Social distancing at London St Pancras station tracked in real time

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Digital twin platform uses AI and computer vision to monitor distance between passengers at London station

A digital twin platform that was originally designed to alert station managers to overcrowding at St Pancras station in London is now being used to monitor social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Developed by UK startup OpenSpace, the technology uses IoT and AI to detect and visualise the distance between passengers in real-time. The resulting data can then be used to compare historical weekly and daily information for trend analysis. It will provide a useful indicator of public adherence to Government guidelines, especially when lockdown measures are lifted in stages.

“Our technology is designed to detect real-time passenger separation to alert station managers to current and future overcrowding, and suggest interventions. But the unexpected events of the past few months have revealed a new application – monitoring social distancing. If our data can help better inform government strategy on COVID-19 to help save lives, then we want to do our bit,” said OpenSpace CEO Nicolas LeGlatin.

“The platform detected a 90 per cent drop in passenger numbers after lockdown measures were introduced on Monday 23rd March, compared with a weekday in January this year. This represents the scale of travel demand change due to COVID-19 in one of the UK’s busiest stations.”

“Our purpose is to use technology to help make the passenger experience better for everyone, including protecting privacy. Cameras with computer vision technology are key to measuring passenger flow rate, travel patterns and social distancing. The data collected is anonymous, and doesn’t use facial recognition. Through the use of Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, operators can put themselves in the shoes of passengers in real-time. Like those approaching a crowded area, to see and feel some of what customers are feeling, driving improvement strategies.”

The project at St Pancras went live in 2019 and was funded by the Department for Transport through the First of a Kind Round 2 competition, delivered by InnovateUK. Other project partners include High Speed 1, Govia Thameslink Railway, Network Rail – High Speed, and Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education.

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