Helsinki is using sensors to monitor and analyze crowd movements in real time

·2-min read
Helsinki has posted a map online showing the concentrations of people in real time.

The city of Helsinki recently set up a new site showing the density of people present in its most frequented districts and streets in real time. This kind of tool could be used in the future in other large cities to help people plan their trips, avoiding crowded areas.

To make this possible, the Finnish capital has installed numerous sensors in all locations, with a strong focus on the city center and the areas that are usually the most popular with tourists. The data is collected from the Bluetooth signals of connected mobile devices, starting with smartphones. The Helsinki municipality claims that no personal information is collected and that absolutely no one is identified. It is simply a matter of calculating the concentration of people present in the same place at the same time.

And so this traffic map is continuously updated. While internet users can access it at any time and thus discover what areas are the densest at the moment, it also provides the municipality with a particularly interesting source of data: in addition to the flow of population, these sensors also indicate the various movements of crowd as well as the average time spent in each area. It should be noted that some companies or businesses use these types of sensors to monitor frequentation of their establishments.

In the city's view, this data should ultimately facilitate improved analysis of tourist behaviors, for example, knowing which monuments are the most visited, etc. In any case, studying traffic in this way should help the municipality adapt to the habits of people and to improve circulation of the population in the future in order to limit crowds in overly dense zones. This project is squarely aimed at improving safety and supporting the tourism industry.

Helsinki is believed to be the first city in the world to make such a heat map available to the public. Others may well follow, as cities around the world are capturing more data than ever before. In a similar vein, about a dozen lampposts have been equipped with video surveillance technology capable of monitoring the number of visitors and the concentration of people on the beaches of Barcelona at any given time.

Check out the Helsinki heat map: heatmap.fi/helsinki

David Bénard

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