New York: Researchers have conducted the world's first automated mass-crowd count with the help of a software that can speedily scan aerial photographs of the crowd.
Counting large-scale crowd has been a long, tedious process involving people examining aerial photographs one at a time.
Till now, each photograph had to be divided into sections and the examiners counted the number of heads per inch.
Now, the University of Central Florida (UCF) software promises to automate the process and cut down the time dramatically, from up to a week to 30 minutes, giving critical information to organisers while planning for events or responding to emergencies.
UCF's test run was conducted in September when thousands of demonstrators along a 3.2 mile stretch of Barcelona were calling for independence of the Catalonia province from Spain. Using the new software, 67 aerial images of different sections were analysed.
The programme came up with a total count for each of the images within 30 minutes. The images and calculations were then sent to Pompeu Fabra University in Spain, where statistics professor Albert Satorra led a team reviewing the data.
Using UCF results for the images, they concluded the count for the entire crowd at about 530,000.
That number is well below the count claimed by rally organisers, said Haroon Idrees, a post-doctoral associate at the UCF centre who conducted the analysis that was sent to Satorra.
"Automated computer analysis of such large-scale and dense crowd has never been done before," said Mubarak Shah, computer science professor and director of the centre.
"We will continue to push the envelope of state-of-the-art technology in crowd analysis so that it can help the authorities and government manage real time safety of large crowd and perform post-event analysis," Shah added.