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MWC 2017: Barcelona trial uses IoT and big data to manage tourists

Barcelona, the host city for Mobile World Congress, has been demonstrating its use of the internet of things and big data to help manage visitors to Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia

At Mobile World Congress (MWC), the city of Barcelona has presented the results of a trial project connecting internet of things (IoT) and big data technologies to manage the movement and improve the experience of tourists at the Sagrada Familia church.

The project was run through the Mobile World Capital’s d-LAB digital transformation initiative, a GSMA project that runs alongside the annual MWC fair and uses host city Barcelona as a test bed to support and show off mobile-centric innovation. Its work at the Sagrada Familia also received support from Catalonian state research and development association Eurecat and operator Orange.

The partners set out to use the IoT and big data to analyse tourist flows around Antoni Gaudi’s world-famous church, which mixes gothic and art nouveau architecture and is still under construction after over 130 years.

Among other things d-LAB wanted to understand the dynamics of visitors to the church, how their presence impacted on the local environment, and how they used Barcelona’s public transport system to reach the site.

In the first phase of the experiment, d-LAB set out to collect as much information as possible on various visitor profiles, such as tourists, visitors with at least one night spent in the city, travellers, day trippers, or people who were only coming into Barcelona for the nightlife.

Using this model, which applied data from Orange to analyse their movements, d-LAB established the routes most commonly followed by tourists through Barcelona’s central Eixample, Ciutat Vella and Sants-Monjuic districts.

The partners then implemented IoT elements to evaluate and determine mobility patterns at street level, evaluating the reach of micro-mobility in the immediate vicinity of the Sagrada Familia over a four-week period.

This involved the use of multiple Wi-Fi, GSM and 3D sensors placed around the area. These identified both the main entry and exit points to the site, while the maximum density of movement was found to be at the pedestrian crossings at the intersection of Carrer de Mallorca and Carrer de Marina, on the church’s south-eastern corner.

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The sensor network further demonstrated that half the visitors to the Sagrada Familia stayed in the area for less than 40 minutes, and that only 20% actually entered the church itself. The busiest visiting times were found to be between 10am and midday, a pattern that was repeated at the weekend with an additional spike in the afternoon.

Using the results of its experiment, d-LAB was able to make a series of recommendations to city management to be defined along with possible local government measures. For example, this could highlight the potential of big data to use visitor behaviour to uncover information about how they move around the city, or understanding the type of visitors likely to go to a particular attraction may in future be used to deliver tailored content and recommendations to be delivered to them.

This could also allow future challenges in tourism analysis to be defined, said d-LAB, specifically the options that real-time monitoring of city spaces can offer in terms of detecting and managing unexpected crowds, or predictive analysis of where tourists are likely to go next.

The in-depth analysis of tourists at the Sagrada Familia also showed the importance of developing a method of combining offline and online data to speed up obtaining real-time information in the street, said d-LAB.

The MWC d-LAB project has two other active pilots running in and around Barcelona, one for digital public services, enabling citizen access to the local public sector, and another applying a digital authentication standard in the health sector to allow citizens access to their personal health data files using their mobiles.

It will run a number of other further projects this year, exploring the use of mobile technology to empower disabled people and fight cyber bullying.

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