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Sport Flanders and City of Leuven map public sport and exercise behavior with smart technology

28 September 2021

Sport Flanders and the City of Leuven today launch 'Smart Sporting Cities', a pilot project to map the sport and exercise behavior of the people of Leuven in public spaces with smart technology. With this data Sport Flanders and the City of Leuven want to gather insights about the growing group of unaffiliated sportspeople (sportspeople who play sports outside their clubs), in order to strengthen the policy around it and thus encourage even more inhabitants to play sports and exercise. The project, which was realized with support from the Program Innovative Public Procurement (PIO), is launched in two living labs in Leuven.

Stad Leuven
Cronos Group

Strengthening local sports policy

As a result of the corona measures and the closure of sports infrastructure and sports organizations in particular, we have discovered more than ever the public space for sports and exercise in the past year. Especially adults are increasingly playing sports and exercising in loose contexts (e.g. with the family, with friends or with colleagues). Until now, not much research has been done on this growing group of unattached sportspeople (i.e. not in a club context).

Both Sport Flanders and local authorities want to develop more insights into sports behavior in the public space as a function of their sports promotion policy. Supported by the Program Innovative Public Procurement (PIO), Sport Flanders and the city of Leuven joined forces in the pilot project 'Smart Sporting Cities' from 2019, to monitor sports and exercise behavior in the public space through smart technology.

"With smart technology, among other things, we can inspire our sports policy even more effectively to respond to opportunities," says Flemish Minister of Sport Ben Weyts. "Not everyone grounds themselves in a sports club. We must therefore be able to match our sports offerings for every Fleming, including the unattached athlete, optimally to their sports needs and wishes."

Deployment of smart technology

To test Internet-of-Things technologies in a real-world setting, two living labs were defined in Leuven: the Bruulpark and the Philipssite. In both locations, Sport Flanders and the city of Leuven want to use smart cameras over the next three years (2021-2024) to discover how many people are exercising, how often, when, and what exercise activities they are practicing.

In the first living lab in the Park den Bruul, the sports infrastructure of the park will be monitored specifically. The green park in the center of Leuven has a multifunctional grass field, a soccer cage and a sports wall where tennis and urban fitness can take place. The technology will have a permanent place there until the summer of 2024 to permanently monitor sports behavior. "The smart sporting cities project illustrates the potential and added value of technological innovation for society. Using Internet of Things (IoT) applications, sporting activity in a given area is mapped. These insights can then be used to improve the sports infrastructure and inform policy, to make it as pleasant as possible for athletes and to get more people involved in sports. With the Innovative Public Procurement Project we are happy to put our shoulders to the wheel. states Flemish Minister of Innovation Hilde Crevits.

The second living lab is located on the Philips site on the Leuven ring road. As of October 1, 2021 (after the World cycling championships), mobile technologies will be tested there. These mobile applications should make it possible to move the measuring equipment to other sites after a certain period of time. Thanks to a solar panel and a 4G/5G connection, these applications are independent of existing power and data facilities in public spaces. At the Philipssite, the focus is on the multifunctional grass field and bar park between the Sportoase sports center and the Leuven ring road.

The City of Leuven, as European City of Sport and European Capital of Innovation, is the ideal partner for this project. The knowledge and experience of the sports department and the existing expertise in the field of smart city of the city of Leuven were integrated to maximize learning opportunities on a local level.

66% of the people living in Leuven participate in sports on a weekly basis. About 50% of the people in Leuven do so even without being a member of a sports club. We are convinced that this is partly due to our efforts to make the public space more mobility-friendly, including exercise benches and public fitness equipment. This pilot project will give us insights to better know where improvements can be made. This is how we can make Leuven even more mobility-friendly," says Leuven alderman for sport Johan Geleyns.

Reliable data without personal data

The "Smart Sporting Cities" contract was awarded to Cronos Public Services. They installed various cameras in the two living labs, taking maximum account of data security and the protection of personal data. Because use is made of innovative edge computing hardware, all processing of the camera images can be done on the device itself with the help of artificial intelligence and not on a central server. This means that no image leaves the camera and only general statistics that are not tied to personal data, such as 'type of sports activity' or 'duration of visit to the trial site' are stored. This has the added advantage of limiting the bandwidth needed to run the system. Sport Vlaanderen and the city of Leuven also jointly conducted a data protection impact assessment to list the data risks and take the necessary security measures.

With 'Smart Sporting Cities' Sport Flanders and the City of Leuven want to play a pioneering role in testing new and innovative technologies on their added value for the Flemish and local sports policy. All partners in this project are committed to develop a knowledge trajectory so that other organizations, cities and towns can be offered the opportunities of this technology. A first public inspiration moment will take place during the Sport Innovation Congress of Sport Flanders on October 21, 2021 in Sport Flanders Ghent.

Source: Stad Leuven

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