Crowd density estimation provides organisers with valuable information

Festivals and other large-scale events attract many people, but organisers often lack insight into the number of people attending the event and their movements. A crowd density monitoring system amed 'MensenMassaMeter', developed by UAntwerp and imec, is going to change that.

Information about the size and density of crowds can be invaluable to the organisers of large-scale events – from a commercial point of view, but also for safety reasons. Sometimes a whole crowd starts moving, for example to go see a popular artist perform on one of the stages. Without detailed information, it's very difficult for emergency services to make the right decisions instantly. Today they use cameras, but these images can be very difficult to interpret due to interference from smoke or bright flashes of light.

The crowd density monitoring system can therefore be a valuable tool for both emergency services and organisers. "With the help of sensors placed around the venue, our wireless device can give us a good indication of the number of people present, along with other information," says Prof. Maarten Weyn, associated with UAntwerp and imec. "Every person present, even a child, exerts an influence on the radio frequency waves emitted by ... waves, which carries a low-power signal that was emitted by our wireless devices. That's what the system is based on. We don't need cameras, nor do we use the signals from people's smartphones. Privacy laws don't allow that anyway."  

Taking weather forecasts into account
In recent months, the crowd density meter was tested extensively at major festivals and events, such as Tomorrowland and StuDay. "The test phase went according to plan," says Ben Bellekens (UAntwerp/imec). "During the six festival days of Tomorrowland, we performed measurements at five different locations in De Schorre, using 215 sensors and 6 gateways. We picked up 120 signals per second."

"We want to develop the technology further and take more data into account," says Bellekens. "For example, we’re looking to include elements such as the weather forecast, the artist line-up, or the number of purchases made per minute with a contactless payment system. In the next phase, our crowd density meter can be deployed widely at large festivals and in cities."


Innovative technology put into practice
The crowd density monitoring system is a prime example of an innovative technology leading to concrete applications. So it's only logical that the technology is featured in an episode of Z-Innovation on the Belgian television channel 'Kanaal Z'. Over the course of ten episodes, the University of Antwerp and its partners (the City of Antwerp, POM Antwerp and Voka Antwerp-Waasland) illustrate how researchers, companies, policymakers, investors and citizens make Antwerp a unique place where open innovation can thrive.

Z-Innovation, every Thursday evening on Kanaal Z. The episode airing on Thursday 17 October will feature the 'MensenMassaMeter' and the scale-up PlayPass, an innovator in the field of contactless payments.