Mobile operators are key partners for cities seeking to deploy sustainable crowd management solutions.
Internet of Things (IoT) solutions are increasingly becoming a staple of modern cities. Across the globe, city planners and service providers are realising that urban challenges can be overcome by using smart, connected services. This is being felt across multiple sectors: fundamental improvements in utilities, transport and waste management are improving the quality of services and saving costs in the process.
Mobile network operators, with their long history of providing connectivity and digital services, are a natural and crucial partner in the deployment of secure and reliable connected smart city solutions. The GSMA is working with mobile operators, governments and city councils to agree a common approach to smart city solutions that will deliver real, long-term benefits to businesses and citizens.
The GSMA smart cities initiative provides an array of resources which can assist governments, city planners and digital service providers in their quest to deploy connected solutions and create cities that are truly smart.
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 These expensive techniques have now largely been replaced by sensor technology.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 analysing 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 centres, or in remote rural locations.
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 behaviour. 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 analysing 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 centres, or in remote rural locations.
Uses for Crowd Management Technology
Crowd management solutions from mobile operators can be used for a wide variety of purposes. They can be used to monitor and analyse both crowds and transport – to identify how they move, how environments can be planned around them and the source of any issues or unusual behaviour. Mobile operators are well placed to offer these services using the information collected by their existing networks and by IoT sensors connected to mobile networks.
Operators can harness their existing coverage, their location-based services platforms and existing ways of collecting, storing and offering access to location data. By combining this network location data with their IoT management platforms, operators are able to offer a powerful and accurate crowd management service. Some of the different ways crowd management technologies can be applied are transport, transport hubs, sports and entertainment, retail. And Crowd management solutions can be broadly split into four different categories: NETWORK-LED, MOBILE PHONE-LED, PERSONAL/WEARABLE DEVICES, SENSOR-LED.
Putting a crowd management service into action
There are several criteria that a city or a location manager needs to understand before they are able to begin extracting value from a crowd management solution. A number of considerations come into making a decision as to which technology is going to be the best fit for a particular scenario.
-Expected crowd density
-Accuracy of location data needed
-Cost to obtain location data
-Location of area to be covered: urban/rural or indoors/outdoors
-Time to deploy
All of these factors will inform a decision as to which technology is most appropriate. In most cases, a crowd management solution will need to draw on a combination of network data and IoT sensor data, with some technologies offering a macro, wide area view of the city, and others offering a view of points of interest in finer detail. The more diversity in technologies that a city or venue is able to incorporate into their eventual deployment the more accurate a picture they will have.
The chart below indicates the most appropriate technologies for different use cases. Although these technologies are not restricted to this categorisation, it can become uneconomical to obtain the data if an inappropriate tool is used:
-IoT sensor-led – Using mobile-enabled IoT sensors, such as Bluetooth beacons or IP cameras, to monitor crowds.
-Wearables-led – Using wearable devices, such as RFID bracelets, to monitor a highdensity crowd.
-Device-led – Enabling a mobile phone to provide its location through GPS
-Mobile network-led – Using mobile network data to plot the position and activity of a crowd
The chart indicates the appropriate technology mix for different crowd management scenarios. An urban planner looking to understand the movement of people at a road junction may find mobile connected IoT sensors give the most accurate data, with mobile network data providing historic context, whereas a transport network covering a large area may find that mobile network data alone gives enough information to understand usage.
Cities and commercial venues should engage with mobile operators to understand these technologies in more detail. A crucial step in building out a crowd management service, whether it be for transport, safety or revenue opportunities, is to pilot a proof of concept that is limited in scope. This will allow the city or venue to understand the technology mix best suited to their requirements. As every location is different, the data analytics requirements will be unique to each deployment.
Again a city or venue should use a pilot to understand the types of data that need to be generated, and the analysis that needs to be conducted to ensure valuable insight is available after a larger scale deployment. Cities and venues should ensure that they have appropriate governance over any pilot, ideally overseen by a Chief Information or Innovation Officer, and are aware of how the local data privacy laws determine what data can be collected, used and stored.
Mobile operator capabilities for crowd management
As explained in this paper, mobile operators and their partner ecosystems are a key resource for organisations and cities looking to deploy crowd management solutions. They have direct access to relevant data sources from their own networks, are able to combine multiple data sources into one set of analytics with their data management platforms, and are able to directly manage and scale IoT sensors around a location or a city that may be needed to augment the mobile operator’s core capabilities.
The primary mobile operator and partner capabilities for crowd management are: DATA SOURCES, USE OF HISTORIC AND REAL-TIME DATA, DATA ANALYSIS, PREDICTIVE ANALYSIS, DATA PRIVACY.
Mobile operators have a track record of providing secure products and services to their customers. As crowd management is enabled by the tracking of people and their connected devices, privacy concerns can arise. Mobile operators have very clear policies on how they collect and use data from people to enable these services and ensure that trust is retained. Mobile operator policies cover the collection and use of identifiable data, storage of this data and access to this data, among other privacy issues. Operators are aware that even data that is not personally-identifiable needs to be treated with care, as any breach of data or trust could seriously damage an organisation’s reputation. The GSMA has published both IoT Security Guidelines and Mobile Privacy Guidelines, which can be applied to crowd management implementations.
New crowd management solutions for cities and large venues will improve the stakeholder experience and create efficiencies through better planning, both in the short term and longer term, by building a better understanding of how people move around a location. Today, cities and location managers should be evaluating how crowd management services can be effective in their local environment, and which issues it could help to solve. By piloting the service with a mobile operator, cities and location managers can work out the optimum mix of big data and IoT sensors necessary to provide adequate coverage of various points around a city or venue. The technology will highlight immediate opportunities for improvements in safety, and allow stakeholders to make substantial improvements to how events, transport networks and venues are managed in the future.
A CASE OF STUDY: BARCELONA
Although many people visit the site, only a small proportion actually pay to enter the Sagrada Familia, with many more only visiting the piazza outside. The city of Barcelona wants to track more precisely the number of visitors to the immediate area, so that it can plan transport networks accordingly, and encourage more visitors to actually pay to enter the cathedral.
Mobile World Capital has worked with the city to set up a series of mobile-enabled sensors around the site to track the number of visitors in total and the direction from which they approach the site. By deploying IoT-enabled sensors, Mobile World Capital have been able to provide the city with detailed information on the number of visitors to the piazza throughout the day and their arrival route, enabling transport modes to be analysed and the city to set up ticket booths at appropriate locations to encourage the sale of additional tickets to visitors outside the Sagrada Familia.
This local information has been combined with data from mobile operator Orange in an IoT Big Data framework to understand how these visitors move around the city as a whole, where they stay and the sites that they visit. The City of Barcelona can use these insights to plan appropriate measures to accommodate and transport the visitors.