Place Intelligence Empowers Smarter Cities with Location Insights that Support Data-Driven Decision-Making

Executive Summary

Place Intelligence built its big data and analytics platform on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to access cost-effective, limitless compute on demand that powers advanced machine-learning tools from hundreds of millions of data points each day. Place Intelligence is an AWS Smart City Partner providing local and state governments with location intelligence services to understand how places function and support data-driven decision-making. The business uses Amazon S3 with Amazon Glacier for storing and archiving big data sets, Amazon WorkSpaces to power remote teams, and Amazon EC2 for highly scalable, on-demand computing.

Democratizing Access to Big Data

Effective urban planning requires access to large volumes of data on how places in a city, such as pedestrian walkways or parking garages, are used over time. Methods for measuring place use have existed for decades, but until now these services have relied on manual data collection as more advanced approaches proved too costly for local governments to obtain.

Place Intelligence launched in 2019 to democratize access to a range of big data sets that help governments, built environment professionals, and asset managers understand how places function. Armed with this data, public agencies can provide targeted services to improve the lives of citizens. Most of Place Intelligence’s current public sector clients comprise of state and local governments in Australia, but the business is expanding throughout the US, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand.

Place Intelligence goes beyond the provision of data for its customers, with a holistic service model that includes coaching on how to use data to make decisions and build high-performance organizations. “On the front end we help governments understand what to measure and why, then provide the data and tools to interrogate that data. We then offer training on the backend to help our customers make the most of these data sets,” says Norion Ubechel, chief executive officer at Place Intelligence.

"With all the security and access policies we’ve put in place, we’re able to empower our remote teams with infrastructure that’s updated and safe, while protecting our data and our partners’ data through the infrastructure AWS provides."

- Norion Ubechel, Chief Executive Officer, Place Intelligence

Securing Virtual Desktops with Cost-Effective Compute and Storage

When choosing a cloud platform to host its big data applications, Place Intelligence selected AWS for its range of compute and storage services with high data processing capability. “AWS has all the tools we currently need, in addition to other analytics and machine-learning tools we can easily access as our use cases expand and shift in the future,” remarks Ubechel.

Place Intelligence employees based around the globe use Amazon WorkSpaces for reliable access to virtual desktops. “With all the security and access policies we’ve put in place, we’re able to empower our remote teams with infrastructure that’s updated and safe, while protecting our data and our partners’ data through the infrastructure AWS provides,” Ubechel says.

The company also uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for data storage and backup, and Amazon S3 Glacier for low-cost data archiving. It relies on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances of various sizes to process big data. “The magic of Amazon S3 combined with managed workstations and Amazon EC2 instances allows us to do some really great work at scale in a distributed fashion,” adds Ubechel. The business also uses Amazon Redshift as a data warehouse and Amazon Athena for serverless queries.

Tracking Success of City Council Activation Program

Place Intelligence is currently completing a project with Campbelltown City Council (Council), which oversees a municipality in the fast-growing Macarthur region on the southwestern edge of Sydney, Australia. In 2020, Council adopted the Reimagining Campbelltown City Centre Master Plan, which articulates the community’s vision to transform the area into the economic, cultural, and lifestyle capital of Australia’s Macarthur region. Reimagining Campbelltown is at the heart of Council’s efforts to become a smart city, where all decision-making is underpinned by a strong evidence base.
Jessica Noyes, Council’s Reimagining Campbelltown Lead explains, “We began working with Place Intelligence to measure the impact of On Q. This is a placemaking and activation program for our main street kick-started with some grant funding from the NSW Government. We’d developed an evaluation framework identifying KPIs for the program but needed help measuring the impact.”

Noyes and her team held upfront discussions with Place Intelligence to work through the program proposal and plan an intelligence dashboard to track key metrics. These included changes in footfall in downtown areas, catchment area calculations to determine how far people travelled to visit an event, dwell time—amount of time spent in a target area—, and sequence of places visited. Place Intelligence also included qualitative analysis to gauge community sentiment and the voice of the community on social media.

Data-Backed Decision-Making for Effective Urban Planning

This was the first time Council staff had used a big data application. Team members received training from Place Intelligence not just on how to access data, but also on how to interrogate the data to get the most out of it. “The Place Intelligence app is intuitive and easy to use. It’s more a question of drawing insights and making sure we’re not jumping to conclusions incorrectly,” Noyes says. “We appreciate how the team at Place Intelligence is constantly working to update their data sets to make the app as user-friendly as possible.” In addition to having a mechanism to track the success of the activation program, Campbelltown is benefitting from data-backed decision-making. Council employees use Place Intelligence data to guide policy decisions and review their effectiveness over time. The data is also helping to inform new policies—in considering revisions to parking rules in the city center, for example—by providing evidence of impact to the community. Council is currently exploring further applications of location intelligence data. “We’ve got this great data set we can use to inform business cases, project plans, and designs, and we’re still exploring all its possibilities, which is fantastic,” Noyes says. “It’s giving us a way to unpack and analyze existing projects and new proposals, and better respond to community demands.”

Scaling Business 600% in One Year

Place Intelligence is now in a scaling phase, having grown nearly 600 percent from 2020 to 2021. It’s projecting to double or even triple its business volume in 2022. Participation in the AWS Smart City Pilot Program has provided an opportunity to leverage the global AWS network to increase the company’s visibility among potential smart city clients. Place Intelligence also appreciates the support provided through the program to help it become a smart-city-accredited vendor.

Says Bonnie Shaw, co-founder and chief impact officer at Place Intelligence, “We’re ready to serve a global client base and are keen to collaborate with AWS in this area. Access to cost-effective infrastructure on AWS allows us to build international automation and standardization without purchasing our own super computers.”

Campbelltown City Council

About Campbelltown City Council

Campbelltown is a municipality located in southwestern Sydney, Australia. Campbelltown is home to around 180,000 residents in 2022 and is projected to grow to 272,303 residents by 2041. Campbelltown City Council acknowledges and respects the Dharawal people as traditional custodians of the land on which we work, and extends this respect to all Aboriginal Elders, past and present, and people from all Aboriginal nations.

About Place Intelligence

Place Intelligence democratizes access to big data for local and state governments and built environment practitioners of all kinds. Its data platform provides deep insights and intelligence on how people interact with places over time. These insights empower Place Intelligence customers to make better evidence-based decisions to improve quality of life in their communities.

Published August 2022