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Sometimes it’s fun to be in crowds, and sometimes it isn’t. You might enjoy the shared excitement of your team competing in the All-Ireland, but not the long queues for refreshments at half time. Keeping people moving freely around a stadium is something of an art, but a project at the Insight Data Analytics SFI Research Centre is seeking to bring artificial intelligence (AI) to the challenge at Croke Park in Dublin. 

The research is applying AI to analyse video and other data in real time, to help route people safely around the stadium and reduce bottlenecks and queues.

Dr Suzanne Little, an Assistant Professor at Dublin City University School of Computing and a Funded Investigator at Insight Data Analytics SFI Research Centre, explains, “We are using existing infrastructure such as CCTV footage and sensors on turnstiles to capture data about the movements of crowds around the stadium. The research is looking to improve the algorithms or computer programs to count the numbers of people and estimate the density of crowds at particular locations, and to learn from past patterns of crowd movements. In this way the AI can highlight important information to deliver to the staff who can re-route people and keep the crowds moving, thereby helping people to have a pleasant experience."

The research is under the umbrella of the Smart Stadium Project, which is a collaboration between Insight, Dublin City University, Croke Park, Microsoft Ireland and Intel, and what we learn from the project can be applied to other public spaces where people gather, notes Dr Little. “The same kind of AI could be useful for places where humans tend to aggregate and move around, such as shopping centres, airports and plazas. So the Smart Stadium work we are doing with AI can hopefully benefit not only the fans going to matches and concerts, but also have an impact on the technology underlying smart cities.”