Stay organized with collections Save and categorize content based on your preferences.

Echo Investment: Improving urban spaces with AI Computer Vision and Google Cloud

About Echo Investment

Echo Investment is one of Poland’s largest developers, with 30 years of experience in office, retail, and residential real estate projects.

Industries: Real Estate & Construction
Location: Poland

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Aioniq

Aioniq is a full-service software house using technology and innovation to enable data-driven growth for clients across multiple industries.

With TensorFlow and BigQuery, Echo Investment and Aioniq built a solution that provides accurate, foot traffic information to gain valuable insights into crowd behavior and use them to boost strategic decisions for tenants and improve future investments.

Google Cloud results

  • Accelerates data-driven decision-making with insights into crowd behavior using computer vision and BigQuery
  • Maintains the highest standards of data security by keeping images separate from the main cloud, and anonymizing data
  • Provides more accuracy, at greater scale, at a fraction of the cost than a manual survey

Monitors foot traffic in real-time 24/7

Echo Investment is one of the biggest developers in Poland and creates buildings that provide a sense of independence, convenience and security, whether that’s new apartment blocks or contemporary office spaces. The company is responsible for the development of cities such as Warsaw, Lodz, and Krakow, and needs to understand the impact its buildings have and how they are being used by people.

"We are obsessed with the user experience," says Waldemar Olbryk, CEO, Archicom, the residential arm of Echo Investment. While he is nominally attached to Archicom, Olbryk’s remit is to find ways that technology can help add value to the wider business. "Very often, developers will build the project, sell it, and move on. But we want to learn how our buildings are used, well after we have finished building them, and bring those lessons to new projects," he says. "I call it DevOps for real estate, powered by technology."

In 2021, Echo Investment unveiled Warsaw Breweries, a large, mixed-use development in the Polish capital’s historic Wola quarter. The company wanted to provide its tenants, especially the restaurants, with more insights about the way that people were using the space. Google Cloud helped to answer that question.

"The business need for our project with Google Cloud came from the marketing department," says Dominika Telega-Baldyga, Marketing Manager, Echo Investment. "We wanted to monitor foot traffic throughout the Warsaw Breweries complex and show our tenants, particularly our restaurants, and investors exactly how people were moving and responding to the space."

"The business need for our project with Google Cloud came from the Marketing Department. We wanted to use machine learning to monitor foot traffic throughout the Warsaw Breweries complex and show our retail tenants and investors exactly how people were moving and responding to the space."

Dominika Telega-Baldyga, Marketing Manager, Echo Investment

The challenge of complex environments

Warsaw Breweries is an urban space combining dozens of retail outlets, 50,000 square meters of office space, more than 1,000 residential apartments and 1.8 hectares of green space. Due to its size and complexity, it’s hard to monitor foot traffic successfully. The task is made even harder by the fact that it is an open development, with no one entrance or exit where one could make a definitive headcount of everyone who passes by.

Traditionally, this kind of traffic monitoring is carried out manually but is very limited in scope. "With a manual count of traffic, it’s very time consuming and expensive to hire people to carry out a survey. You are also dependent on the skill of the individuals carrying out the survey," says Telega-Baldyga. "There’s a lot of scope for error, so you can’t get many insights from this approach, and it is too expensive to run it 24/7 and 365 days a year."

Some months after the first tenants arrived at Warsaw Breweries, Echo Investment wanted to find a way to automatically monitor foot traffic, with a high level of accuracy, explains Talega-Baldyga. "It was vital for us to get data like this so we could show our tenants, and potential future tenants, exactly how big a foot traffic they could expect," she says. "It’s one of the things that will set us apart from our competitors."

After meeting representatives from Google Cloud, Olbryk began looking for ways to experiment with cloud computing in the real estate environment. The issue of traffic monitoring in the Warsaw Breweries project seemed like the ideal kind of problem to try and solve with technology.

While it has a reputation for innovation and a willingness to experiment, Echo Investment always looks for partners with openness and deep expertise. The company was looking for tools with creative business value, enabled by digital solutions, that have real benefits for users, customers, and the company itself.

