Placed on – 12 October 2022

Smart Cities: Crowd Management and Privacy by Design

Smart Cities use data to improve safety, infrastructure, public utilities, services, and it can all be done while protecting privacy.
Smart Cities

By 2050, 68% of the world population will be living in cities (United Nations). This will create and worsen several societal challenges in areas such as energy efficiency, mobility, safety and sustainability.  

The awareness of this situation —combined with the awakening to the benefits and potential of leveraging advanced Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to improve lives— has led many governments in the world to develop a smart city strategy.  

“To encourage the development of smart cities, the European Commission has allocated 365 million euros.”

Smart Cities 

A smart city uses information and communication technologies to improve the services and livability for the benefit of its citizens and its visitors. So far, the smart city use-cases that have attracted the most attention have been public services like waste management and lighting, leaving crowd management lagging within the smart city domain.  

Still, highly populated and touristic cities get crowded, which often leads to unpleasant and unsafe situations, thus making crowd management one of the key areas that can benefit from IoT and AI.  

“Either around cities or at large events, crowd management demands a deep knowledge of the situation and the behaviors.” 

Crowd management in Smart Cities 

Crowd management —which is the ability to monitor and, if necessary, redirect groups of people— is key to provide the necessary safety and security in a city. In smart cities, IoT devices and computer vision are used to continuously gather real-time data (e.g., people density, crowd size, speed and direction), which is then analyzed to know when and how to act. Predictions —about the behavior of crowds in the near future— can then accurately be done through AI algorithms, thus allowing governmental authorities to create short-, mid- and long-term strategies for effective crowd management and city experience.   

These technologies can also be used during mass events (e.g., music festivals, sports events or tourist attractions), where crowd management issues tend to arise regularly demanding lots of manpower. Using IoT, computer vision and AI technology thus enables, through real-time insights, more efficient and secure crowd management.

Privacy-by-design 

The use of “smart” crowd management in cities can provide lots of benefits including, among others:  

  • efficiency, 
  • accessibility,  
  • enhanced living experiences, 
  • the relief of pain points, and 
  • improved infrastructure. 

Nevertheless, they can also raise privacy and surveillance concerns among the population. To address this issue, governments need to use technology that was designed with privacy in mind.  

At EVALAN, we create IoT and AI devices with security and privacy in mind from early design stages. In that sense, SmartEagle uses computer vision and AI at the edge, which does not gather data specific to individuals. Instead, it turns them into numbers for people counting and remains agnostic of who that person can be. Since all the processing is done on the device itself, and communication to the cloud involves only numbers, this technology achieves high data privacy and security. 

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