Remote people counting solution saves local council costs
Issue: 
When visitors flock to public beaches and reserves, toilet amenities must be attended to more frequently than on quiet days. To cost-efficiently allocate resources in line with actual usage, Mosman Council needed a technology based solution to gain real
Solution: 

Monitor Transaction Management was contracted to develop a remote people counting and contractor monitoring solution using thermal imaging sensors and proximity card readers, connected to a central server using NetComm Wireless’ 3G M2M devices to track the precise number of entries, and monitor exactly when the amenities are cleaned.

Benefits:

  • Location flexibility and lower cost of installation with no fixed line requirements
  • Securely monitor use of public toilet facilities from any computer over the Internet
  • Efficiently allocate cleaning resources with real time access to usage data
  • Receive SMS and email alerts if the self-diagnosing system detects an error
  • Maintain reliable connectivity in harsh environmental conditions
  • Improve capital allocation to amenities that require expansion based on actual usage

Summary

Customer

Monitor Transaction Management is a Sydney based technology solutions company. Its team of engineers and developers design software and hardware installations that integrate seamlessly with existing infrastructure and systems to deliver end-to-end solutions in areas such as print and transaction management, people traffic monitoring, pay station management systems, POS systems and cash free campuses.

Challenge

The suburb of Mosman in Sydney is home to some of Australia’s most scenic parks, reserves and beaches. Mosman Council is responsible for managing Balmoral Beach, Clifton Gardens and Rosherville Reserve which each attract thousands of visitors every month. With the number of visitors fluctuating dramatically by day and even by hour, the council needed to efficiently and dynamically allocate its cleaning resources based on actual usage information.

Usage information needed to be remotely accessible, had to be secure and, most importantly, could not be perceived as a breach of personal privacy legislation. The Council also needed a solution to monitor the cleaning contractors to ensure that toilets are being cleaned in a timely fashion as reported.

Monitor was contracted to design an integrated people counting solution that monitors the precise number of individuals entering the toilet facilities at each location in real time. The challenge was to install the solution in areas with no fixed-line. Monitor was unable to gain access to the Council’s corporate network, and as the toilet amenities are part exposed to harsh environmental conditions, the solution had to withstand salt, moisture and extreme temperatures.

Solution

NetComm Wireless provided the industrial-grade 3G M2M devices needed to connect and remotely manage Monitor’s people counting and contractor monitoring solution over 3G, allowing the council to gain secure access to real time usage data from any computer.

If the quality of the data connection deteriorates, NetComm’s 3G M2M device automatically sends an SMS notification to Monitor’s operations staff who can then troubleshoot the issue remotely over 3G or via SMS.

Craig Isaacson, General Manager Australia, Monitor Transaction Management, said: “We specialise in places that are not so easy to get a cable to. We installed the M2M routers at Mosman almost two years ago, and have not had a problem since. Every router is pinged every minute and our graphs prove that it’s always online. Uptime percentages are over 99% at all sites. 3G connects the people counters to a cloud server at a data centre. It’s pinging each of our units across Mosman, and if it stops it will send a message and an email.”

Technical Integration

The components involved in this solution at each location are:

  • 1 x NetComm Wireless 3G M2M device
  • 2 x Proximity card readers
  • 1 x Ethernet switch
  • As many thermal imaging sensors as required to monitor all entries to the amenities

Technical Diagram

The installations are easily mounted and hidden from view.

 “At Clifton Gardens, a unit is secured to the bracket of the beam and has some cabling running on the other side of the wall. Rosherville has four units mounted – a unit is mounted on all four corners to capture the data into a communications unit. At Balmoral Baths, we mounted the unit at each location and the cabling is hidden away in the roof.”

Similarly, the proximity card readers are installed non-intrusively where the cleaner can scan a personal ID card every time the toilets are cleaned. Ethernet cabling is used to connect everything to the Ethernet switch which in turn is connected to the NetComm Wireless 3G M2M device which is installed securely inside a lockable cabinet.

 “The thermal imaging sensors talk to each other to avoid duplication, so if two people walk through, both sensors will pick it up but only one will record it; and if four people walk in together the thermal imaging sensors are clever enough to count all four.”

 The complete solution involved:

  • People counting and contractor monitoring hardware at each location connected to the Internet using 3G
  • A virtual cloud server located in an Australian date centre
  • Internet connected computers at Mosman Council Offices
  • Internet connected computers at Monitor’s Support Operations Centre

Complete Solution

“All information is captured by the M2M device and transmitted to the cloud server over 3G. You can pull this data from a central location without laying a single strand of cable.”

Using 3G to connect site hardware to the Internet saves a tremendous amount of time and money during installation.

Each 3G device is configured with a dynamic domain name using the built-in DynDNS service. This allows support staff to access each 3G device using simple and easy to remember domain names even though the network service assigns dynamic IP addresses to it.

Maintaining a reliable 3G connection in every location is critical to the success of this solution.

The NetComm Wireless 3G M2M device offers high performance and reliable 3G connectivity including dual cellular antennas for improved reception.

“At Clifton Gardens, the amenities is backed up against a cliff face and still gets full reception.”

The outcome

Using NetComm Wireless’ 3G M2M devices Monitor Transaction Management is able to provide access to tailored charts that are easily accessed from any computer, allowing the Council to monitor the exact number of entries at each location by hour, day, month and year.

“The council can use any Internet connected PC, type in the URL, and immediately see a variety of charts in real time. It calculates an average number of entries and can report over a date range to help with planning.”

Using this information the Council can see how often each toilet block is being used, and send cleaning contractors as required. The data allows the council to efficiently allocate resources and monitor the cleaning contractors who can now clock on and off using a personalised proximity card.

As an extra bonus, the Council is able to accurately direct future capital investment to where it is most needed based on actual usage data instead of the often subjective feedback of local residents. 

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