Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

16.04 5 Jun 2021


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Technology will play an ever-more important role in how Irish cities can help create an environment that is safe and comfortable for large crowds of people to gather.

That's according to Jamie Cudden, the Smart City Programme Manager at Dublin City Council.

It comes as increasingly big crowds have congregated in Dublin city centre in recent weeks amid the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and good weather.

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Lat night, Gardaí made 14 arrests in the capital for public order offences following scenes which the Health Minister described as "thuggish" and "completely unacceptable".

In response to chaotic scenes last weekend, additional portable toilets, fencing and bins were installed in Dublin city in recent days in anticipation of crowds congregating over the Bank Holiday weekend.

However, there have been widespread calls for Ireland's cities to be made more welcoming for the public in order to facilitate an 'outdoor summer' this year.

Speaking to Newstalk's Technology Correspondent Jess Kelly on this week's Tech Talk, Mr Cudden said Dublin is already a smart city, meaning technology is being used to connect services and innovation is taking place.

Technology can play 'a greater role' in making Irish cities safer for large crowds

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As part of the Smart City Programme, his team have been looking at how emerging technologies can be used to provide better amenities in our cities, including the use of sensors to provide data on what's happening in 'real time' in urban areas.

The data that is collected can be used to anticipate where flooding might happen, how busy and area is, and how full bins might be getting.

In light of the emphasis on people meeting outside this summer in order to reduce coronavirus transmission, Mr Cudden said that technology is already being utilised to assess certain information, such as footfall and traffic.

However, he believes that as time goes on, it will become even more paramount in managing public spaces and amenities so people can safely gather in cities.

"It is a challenging situation, it's a perfect storm of good weather and COVID restrictions and a lack of places to go," he said.

"I think what we do realise is the importance of public space and how we manage that space effectively is so important for supporting the recovery.

"In terms of technologies, we do obviously look at some of the data in terms of footfall counters, in terms of traffic flows, even looking at the big bins we can understand how busy some parts of the city are.

"What we're really starting on in this journey of interconnected everything and Internet of Things is what's the point in having all this data if you're not using it to make better decisions?"

crowds An Garda Siochana watch on as the clean up begins around the bandstand in St Stephen's Green park after huge crowds gathered in Dublin City Center on Friday night. Photo: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

He continued:  "We're seeing a lot of cities around the world, particularly on the back of COVID, think about how do we manage this space more effectively to ensure that it's safe and how do we use the data to inform our policy.

"I think we're all at the start of this journey but it's certainly something that can support policymaking.

"It's not going to be a miracle cure to the challenges that we're facing.

"A bit of good weather and takeaway pints and people wanting to meet up and socialise, we're not quite going to sort that problem but I think technology does play a role and will play a greater role into the future."

Main image: Crowds gathered at South Anne Street in Dublin on Friday evening. Photo: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

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