.

Boston City performance dashboard – 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.

MODA Illegal apartment conversions– 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.

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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TfL 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 is estimated by a Deloitte study at between £15 million and £58 million, depending on the modelling assumptions used. This is 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.

Glasgow 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 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.

Manila Open Transport Partnership – 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. Traditional methods of collecting traffic data relies either on labour-intensive fieldwork or capital-intensive sensor data networks. In the era of big data, this has been revolutionised. Brokered by the World Bank an open data license was agreed with three rideshare companies to make traffic data derived from their drivers’ GPS streams available to the public. 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.

Barcelona Parking management – The 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.

St Albans 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 its information from Open Street Map, pinpointed with audio cues to help map out landmarks and points of interest.

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.

Milton Keynes 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.

Predictive 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 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.

Urban planning

The ultimate goal of urban planning is to be able to bring all 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 Government 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 generates 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 project is now being extended to cover all parts of the island.​

Helsinki 3D+ Urban Digital TwinsHelsinki Smart Digital Twin 2021has two production lines – the City GML Semantic Model and Reality Model. Combined both models, it forms an open innovation platform which is open for downloading and further use. The Helsinki strategic plan called “The most functional city in the world”, which has one of the goals to become a carbon-neutral city by 2035. Heating was identified as a major factor of greenhouse gas emissions (56%). They created Energy and Climate Atlas using 3D+ platform, to monitor heating surfaces, structure and other attribute data of over 80000 buildings – over 1 million surfaces, to calculate and predict heating effects and plan renovation programs.

Singapore 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.