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Crowd Management using AI and IoT

Crowd management is the ability to monitor and, where necessary, direct a group of people to ensure their safety. The same enabling technologies can also be used to help move people to their destination more efficiently and plan new services based on their behavior. Crowd management isn’t just restricted to people on foot. It can apply to people on public transport as well as people in cars. A full solution allows the city to see the movement of their citizens throughout the day, allowing better urban planning and resulting in improved satisfaction amongst city residents and visitors.

Crowd management technologies have moved on significantly over the past few years. Not so long ago, crowd management solutions relied on using video footage and facial recognition to count how many people were in certain areas. These expensive techniques have now largely been replaced by sensor technology. Mobile operators are now particularly well placed to provide tools that can be used for crowd management.
Tracking the location of mobile phones and analyzing data collected by mobile-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) sensors provides an extremely accurate way to monitor and manage crowds of people across all sorts of gatherings – whether they be in city centers, or in remote rural locations.


AI and IoT deployed for crowd safety management during COVID-19

Crowd safety management

One very good example is crowd safety management in city public transport systems. SAS has been working with a small group of specialist companies to offer an AIoT solution that works with existing infrastructure sensors, cameras and other data-generating devices in stations. This solution helps manage overcrowding, monitors passenger safety and optimises the experience for customers using public transport.

Public transport systems use SAS streaming analytics to capture data from different IoT devices and synchronise it with video feeds and audio from cameras with varying frame rates and image quality. This builds a composite picture of the current state of each platform. The composite data stream passes through decision flows, rules and inferenced analytics models, such as neural networks, to quickly identify any safety concerns or required action. It can even predict the likelihood of particular events taking place and proactively suggest action to mitigate them. What’s more, it includes built-in strict adherence to GDPR and personal data protection.

We are now using this same capability in a very different way to fight COVID-19. Instead of helping to monitor and manage crowd flows, we are focusing on managing the need for social distancing.

Why AI is the Best Option for Crowd Management and Crowd Control

Public gatherings are both challenging and exciting as much as they comprise a promise of mega-success they also present the threat of attacks or foot traffic congestion. The solution is in two words; crowd control, which is the art of monitoring, directing, and managing large groups of people with efficiency.

Artificial Intelligence systems and IoT have recently emerged with an automated form of crowd control. Enter smart crowd monitoring which uses intelligent technologies and tactics in controlling large crowds through detecting and ultimately preventing potential threats, optimizing the crowd flow, and shortening queues. Smart crowd monitoring technologies enhance safety, cut costs, and ensure a positive customer experience. They also empower event organizers to manage and optimize traffic flow through various venues.

One of the key features of AI-enabled crowd management is achieved by installing smart cameras with facial recognition software to help local authorities and identify certain suspicious individuals, identify abnormal or violent behavior and alert the authorities to any suspicious activity by comparing real-time video data against stored data of “normal movements and expressions”. On the other hand, infrared cameras track crowd densities and provide police officers and security guards with valuable insights to prevent harm and contain threatening situations.

Connected motion sensors that identify the busiest areas during sports and entertainment events can also determine when and where crowds are expected to move while informing event organizers of the location of barriers, street closure, and the nearest authority figure. Connected motion sensors solve problems such as traffic jams and crowded event venues by redistributing resources and creating a real-time map of attendees.

Other examples of AI-enabled crowd management technologies include bomb sensors and gunshot detection devices which are handy in fighting terrorism and riots. The most effective crowd management systems combine cameras, sensors, AI, data analytics, and situational awareness. Selecting the crowd management system of choice depends requires an accurate, actionable strategy with a focus on two factors: expected crowd densities and the surrounding environment where the crowded event or religious ritual takes place. More factors to take into consideration should be time spent until the technology is deployed, the cost of the smart crowd monitoring software of choice, as well as how impactful collected data is in determining dangers, averting threats, or simplifying complex processes.

An ideal crowd management system features a wide-area view of the location and detailed perspective on the points of interest; whether crowds, suspected individuals, or moving vehicles. It delivers the right information into the right hands at the right time.

The age of AI has arrived changing crowd management as everybody knows it in exciting and unpredictable ways. Event organizers and local authorities are getting accustomed to and dependent on it. AI will continue to influence their interaction with crowds and increase their understanding of how resources could be reallocated and chaos could be contained. One day it may be the main force behind holding large religious gatherings such as Hajj and visits to the Vatican or strategically plan major music concerts at stadiums. In the not too distant future, AI will be a core part of every individual’s daily routine.