Machine learning for monitoring foot traffic

Teaming up with Google Cloud partner Aioniq was a necessary precursor to the project. "We knew we could trust the expertise of Aioniq to help get this project off the ground," says Olbryk. Echo Investment began building its traffic monitoring solution in late 2021, starting with the installation of five cameras, strategically placed across the Warsaw Breweries site. These cameras stream the images of the site for computing on the edge, rather than uploading to the Cloud, in order to ensure there is no further image processing.

Each image is then passed through an AI algorithm built in TensorFlow, the open source machine learning and artificial intelligence library developed at Google. The algorithm detects the shape of each person in an image and turns that visual information into anonymized data. The computing device on the edge then push the data every minute to BigQuery, which acts as a highly scalable data warehouse and analytics platform. During especially busy periods, the company uses Cloud Scheduler and Cloud Functions to process the data and minimize the statistical errors that occur at greater volume.

With BigQuery and Looker Studio, users at Echo Investment can run reports and create dashboards, helping them to make sense of the data. "We run three levels of reports with Looker Studio: the year-to-date, monthly, and daily," says Michal Puterman, Managing Director, Aioniq, and one of the primary architects of the traffic monitoring platform for Echo Investment. "That means we can very quickly and clearly get a sense of where the trends are headed in the short, medium, and long term. This enables Marketing of Echo Investment to make correct decisions relying on solid data."

"With Looker Studio, we run three levels of reports: the year-to-date, monthly, and daily. That means we can very quickly and clearly get a sense of where the trends are headed in the short, medium, and long term."

Michal Puterman, Managing Director, Aioniq

Showing the value of a development over its life cycle

With the help of Google Cloud and Aioniq, Echo Investment’s new solution has provided it with unprecedented insight into the way people move through its spaces. Thanks to the volume of data that the new platform can collect, Echo Investment can accurately monitor foot traffic for tens of thousands of visitors in real-time. This information is aggregated to hourly updates, showing how quickly the population can change over a small amount of time. "When we have busy evenings, for instance at a concert or event, we can see the population rise from 5,000 to as many as 50,000 people very quickly," says Telega-Baldyga. "A lot can change in an hour!"

By keeping the image and machine learning recognition models stored on the cameras at the "edge" of the cloud environment, Echo Investment is able to reap the benefits of this windfall of information without compromising the personal data of the people who are captured within it. "Security has been a huge priority for us and our partners," says Olbryk. "It took a lot of time and effort to make sure we had the right security setup but with this technology stack and architecture we were able to achieve it."

Echo Investment now has a 24/7, accurate, real-time picture of foot traffic in one of its largest and most complex urban spaces. This has all been done at a tiny fraction of the cost it would take to carry out a manual survey of the area, which couldn’t be done continuously and would be so inaccurate as to be almost useless in comparison.

"With Google Cloud, we can share more detailed, granular insights with our retail tenants. We can run experiments about how best to drive traffic to particular areas. We can also use these insights to improve our own work and show future investors the value of our projects over their entire life cycle."

Waldemar Olbryk, CEO, Archicom

While it is too early to say exactly how successful the "experiment" with Google Cloud and Warsaw Breweries has been, the signs are promising. "Foot traffic is our primary KPI for this experiment," says Telega-Baldyga. "Having this data we can be better equipped for the planning and effectiveness of our marketing activities."

Over the course of 2022, the developer will install more cameras to improve its accuracy even further. But Echo Investment has done more than just improve the scale and speed of a manual survey. The breadth of coverage from the cameras and the ability to analyze them quickly, means that not only can the developer track entrances and exits to Warsaw Breweries, but also movement within the space itself, creating a powerful new kind of data. It is these groundbreaking insights that open the door to new ways of developing urban spaces and building relationships with partners.

"With Google Cloud, we can as well share more detailed, granular information with our tenants. We can run new experiments about how best to drive traffic to particular areas," says Olbryk. "We can also use these insights to improve our own work and show future investors the value of our projects over their entire life cycle and for any other project as inspiration and lessons learned."

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Echo Investment

Echo Investment is one of Poland’s largest developers, with 30 years of experience in office, retail, and residential real estate projects.

Industries: Real Estate & Construction
Location: Poland

About Aioniq

Aioniq is a full-service software house using technology and innovation to enable data-driven growth for clients across multiple industries.