University of Antwerp and imec launch spin-off Crowdscan
CrowdScan, a spin-off from imec and the University of Antwerp in Belgium, 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 realised 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 organisers to services for local governments and cities. In May, 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. “We are proud to enable the creation of this spin-off together with the University of Antwerp,” says Jo De Boeck, CSO at imec. "Recently, the innovative technology has been optimised for use cases with high market potential and a noble social purpose. For example, CrowdScan now offers a concrete solution to the new challenges that cities are facing today. With the support of the imec.istart acceleration programme, the commercialisation of this technology will accelerate in the coming months."
"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 valorisation & development of the University of Antwerp. "This spin-off is a textbook example of how scientific research from the Faculty of Applied Engineering Sciences can actually generate an impact on society. As an entrepreneurial university, together with the City of Antwerp and imec, we have every reason to be proud."
Caption: CrowdScan can measure the density of a crowd in real-time using a wireless sensor network (photo: imec)