Veldstraat, Source: City of Ghent

Two Flemish cities team up to measure crowds

Two Flemish cities team up to measure crowds

The information will be useful to entrepreneurs and city services in Ghent and Bruges

The Flemish cities of Ghent and Bruges are joining forces to gather data about the concentration of people in the streets and share it with local businesses on a special platform. Such information can be particularly useful in the times of the coronavirus pandemic, but also well beyond that.

Two administrations are better than one

The two Belgian municipalities are launching a cooperation project named VLOED. In Dutch this is an abbreviation for Predictions for Local Entrepreneurs and Economy for Crowds and will combine and enhance further the efforts that the cities have so far been making separately.

For instance, at the end of last year Ghent set up functionality on its website aimed to inform visitors in real-time about how crowded the shopping area currently is and whether a visit is recommended. The city of Bruges has also been collecting data about the concentration of people, but no in-depth investigation into the value and the combination of this information has been discussed.

This is set to change thanks to VLOED. As part of the project, all data and results will be made available to the data communities in Ghent and Bruges to involve them in the end result. The goal is to create a functional dashboard with useful pressure forecasts for all kinds of sectors and city services in Ghent and Bruges.

VLOED has a total budget of 556 540 euros, 40% of which comes from the European Union under the European Regional Development Fund, another 40% from the Flemish government and 20% funding from the cities' own budgets.

Why collect data on the concentration of people?

The utility of having information about the concentration of people in times of corona is easy to be seen, but the advantages are expected to go beyond reducing the spread of the disease. Information about how busy the shopping streets are, the occupancy of a car park or the number of visitors in the city can be particularly helpful for traders, catering operators, entrepreneurs and investors.

Furthermore, it might help city services to deploy additional staff when needed, adapt the frequency of public transport, improve the efficiency of waste collection or attract investors. The data can also be used to promote certain locations and thus spread tourists over the city better.

“Measuring is knowing. Data can help us improve and refine our policy in many areas. To this end, we are turning our city into a testing ground to assess the possibilities of technology in practice,” said the Mayor of Ghent, Mathias De Clercq, as quoted on

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