You’re being followed

Pedestrian modelling is one of the fastest-developing fields in building design, using real-world data and computer simulations to predict how people will move through a space. In this piece for Modus (the magazine of the RICS) I tracked its progress from a primitive fire evacuation tool to a highly complex technology for testing security in airports and high-rise towers, avoiding overcrowding in railway stations and school corridors, and even boosting productivity in offices. In fact, modellers say that the only thing holding them back is the lack of data on how people actually behave in real-life. Their ideal would be to attach a tracker to every resident of a city and follow them as they move around – and that’s pretty close to what is actually possible with GPS-enabled smartphones and bluetooth devices now in many people’s pockets. In fact, if you went to the Olympics this year with a bluetooth device, you’ve already been part of a mass (anonymous) data-gathering exercise, tracking people moving from nearby transport hubs into the Olympic Park, which could be repeated city-wide in the near future…