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O2 Motion: Improving urban planning and infrastructure through data

From air quality to fixing potholes, there’s opportunities everywhere to improve our towns and cities. That’s why we’re involved in government-funded trials that are exploring the potential for ‘smarter’ towns and a healthier environment for residents.

The anonymised data collected from our mobile phone network is being used as part of a series of new government-funded trials to help Thames Valley local authorities plan improvements to air quality, public health, road surfaces, traffic flow and energy infrastructure.

When your mobile device connects to different masts, it creates a data footprint. O2 Motion is a service that can anonymise, aggregate, and extrapolate these footprints to help local authorities gain a picture of how people travel around the local area. The trials are taking this data and overlaying it with demographic and behavioural insights, so local authorities understand more about crowd movement trends and profiles and can ultimately shape future town planning. Data insights from O2 Motion never allow identification or mapping of individuals and operate within strict privacy guidelines.

‘Smarter’ towns, developed through data

Funded by the Department for Transport through the £22.9m ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs Programme, the Thames Valley Berkshire Live Lab trials are investigating how technology could transform local places and improve the way people live and work in Berkshire.

Led by Reading Borough Council and supported by six local authorities, the Thames Valley Berkshire Live Lab includes five trials that’ll use technology to shape future improvements to issues like potholes, traffic congestion, pollution, and other health risks. In a model set to help local authorities plan smarter towns, the trials combine movement data collected from anonymised, aggregated O2 mobile connections with anonymised information from other sources such as air quality sensors and cameras mounted on bin lorries.

“O2 Motion is all about using data to improve people’s experiences, so we’re particularly proud to be a part of the Thames Valley Berkshire Live Lab – looking at the potential of tech to map out the smarter towns of the future.

“Anonymised, aggregated data about how we move around can help councils pinpoint the most congested transport routes, and show exactly which roads need improving, exposure to dangerous air pollution, and how residents can make greener choices. And it allows local authorities to make informed improvements, cut carbon emissions and make life better for residents and businesses alike.”

Sergio Budkin, Director of Market Development at Virgin Media O2

The Thames Valley Berkshire Live Lab projects span the following areas:

  • Air Quality: We’ve introduced software company GPC Systems to combine anonymised, aggregated O2 Motion movement data with findings from Siemens air quality monitors to measure air quality and public exposure to harmful pollutants. This provides valuable insight into how many people are affected, for how long, and on what types of journeys. The project will then look at encouraging healthier and more sustainable ways of getting around.
  • Road Surfaces: GPC will use a combination of anonymised crowd movement data from O2 Motion, road usage information from Siemens, and analysis from 3D cameras mounted on bin lorries to map the most heavily used local routes with the worst road surface quality. This will help local authorities prioritise improvements such as fixing potholes.
  • Traffic Flow: Siemens will use O2 Motion data to gain a real-time picture of traffic and explore new, tech-driven ways of easing it.
  • Health: Space Syntax will analyse O2 Motion crowd movement data alongside road usage and air quality data from Siemens to explore how town layouts impact social issues and public health risks, including loneliness, frailty, and obesity. This means local authorities can see where the issues are now, and where public health costs are likely to come from in the future.
  • Energy: Smarter Grid Solutions will help create a dynamic energy management platform that includes energy for local buildings. We’ve also brought onboard smart charging specialist, which has partnered with Hubject, to provide insights on charging and usage behaviours for electric vehicles. This will help local authorities get a clearer understanding of current and future trends around electric vehicles – such as ownership, usage and demands on public infrastructure. 

“The Thames Valley Live Lab demonstrates the potential benefits that aggregating multiple sources of data, from transport, highways and beyond can bring in terms of making a real difference to our communities and places.”

Giles Perkins, Live Labs Programme Director

After running an extensive pitching process with submissions from more than 50 expert organisations, we’ve also brought in five cutting-edge technology and analytics partners to help with project delivery – including GPC Systems,, Hubject, Space Syntax and BetterPoints.

ADEPT represents local authority, county, unitary and metropolitan Directors. The ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme is a two-year £22.9 million project funded by the Department for Transport and supported by project partners SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP. Nine local authorities are working on projects to introduce digital innovation across SMART mobility, transport, highways, maintenance, data, energy and communications. Live Labs is part of ADEPT’s SMART Places programme to support the use of digital technology in place-based services.

  • For any further information on O2 Motion, contact us here

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