Work has started on a project that will use the Internet of Things to research the factors that make public space attractive to people.

The project is funded under the banner of the University’s Global Challenges Program and is led by SMART Infrastructure Facility Research Fellow, Dr Hugh Forehead.

“The project will deliver an understanding of the nature of the public spaces in Liverpool that are used and enjoyed the most,” Dr Forehead said.

“This will protect the interests of the most vulnerable people in society, who are more likely to require the refuge that good public spaces provide.

“This will help to build a resilient community in Liverpool as it undergoes significant development and population growth in the coming years.”

Smart Cities for Understanding Living in Liverpool (SCULL) secured $20,000 of seed funding for research lasting a year.

As with other Global Challenges projects, the project includes academics from a range of specialities, including social scientists, an accountant and an ecologist.

The project will use data from 20 sensors already installed to collect data about how, and when, people use the Liverpool CBD.

The sensors form part of a separate project – Smart Pedestrian – where Liverpool City Council and SMART have teamed up to count vehicle and pedestrian movements to respond to the rising number of residents and workers making their way around the city centre.

In addition to the data gathered from sensors, the project will conduct two surveys.

One will collect information on the physical data of public spaces – whether they are shaded, the street furniture, the temperature, noise, water features, the type of vegetation and the view.

A second will collect qualitative data, asking people about their experience of green space and what brought them to a particular area.

By the end of the project, researchers will collate their findings in a report for Liverpool City Council.

“We hope to provide a mechanism for the development of a holistic research program in urban public space design, to understand the biophysical characteristics and the human value of green spaces,” Dr Forehead said.

He said he was hoping to attract further funding that would extend the project beyond January 2020.