The Pathfinders – On the Path to Solution

This is the 2nd blog post of The Pathfinders. We are the group working with the City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki to solve the trampling problem of urban nature areas. Our current problem formulation is: How to digitally monitor and limit the degradation of footpaths due to human activity in nature areas in Helsinki?

Today we had a (remote) meeting with our partners and mentors. We presented them with our best solutions for the challenge;

-Set cameras at a certain distance and periodically take photos to track changes in paths. Photos taken by the users would complement this.

-Bluetooth tracking

-Educational campaign

-Mobile app

-Prevent off-trailing: Fallen logs + thick edges with abundant trees and bushes + covering the unwanted paths

-Robot doggies for the kick to get people interested + monitoring

With our solutions, we want to both monitor and prevent trampling. Here’s what our partners thought. The main comments we received from our partners and mentors were mostly positive and they stated that they really enjoyed many of our ideas and some of them were ideas they had thought of before but never pursued. The most praise was for our Bluetooth tracking idea as they had thought of this previously and we validated the fact it was a good idea through our past research as well as our communications with our experts. We received lots of constructive criticism on our ideas, such as: 1) Us trying to find more background research/past studies on using mobile phones for pictures and data as this would help to validate this idea more. 2) They also talked to us about calculating the financial yield of the solutions we presented. This is probably one of the main hurdles we have come across as a team so far, as our partners hadn’t given us an explicit budget to work with, but we will keep in mind that we don’t want something too expensive to implement whether this be through the original implementation costs or through the maintenance afterward. 3) We also got feedback on our idea of using cameras for monitoring and were given some questions facing the legality of this and whether it was too harsh of an option to be constantly monitoring people? Thus, through our team discussion and with help of our partners we decided we could modify option 1 so that the cameras wouldn’t be a permanent fixture all over the park but only monitor on some days and only be fixated in certain spots in the nature areas.

It was also a pleasure to meet our new mentor Jukka Lehtonen. We were relieved to hear that our work made sense for a person, who hasn’t heard about it earlier. He gave us a lot of valuable feedback considering our work. E.g. going through our solutions this far and listing the pros and cons of them, which would clarify our next steps in this project. Also a pro tip for the future was to introduce our backgrounds while doing a presentation of our work, which gives a better idea of our process for the listener.

Next, we are trying to concentrate on monitoring the changes in the paths with the first idea of using drones and cameras. The preventing part, on the other hand, will probably be made up of a campaign that combines social media and website/app. Let’s see what we can come up with!

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