Whether you are running away from the crowds due to the pandemic or moving towards them to protest we have an idea for you.
Problem: Too many NYer's crowding in popular areas. No access to information on how populated an area is and if the 6ft required distance is available.
Solution: Develop a tool, similar to Google Maps traffic pattern tool, but show population density. Include stats informing peak hours, capacity, and other vital information to keep distance measures in place. Delivery this information in real-time with preventative measures to overcrowding as opposed to contacting once already exposed, aka contact tracing.
IoT solution: NYC can install sensors, movement detection on entrances or Bluetooth for outdoor locations, to detect how many people came in vs how many people left in a period of time. The number of people present at any moment in the venue is a simple subtraction of the two numbers.
Mobile app solution: (For venues with security at the door): Another solution for venues that have security at the door, the security person can have a mobile app that counts people in and out. That information can be relayed in real-time to the cloud that the public can access in real-time. The number of people currently present in the venue can be made available to the general public on a publicly accessible mobile app or website.
The technologies needed to build such applications are readily available, such as iOS and Android SDKs (Software Development Kits), cloud computing for APIs, Raspberry Pi for IoT solutions, and sensors.
Challenges: The biggest challenge for this type of project is to get businesses and municipalities to opt-in.
The business opt-in challenge could be solved in multiple ways:
Regulations: if the government deems this technology very important for public safety, businesses and venues won’t have a choice but to implement it.
Existing distribution channels: partnering with companies that have relationships with all venues to sell this solution to their existing customers. An example of this is could be Yelp or Google Maps, with their vast reach to all types of venues.
AI and cameras for body recognition: With the advancement of AI and especially Vision AI (recognizing objects in images) one potential solution to the problem of crowded spaces could come from security cameras.
Since security cameras are running 24/7, an AI system could be scanning the captured frames and analyzing them to detect the number of people in the image. The number detected could be sent to a server in the cloud that allows customers to access the information remotely and in real-time.
This solution will need to be implemented with a lot of caution, as to only detect human bodies without running any scans to recognize the people in the image frames, otherwise, regulators and privacy advocates will come running after the developers.
Another challenge that this could face is the willingness of security camera installers to allow a third party to tap into the feed, in which case, the security cameras companies could elect to integrate this solution as part of their existing solution. A startup could build an AI solution to detect the number of people in images and license it to security companies for integration.
Conclusion: The once common phrase, "Information is power," needs an update. "Verified, real-time information is power. Too much, unfiltered information is noise." We have all the tools available to give people vital, lifesaving information. Now we just need to fit the puzzle pieces together to make it useful to the masses. Help pass this idea and other sustainable solutions to those who can help. Sharing is caring.
Contributing writer: Amine Bellajdel - is the co-founder of Ethycally, the marketplace for ethical fashion that gives back to ethical causes.
Amine has more than 15 years of experience working with advanced technologies. Prior to starting Ethycally, he was an engineer at Google, managing one of the largest Google partnerships serving more than 1 Billion customers in the world.