12:17PM, Monday 16 August 2021
Windsor and Maidenhead and Slough are two of six councils in Berkshire supporting a Government-funded trial which will use phone data to improve the neighbourhood, such as addressing air quality and fixing potholes.
Anonymised data from the O2 mobile phone network is being used as part of a series of trials to help councils in the county plan upgrades, which also includes managing traffic flow.
Funded by the Department for Transport through a £22.9million funding boost, the project - known as the Thames Valley Berkshire Live Lab trials - are investigating how technology 'can transform local places and improve the way people live and work' in the area.
Led by Reading Borough Council, the initiative includes five trials that will use technology to help shape future improvements to issues such as potholes, traffic congestion, pollution and other health risks, through a service known as 'O2 Motion'.
The trials combine movement data collected from anonymised O2 mobile connections with anonymised information from other sources, including air quality sensors and cameras mounted on refuse trucks.
Sergio Budkin, director of market development at Virgin Media O2, said: “We are 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.”
He added: "This initiative will spearhead a number of improvements for the local community. To improve road surfaces the initiative will look at detecting pot holes as refuse lorries travel around the borough (five refuse lorries are already fitted with detection equipment). This allows the RBWM highways team to monitor road surface degradation.
"Improvements are also being made to traffic volumes in the area; with O2 Motion traffic data feeding into traffic signalling systems.
"A citizen engagement app also allows residents to monitor air quality in their area and make decisions on active travel to do their bit or seek alternative routes to reduce their personal exposure."
The programme, which has been running for two years, is due to conclude in November this year, with the engagement app continuing until March next year.
"Once completed, O2 Motion hopes to continue working with the local authorities to enable them to use mobile data to create smarter towns for the benefit of all residents and local businesses," Sergio added.
Giles Perkins, Live Labs programme director, added: “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.”