The measurement of how and when people utilise public spaces has perhaps never been more important than in the management of a global pandemic. SoDis will develop novel technology to provide ‘live’ occupancy density information to users and managers of working academic buildings.

During the project WiFi sensor technology will be deployed in the Computer Science building on Jubilee campus at the University of Nottingham. This will be complemented by a direct observation study to count people in and out of the space.  Analysis of the resulting datasets will lead to the production of a publicly available person density map of campus spaces and will enable the development of methods which effectively communicate this type of data.

Phase two of the project will move from passive person counting to the active involvement of users. We will make tools available which will allow staff, students and visitors to track and reflect on their own movements. Using software on their own devices they will be able to create a personal “exposure index” based on the occupancy density of spaces they’ve visited. This will allow users to balance risk and make informed decisions about their movements based on real time population behaviour.

The sensing technology and data handling methods to be used in SoDis were first developed at Horizon during the WiseParks project. WiseParks was a NESTA funded project which tested WiFi based person counting as a potential solution to the problem of measuring city park usage. Similar technologies have been applied to tracking transport users and modelling the movement of customers in commercial spaces. SoDis will apply WiFi based person counting to the management and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and increase the visibility of the derived data for the users of monitored spaces. The lessons we hope to learn will remain relevant across many domains into the future.