Smart city: First digital platform to manage tourism in Emilia-Romagna


The first web platform to optimize tourist flows in Emilia-Romagna has been launched, helping  local administrators and operators to better organize daily activities and prevent overcrowding in particular events. The platform was created as part of the industrial research project Polis-Eye[1], funded by the Region and the Development and Cohesion Fund and coordinated by GeoSmart Lab, in collaboration with ENEA (CROSS-TEC Laboratory of the Bologna Research Center), the universities of Bologna, Ferrara and Modena-Reggio Emilia and some local institutions and companies[2].

"With this first digital platform to support tourism, we offer local administrators and operators a tool to guarantee quality and sustainability of the activities related to food and wine, hiking and culture in our region", explained Arianna Brutti, ENEA researcher at the Cross Technologies for Urban and Industrial Districts Laboratory. "This is a high-tech project - she said - which employs machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, combined with big data and forecasting models. All this will contribute to innovate tourism services and, more generally, to support the development of cities and territories with a smart approach".

For the development and application of the web platform, between 2019 and 2020, over 16,000 events of various kinds and sizes were identified and categorized in 4,000 different places, such as the international ceramics fair, the food theme park FICO Eataly World, the museum network of Bologna Musei and the village of Dozza.

Thanks to the participation of Bologna Museums –The Institution, it was possible to analyze the number of yearly visitors to museums, galleries, villas and libraries in the Bologna area. The collection, analysis and processing of this type of data were related to the number of arrivals at the airport and presences extracted from aggregated telephone data. “The result is a base to define the best actions to be implemented, at an organizational and logistical level, in anticipation of greater or lesser inflows in the city and on the territory; moreover, it allows for the development of forecast models useful for the tourism and commercial sector and the definition of incoming policies”, pointed out Piero De Sabbata, head of the ENEA Cross Technologies for Urban and Industrial Districts Laboratory.

The medieval historic center of Dozza (Bologna), among the hundred "most beautiful villages in Italy", attracts many tourists every year, especially from abroad, to attend the most typical events of the area, such as the wine festival, the permanent exhibition and the new biennial of the painted wall. "Dozza, like many Italian municipalities, does not have adequate tools to monitor and manage a rapidly growing cultural tourism ", pointed out Carlo Petrovich, researcher at the same ENEA laboratory.

"Now, thanks to the project Polis-Eye, a specific agreement between ENEA and the municipal administration and a collaboration with Imola Faenza Tourist Company - he said - a network of sensors has been installed to collect data capable of supporting local administrators improve the organization of events and have more accurate data on tourist flows, while building tourist loyalty and rationalizing management of resources".

But among the objectives of Polys-Eye there is not only tourism. The lockdown measures for the containment of Covid-19 were a further opportunity for the project to apply its data aggregation technologies in everyday life: in fact, it allowed to outline the mobility behavior of the Emilia-Romagna citizens during the quarantine, also highlighting some aspects linked to environmental pollution.

In addition, the Polys-Eye platform was also combined with the project 'Covid Skunk' of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Department of Engineering Sciences and Methods and the AIRI center), which developed an innovative monitoring system to reduce the risk of contagion in public environments, using mobile phone data to notify mass gatherings in real time.

“Polys-Eye is relying on the collaboration among subjects collecting data to create new information and data-driven services up to now unthinkable or economically unsustainable. To this purpose it proposes standard models of representation and data collection for smart cities (urban datasets), available to the public, to allow new sources and services to interface easily with our platform and increase the information available to citizens and stakeholders of different sectors ”, said De Sabbata.

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Project Polis-Eye:

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[1] POLicy Support systEm for Smart citY data governancE

[2] The partners: GeoSmart Lab, CIRI ICT in Bologna, MechLav of the University of Ferrara, AIRI of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia; Lepida, Iscom Group, IF Imola Faenza Tourism Company, Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport, FICO Eataly World, Bologna Museums –The Institution.

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