Smart Parks

Impact Area: Green Economy

Institution: Connected Communities Research Lab, Lancaster University Management School

Leading Academic: Professor Juliana Sutanto, Professor Edward Truch

Project background

A Smart Park is a national or urban park whose operations are enhanced by effective use of smart technologies - and in particular the Internet of Things (IoT) - for the benefit of its stakeholders. The aim is to encourage innovation across a broad range of aspects, including enhancing the tourist economies, visitor experiences, wellbeing of residents whilst contributing substantially to the protection of natural landscapes, biodiversity, wildlife and the environment.

The Smart Park research programme of the Connected Communities Research Lab at Lancaster University Management School is developing the Smart Park model and provides advice to support policy-making and the implementation of the smart dimensions. The Smart Park research involved a comprehensive literature review, discussions with academic and industry subject experts, professional institutions and systems suppliers. These were supplemented by workshops with the park management strategic planning teams.


The starting point for a Smart Park is a conceptual model developed by drawing on the latest information systems and sensing devices. A park-wide IoT platform constitutes the core of the Smart Park and consists of eight hierarchical levels (L1 to L8) of technology. The composite structure starts with devices (L1) that produce and receive data (L2). The data is transmitted via connectivity channels (L3) to and from the IoT platforms (L4) which comprise data centres.

The solutions layer (L5) addresses specific requirements through software applications for smartphone and other interactive display devices that enable users to carry out everyday tasks such as route planning, booking taxis and hotels to managing more complex business processes remotely. Data analytics techniques (L6) generate additional results so that people and computers supported by artificial intelligence (L7) can develop actionable insights that support decision-making.

The top tier of the IoT stack (L8) represents an intelligence level that enables smart management of the whole park organisation with all stakeholders working collaboratively to form a park-wide neural network that enables sense-making from the vast array of data continuously generated. The end result is a deeper understanding of the functioning of the park as a whole and more actionable insights for the park management teams and other stakeholders.

Benefits and impact

Through shared systems and services, park managements and businesses can operate more effectively than they can alone. The supply and demand modelling integrated with real-time forecasting of consumer behavior can enable new levels of efficient resource planning and dynamic pricing by establishments such as attractions, eateries and accommodation providers. This enhanced capability for continuous innovation can lead to new business models, new product and service development and operational efficiencies.

The Smart Park report provided the basis of a successful National Lottery Fund bid of £100,000 by the Lake District Foundation, demonstrating the Management School’s intellectual capital for generating research with practical outcomes. The Smart Park related research and strategic planning support has also contributed towards the decision by the Mayor of London to declare London as the World’s first National Park City and allocate over £12m to park projects around the Capital.

Sources of research funding: Lake District National Park Authority (£10,000) and John Muir Trust and Lake District Estates (£2,375)