tl;dr People now all go out for a night out at 4pm
We recently deployed a LoRaWAN network in Leeds. This post isn’t really about LoRaWAN though, all you need to know is that it’s a bit like a very long-range, very slow WiFi network that you can use to cover entire cities with an Internet of Things network that is perfectly suited for things like sensors.
Obviously, you then need to make sure that sort of thing works, so we deployed a variety of sensors for proof of concept purposes, one of which allows the counting of people passing by.
Before anyone gets their tinfoil hat out, we’re using solar-powered, extremely low-power radar sensors rather than anything camera-based so from a privacy perspective these devices tick all the boxes.
Leeds, where a lot of our team are based, is currently under additional measures and restrictions due to coronavirus and, like the rest of the country, bars and restaurants now have to close at 10pm.
What impact does that have on footfall? Let’s find out. We’ve taken two windows of data from our footfall monitoring, covering Friday at 00:01 to Sunday at 20:00 (the time of writing) on the weekends of the 18th – 20th September 2020 and the 25th – 27th September and compared them to see whether the additional restrictions and 10pm curfew have altered people’s behaviour and how.
We get it. This isn’t going to be a perfect comparison. One weekend is a pay-day, traditionally a busier day for people to go out. It’s probably a bit colder this weekend. There’s loads of factors but this is the data that we’ve got to work with!
Firstly, the overall number of people that walked past our sensor were surprisingly similar over the time period we’ve looked at:
25th – 27th September Total: 4,574
18th – 20th September Total: 4,550
That would suggest that the overall number of people in and around Leeds hasn’t changed that much in light of the curfew and the additional restrictions being brought in.
Has it made it busier?
When we talk about how “busy” somewhere is, we mean how many people are in one place at once. Many people in one place bad, people more spread out good seems to be the main purpose of the new restrictions.
We’ve used the median to illustrate this – we’re happy to provide the data set if you think that’s wrong.
25th – 27th September Hourly Median: 51
18th – 20th September Hourly Median: 42
OK, that’s less great and suggests that while the total number of people is the same, they’re usually in the same place at the same time more often than they were previously.
Here’s the difference in distribution on an hour by hour basis:
The difference above is the difference between the weekend 25th – 27th vs. the 18th – 20th September. If the numbers are up on the 25th – 27th then they’ll be up on the above graph.
The above graph is a little difficult to interpret so here’s the distribution of people by hour of day across the same time periods:
This gives us probably the clearest picture of the changes in people’s behaviour as a result of the curfew and explains some of the increase in median that we’ve seen.
Instead of heading out for an evening of entertainment gradually across the afternoon and early evening, people are now going out en-masse at 4pm. You can also clearly see the drop-off of people after the 10pm curfew.
One of the other interesting side-effects of home time being earlier is that there are markedly more people out and about earlier in the morning. Feel free to create your own narrative here for this including a lack of a hangover!
If you’d like real-time access to the data we’re gathering let us know – we’d love to figure out a way of using tech for good and helping to mitigate the spread of coronavirus both in our home city and beyond.