Mid-term Review of Urbanage Project Progress Towards Age-Friendly Cities
The Ferraris building of the Flemish Government in Brussels was our home this week for a mid-term review of our project, which provided an extra opportunity for feedback and guidance from our Project Officer and outside experts.
Welcoming everyone and setting the scene for the day, Project Officer, Georgio Constantino, reiterated the commitment of support from the Commission to Urbanage. Joining Constatino in person was expert reviewer Dr Olga Feldman from Arcadis, along with Dr Maria Chli from Aston University who participated remotely.
Silvia Urra Uriaete of Tecnalia, the projects technical lead, set out the policy challenge URBANAGE is designed to solve. Namely, making European cities more accessible and inclusive for the rapidly growing older generation - age-friendly cities. AI, data analytics and digital twin technology provide an enabler to meet this challenge, coming together in the form of the Urbanage Ecosystem Platform containing a range of co-designed services. . Silvia shared the status of innovation and testing in the pilot cities of Helsinki and Santander, as well as the region of Flanders, showing that the technology releases are ahead of schedule with the 3rd release of the platform planned for 6 months time.
Project Coordinator, Roberto di Bernardo from Engineering, took the floor to outline how the project addressed the 'technical' and 'user' comments made by the reviewers form the last meeting and that in-depth review of the AI use and algorithm depth have been outlined in official project reports 'Al Algorithm and Simulation Tools' and 'URBANAGE Ecosystem Prototype'. In terms of better understanding local needs, URBANAGE has upped co-creation and added additional end-user feedback loops. The floor was then given to the pilot cities to provide their updates.
Exploring the URBANAGE Ecosystem in Action
Helsinki demonstrated their focus on accessibility issues in the city, collecting and categorising relevant data for older adults, by facilitating participatory data collection with location and temporal stamps. Discussions on the data collection device proved divisive, mainly centring on how pressing buttons could provide the granularity of issue data that urban planners may need. Helsinki explained the service had come out of co-creation work with older adults and that its value is all about engagement and use. In the next phase outcomes from data walks and focus groups will be provided in the projects impact assessment.
The Flanders Region pilot takes in the cities of Tielt, Turnhout, Roeselare, Ghent and Leuven. Its first solution using local digital twin technology is the Green Comfort Index (GCI) which quantifies green and comfortable zones in the cities for older adults. Flanders mapped streets using hexagons as surface units giving its GCI score. Older citizens can find comfortable spots and improve the map through feedback and suggest new infrastructure, and city managers can see the feedback, make impact simulations to help decisioning. Reviewers suggested enriching the accessibility information contained in the Index so it's more than about mobility.
Santander showcased their age-friendly route planner which uses AI to identify the best routes for the needs of the older person using the app. The city mapped the public mobility domains, provided POI information as well as data about real-time incidences. The router provides route options based on need and shows if problems may be encountered such as the closure of an escalator by using an evolutionary algorithm. Personal profiles look at elements such as time, elevation, bench's, bathrooms, etc. in a way that existing planners do not and offers route choices in a fast way. Advice from the reviewers was to look at improving the user interface possibly with Java Suite layers and Nesting before testing with older adults in June, and potentially adding a push notification about incidents on frequent routes.
Other use cases across the pilots were showcased including the development of a Travel Time Matrix based on isochrons, which helps planners better understand how long it takes older people reach central places such as stores, museums, the city hall and other facilities compared to younger people. Ideally, everyone should be able to reach services in 15 minutes.
Architecture and Replicability
After the pilot demos, validation, replication and technology sessions took place. The reviewers were pleased to see the development of the architecture and asked the consortium to capture the design journey including lessons learned to provide value for others. A blog and publication about this aspect of our development will be coming soon so please subscribe for news updates in this website footer.
Communication, dissemination and exploitation, along with project management were covered last, showing the project was on track with resource, time and budget spend.
Feedback and Encouragement
Closing the review Constantino said it "had been a good day. We have a perspective for what will happen to the end of the project, and afterwards. Continue reaching out to policy makers and ensure your messages are sound and based on the good work you are doing". Dr Feldman stressed the need to show value for each of the services, by providing examples of how it was used and valued by citizens. She urged us to remember that its not all about the end product, that the journey and its impact on social aspects are key . Closing the feedback session Dr Chli pushed us to focus more on publications linked to the project, ensuring they are published as soon as they are available and to ensure they have clear and strong links to Urbanage.
The Urbanage consortium wish to thank our Project Officer and the external experts for their fair, constructive advice and guidance, and look forward to receiving our official review report. Watch this space for updates!