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The application of people movement analytics will become more important to cities and places within them.
While preparation and delivery of London 2012 was the catalyst for development of people movement planning and simulation, the industry is still maturing and there is huge scope to develop its full potential, says expert Simon Ancliffe.
Simon, Founder and Chairman of Movement Strategies, said that one of the key challenges the industry continues to face is shifting perceptions of crowd and people movement analysis from simply a cost associated with safety considerations, to one that reflects its true value in delivering an excellent customer experience and commercial success.
People Movement Online caught up with Simon to discuss these perspectives.
“It’s an industry that in its infancy and growing,” Simon said. “The industry’s roots are in architecture and engineering, and traditionally focused towards ensuring the design is safe and compliant. Consequently, the work, or project owners, have not necessarily looked at all the other benefits that analysis of how people use spaces could bring, and the discipline has been seen as a necessary cost to be minimised rather than as a service that delivers additional value and Return On Investment.
This was evident during the preparation for and delivery of London 2012. Its success provided a huge boost to the industry and showcased people movement technologies and consultancy to a global stage.
Simon said: “The years in the lead up to 2012 were game-changing. As a business we were able to make a big difference to showing what could be done. Lots of companies entered the market to support 2012 and the focus on technological development and applications increased. “As simulation technology developed this helped the industry demonstrate how people movement can enhance efficiency and visitor experience, and ultimately revenue and profitability. “When businesses see this that drives up the value of the expertise we provide.”
“I don’t think prior to that the International Olympic Committee and others realised quite what could be achieved through the strategic application of people analytics in terms of visitor experience. One of the most notable successes of London 2012 was the quality of that visitor experience.
“London was very much at a new level in investment and sophistication in terms of what they were trying to achieve in this area and it worked brilliantly. For the Olympics and other major events, the primary considerations are putting on the show, transport, safety and security, transport, legacy and budget. People movement plays a big role in transport, safety and security, but also in determining what is needed for the event and what is needed for legacy. At London 2012 our analysis of the event and legacy crowd movement requirements saved tens of millions of pounds on infrastructure. With tight budgets in events visitor experience gets less focus but it still necessary if hosts are to show off their cities and countries to the world.”
There is still plenty of growth in the industry. Focussing solely on the design phase, critical though this is, may mean opportunities to use these technologies to maximise benefits in the operations phase risk being missed.
“Operators of busy space are now collecting people movement data in real time. The proliferation of data of course offers huge potential, but this will only be realised if real expertise is applied to these signals to interpret them in the right way. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” he said.
Simon said that the driver of the sector’s growth is down also include the megatrends of the growth in land values driving the need for maximisation of utilisation of assets. This combined with inevitable increases in global population, the growth of the middle class in developing economies and greater urbanisation has led to designers and operators of urban spaces focussing on people-centric technologies.
He said: “With the increase in land values, businesses and organisations are redeveloping and having to maximise the use of their existing space in order to meet demand and to meet investment objectives. Sports and entertainment venues are increasing capacities go up, and they are diversifying to become seven-day-a-week operations, not just for event day. These pressures will continue and provide opportunities for those involved in the people movement discipline
“There are also more people to move around and manage, driving urban areas to focus on their mass transit systems which brings greater responsibility to do it and do it well.”
The future’s bright.