CrowdScan, a spin-off from imec and the University of Antwerp, has developed a system that measures the density of a crowd in real-time using a wireless sensor network.
Based on six years of research at the University of Antwerp and imec, CrowdScan has developed a system to measure crowd densities without using camera images, mobile phone data or other privacy-sensitive information. By transmitting low-energetic radio waves (868 MHz), CrowdScan measures the average signal attenuation of a wireless sensor network relative to the empty environment.
The technology was validated at different large-scale events such as Tomorrowland. When the coronavirus crisis broke out, CrowdScan immediately realized the added value of the technology for helping society adapt to the new needs of social distancing. The business model was extended from services for event organizers to services for local governments and cities. In May 2020, a successful pilot project was launched to measure the size of groups on a bridge and a street near the MAS museum in Antwerp.
“There will be no mass events this summer, but the importance of accurate information on crowd densities has only increased since the coronavirus crisis”, says Ben Bellekens, CEO of CrowdScan. “By providing police and emergency services with accurate information on crowd densities, they can make fast, objective decisions. This can help cities guarantee social distancing at places where population density is high, like city streets, public events, or parks. CrowdScan also aims to make an online ‘crowd barometer’, to show population density at specific places”, says Bellekens.
“In Antwerp’s innovation ecosystem for metropolitanism and smart city, our university is focusing more than ever on value creation from research. To do this, we collaborate with the city government, local businesses and citizens. Open innovation hubs such as The Beacon facilitate this process by bringing people together and actively setting up projects that effectively benefit partners. That’s how CrowdScan grew into a startup that, due to the coronavirus crisis, became more relevant than ever”, says Silvia Lenaerts, Vice Rector Valorization & Development of the University of Antwerp.”