Smart crowds in smart cities: real life, city scale deployments of a smartphone based participatory crowd management platform

Tobias FrankePaul Lukowicz and Ulf Blanke at the Journal of Internet Services and Applications: “Pedestrian crowds are an integral part of cities. Planning for crowds, monitoring crowds and managing crowds, are fundamental tasks in city management. As a consequence, crowd management is a sprawling R&D area (see related work) that includes theoretical models, simulation tools, as well as various support systems. There has also been significant interest in using computer vision techniques to monitor crowds. However, overall, the topic of crowd management has been given only little attention within the smart city domain. In this paper we report on a platform for smart, city-wide crowd management based on a participatory mobile phone sensing platform. Originally, the apps based on this platform have been conceived as a technology validation tool for crowd based sensing within a basic research project. However, the initial deployments at the Notte Bianca Festival1 in Malta and at the Lord Mayor’s Show in London2 generated so much interest within the civil protection community that it has gradually evolved into a full-blown participatory crowd management system and is now in the process of being commercialized through a startup company. Until today it has been deployed at 14 events in three European countries (UK, Netherlands, Switzerland) and used by well over 100,000 people….

Obtaining knowledge about the current size and density of a crowd is one of the central aspects of crowd monitoring . For the last decades, automatic crowd monitoring in urban areas has mainly been performed by means of image processing . One use case for such video-based applications can be found in, where a CCTV camera-based system is presented that automatically alerts the staff of subway stations when the waiting platform is congested. However, one of the downsides of video-based crowd monitoring is the fact that video cameras tend to be considered as privacy invading. Therefore,  presents a privacy preserving approach to video-based crowd monitoring where crowd sizes are estimated without people models or object tracking.

With respect to the mitigation of catastrophes induced by panicking crowds (e.g. during an evacuation), city planners and architects increasingly rely on tools simulating crowd behaviors in order to optimize infrastructures. Murakami et al. presents an agent based simulation for evacuation scenarios. Shendarkar et al. presents a work that is also based on BSI (believe, desire, intent) agents – those agents however are trained in a virtual reality environment thereby giving greater flexibility to the modeling. Kluepfel et al. on the other hand uses a cellular automaton model for the simulation of crowd movement and egress behavior.

With smartphones becoming everyday items, the concept of crowd sourcing information from users of mobile application has significantly gained traction. Roitman et al. presents a smart city system where the crowd can send eye witness reports thereby creating deeper insights for city officials. Szabo et al. takes this approach one step further and employs the sensors built into smartphones for gathering data for city services such as live transit information. Ghose et al. utilizes the same principle for gathering information on road conditions. Pan et al. uses a combination of crowd sourcing and social media analysis for identifying traffic anomalies….(More)”.