CityFlows is an EIT Urban Mobility flagship project bringing together a diverse consortium of partners to launch a state-of-the-art Crowd Management Decision-Support System (CM-DSS) to improve the safety and comfort of busy pedestrian spaces. The recent launch of City Analytics, a start-up licensing the CityFlows CM-DSS software to government authorities, represents a major project milestone. City Analytics will boost the quality of pedestrian spaces, a timely development as cities look for reliable tools that can help them respond to the Corona crisis. Find out more by reading this extended article below.
The safety and comfort of pedestrian spaces influences the quality of life in cities, but crowding can limit these gains. In recent years, a few European universities and municipalities have developed techniques to actively monitor crowd movements and proactively manage crowded spaces using real-time decision support systems. These pilot programs have shown that effective crowd management can substantially improve the liveability and sustainability of densely populated urban areas. Yet, at the beginning of 2020, there was no state-of-the-art CM-DSS ready for large-scale deployment.
This is the challenge that a diverse consortium of partners set out to address in the EIT Urban Mobility project, CityFlows. The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) and its founding member Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), brought together researchers and practitioners in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Milan who have expertise in state-of-the-art sensor techniques, crowd management, governmental regulation, European privacy regulation, machine learning, data analytics and valorization of research output. This consortium consists of AMS Institute, TU Delft, as well as the city of Amsterdam, ALTRAN, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech (UPC), the city of Barcelona, ENEA, the city of Milan and AMAT.
Shortly after the project launched in January 2020, the partners experienced a massive set-back in the wake of Covid-19 emergency, with Milan being particularly hard hit. The initial timelines and scope of the project were challenged as large events were cancelled and tourist crowds disappeared. Despite these set-backs, the partners persevered, adapting to the new reality. In this article the partners share an update as the project reaches an important milestone.
Living Lab Projects
A key desired outcome of the CityFlows project is to boost the quality and accessibility of urban space through different living lab projects in the three partner cities of Amsterdam, Milan and Barcelona. Through these city-scale demonstrator projects, the CityFlows CM-DSS software developed by TU Delft and ALTRAN is being tested to illustrate the overall impact of the system and provide management strategies for various types of crowded spaces. These “living lab” projects are also integral to testing design assumptions and validating the software in different real-life contexts.
The first living lab project was planned at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruijff ArenA and was supposed to take place during the UEFA EURO 2020 soccer championship which has been postponed to 2021. The aim of this living lab is to showcase and evaluate the use of the CityFlows CM-DSS software during large sporting events. The software features a sensor system, including 2D sensors, that will be further built up using data from other sources. The system is fully operational and ready for testing once large sporting events can take place again. Additionally, the CM-DSS has also been adjusted for Covid-19 management, providing insights into levels of crowdedness and social distancing behavior in the area.
Similarly, the Amsterdam Covid-19 living lab represents an alteration to the original project which was supposed to manage crowds during the large-scale SAIL event that was cancelled. Instead, partners have adapted the operational crowd-monitoring system to monitor social distancing at several busy locations. Real-time data is produced and analyzed by city officials on a daily basis, helping to inform social-distancing measures and communications with the public through dashboards.
Meanwhile, the Barcelona living lab will produce simulations that predict the human behavior around Sagrada Familia. Data regarding flow dynamics will be collected primarily through RFID technology, providing the input for simulations which will eventually be used to redesign the pedestrian space surrounding Sagrada Familia. The pilot is currently in the final design stages and will be fully deployed in 2021.
The Milan Central Station living lab will be testing 5G technology through the set-up of a real-time crowd movement assessment system featuring highly sophisticated computer vision techniques. The municipality, ENEA and ALTRAN have designed a pilot using historical and real-time data collected by fixed and mobile sensors to feed the analysis of the crowd evolution inside the station. Moreover, the partners are developing an innovative 5G sensor system that analyzes and classifies pedestrian movements in CCTV images.
Launching City Analytics
The CityFlows consortium recently reached a key milestone with the launch of City Analytics. This start-up is a vehicle for turning the CityFlows CM-DSS into a license-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) software package available to managers of pedestrian spaces (i.e. public spaces, train stations, event grounds, shopping malls, schools). Compared to its main competitors, the City Analytics software package is hardware independent, cloud-based, highly scalable, GDPR-proof and above all, highly customizable to the user’s needs. In the coming year, City Analytics will further develop the business case, and also connect other modes of transport, including bicycle flows, car flows and public transport. The software package has been available to serve interested parties since the beginning of December.
Knowledge & Educational Activities
A key consideration in launching the CityFlows CM-DSS on a large scale is ensuring that system operators have access to the right knowledge and information to use it effectively. For this reason CityFlows partners are developing an impact assessment of the deployment of the CityFlows CM-DSS for various types of crowded places.
Additionally, an educational package considering innovative crowd-management decision-support systems is being developed. This package will be hosted open-access on the CityFlows website. Since September, three CityFlows webinars have been hosted bringing together project partners and the broader crowd-management community. Recaps and recordings of those webinars are available on the CityFlows website and a fourth webinar is planned for December 15th on the topic of 5G applications for crowd-management. Project partners will continue to develop educational activities into 2021, showcasing the results and lessons learned from the different living lab projects and other best practices for crowd-management. Researchers and practitioners working on innovative crowd-management projects are invited to share their work with this growing community of crowd-management professionals.
The CityFlows project has already achieved impressive results. Despite initial delays due to the Corona emergency, living lab projects in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Milan are well under way. And, with the launch of the City Analytics start-up, the CityFlows CM-DSS is ready to scale, thereby helping boost the quality of pedestrian spaces across Europe and internationally. This is more urgent than ever, especially as cities are looking for tools which can help them keep Covid-19 under control in the upcoming months.
To learn more about the CityFlows project visit www.cityflows-project.eu or contact: