First responders are the ones who step into a situation – whether it is a natural disaster or a result of human error, in order to work out an evaluation on the crisis at hand so that they can figure out the best way to help, while being relevant to the context. Most of the time, first responders enter such situations with minimal information on the number of people there are in a particular affected area or location, and they would be greatly helped if they had a rough estimate on the number of people there. There is a way to do that, however, where scientists at England’s University of Warwick claim that accurate data on crowd sizes might be gathered via mobile phone companies as well as Twitter, and this is achieved without compromising on one’s privacy.
A computer model was developed by this group of scientists, who made use of information from mobile phone companies in Milan, Italy and Twitter, in order to come up with a guesstimate on how large the crowd is in a particular area. It makes sense, really, as all phone users will remain connected to a grid of relay antennas, and hence, whenever there is a large group of people using their respective mobile devices, it will result in a spike in activity picked up by the nearest antenna.
The group of scientists believe that “being able to infer the number of people in a specific area is of extreme importance for the avoidance of crowd disasters and to facilitate emergency evacuations.” Hopefully they can perfect or refine this particular process in due time.