Smart Crowd Tech Makes Mass Events Safe Again
- By Lachlan Colquhoun
- November 13, 2023
Just before this year’s Halloween celebrations in Seoul, a group of people jostled each other in a crowded alleyway.
On this occasion, fortunately, there was no repeat of the 2022 tragedy, which claimed the lives of 159 mainly young people in the alleyway crush in the Itaewon nightlife district.
This time, the exercise was a safety drill as emergency services agencies and city officials showcased an AI-backed network of around 1,000 closed-circuit cameras, which have been installed to detect and issue alerts when crowding becomes too dangerous.
Sadly, these measures have come too late to prevent last year’s disaster. Still, they are part of the widespread response after the stinging criticism of Seoul's preparedness for events of this kind.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) leads the technology-driven response by implementing a detection system that automatically detects crowd density through security cameras and informs of any sign of risk.
If a high crowd density is detected, it sends an alert to SMG's district disaster prevention and safety situation room, the fire department, and the police.
Vueron Technology, a leading LiDAR perception solution provider, installed the systems, which has been testing its on-site crowd analysis for several months leading up to Halloween.
Vueron conducted a one-month on-site proof of concept in a bustling alley of Ikseon-dong, with a daily traffic volume of over 12,000 people.
The successful validation of advanced functionalities, including congestion-based alarms and night-time object detection, demonstrated the solution's efficacy.
Halloween passed without significant incident in Seoul this year, partly due to the implementation of Smart Crowd Analytics (SCA).
Seoul is not the only city using SCA, a technology application on a significant growth curve.
According to research accessed on the Research and Markets platform, the global AI in video surveillance market is poised for exponential growth, projected to be valued at USD5.6 billion in 2023 and anticipated to reach USD16.3 billion by 2028, equating to a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23.7%.
The surge in demand for advanced video analytics is the catalyst for this growth, driven by the quest for more efficient and accurate surveillance capabilities.
The global video surveillance AI market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 23.7% by 2028.
SCA aggregates data from cameras, sensors, smartphone beacons, LED displays, and standees to deliver analysis, which can be used for safety and to drive better service delivery, marketing, sales, and site selection for businesses.
In Texas, for example, the Major League Baseball team, the Texas Rangers, incorporated many aspects of SCA into their new purpose-built stadium, re-inventing the business operation and fan experience.
Real-time updates during the game deliver information on which gates are busiest so staff can be deployed.
The system also delivers which merchandise items—and their sizes—are being sold, how many hot dogs are being sold per minute, and the availability of paper towels in restrooms.
The system delivers a full report on all business operations one hour after the game has ended.
Also, NTT IndyCar is adding to the customer experience in U.S. sports through Smart Venue technology.
On a race day in Indiana, the venue can draw upwards of 350,000 fans and temporarily be the second-largest city in the state.
For fans, an app delivers real-time insights into decisions made by teams during the race.
The AI from Smart Venue also delivers complete visibility of the venue to the operations staff every 30 seconds at better than 90% accuracy.
Like the Texas Rangers, the Indy race uses optical detection technologies combined with real-time entry gate flow rate data, allowing the organization to monitor crowds and traffic and generate insights about congestion at specific gates and tunnels using predictive analytics.
The Australian city of Darwin is combining environmental and climate monitoring with crowd analysis.
The city is in the second phase of its 'Switching on Darwin' transformation. It uses environmental and noise sensors to monitor weather and climate changes, microclimate sensors to collect data on CO2 levels, and water and energy monitoring sensors to improve efficient resource use.
Other technologies include free public WiFi, advanced CCTV capabilities, video analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, some of which will be used to track mobile phone signals to manage crowds and analyze people's movement patterns.
This data will then be aggregated on a centralized data platform able to analyze and visualize data to inform decision-making.
Another ethical dilemma
The increased use of this technology has obvious benefits for government authorities, venue operations, and law and order. But it also raises inevitable questions about the ethics of surveillance and privacy rights.
On the one hand, Seoul's use of Smart Crowd Analytics is motivated entirely by the safety priority. In Darwin, there are claims that the technology will be used to intensify the policing of already marginalized indigenous communities.
The prominent example, often cited, is in China, where surveillance is widespread and AI is used to map social unrest.
That is one end of the spectrum, while at the other end, there is the enhanced experience for motor racing fans at Indy events where the same technology is used in a customer-facing application.
With so many of these innovations, the issue is not the technology itself but how it is used by humans.
Lachlan Colquhoun is the Australia and New Zealand correspondent for CDOTrends and the NextGenConnectivity editor. He remains fascinated with how businesses reinvent themselves through digital technology to solve existing issues and change their business models. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/Dmytro Varavin