Based on six years of research at the University of Antwerp and imec, CrowdScan has developed a system to measure crowd densities without using camera images, mobile phone data or other privacy-sensitive information. By transmitting low-energetic radio waves (868 MHz), CrowdScan measures the average signal attenuation of a wireless sensor network relative to the empty environment.
The technology was validated at different large-scale events such as Tomorrowland. When the coronavirus crisis broke out, CrowdScan immediately realized the added value of the technology for helping society adapt to the new needs of social distancing. The business model was extended from services for event organizers to services for local governments and cities. In May, a successful pilot project was launched to measure the size of groups on a bridge and a street near the MAS museum in Antwerp.
"There will be no mass events this summer, but the importance of accurate information on crowd densities has only increased since the coronavirus crisis", says Ben Bellekens, CEO of CrowdScan.
“By providing police and emergency services with accurate information on crowd densities, they can make fast, objective decisions. This can help cities guarantee social distancing at places where population density is high, like city streets, public events, or parks.
CrowdScan also aims to make an online ‘crowd barometer’, to show population density at specific places”, says Bellekens.“We are proud to enable the creation of this spin-off together with the University of Antwerp”, says Jo De Boeck, CSO at imec. "Recently, the innovative technology has been optimized for use cases with high market potential and a noble social purpose. For example, CrowdScan now offers a concrete solution to the new challenges that cities are facing today. With the support of the imec.istart acceleration program, the commercialization of this technology will accelerate in the coming months. "
"In Antwerp's innovation ecosystem for metropolitanism and smart city, our university is focusing more than ever on value creation from research. To do this, we collaborate with the city government, local businesses and citizens. Open innovation hubs such as The Beacon facilitate this process by bringing people together and actively setting up projects that effectively benefit partners. That's how CrowdScan grew into a startup that, due to the coronavirus crisis, became more relevant than ever", says Silvia Lenaerts, Vice Rector Valorization & Development of the University of Antwerp. "This spin-off is a textbook example of how scientific research from the Faculty of Applied Engineering Sciences can actually generate an impact on society. As an entrepreneurial university, together with the City of Antwerp and imec, we have every reason to be proud".
Imec (imec-int.com) is a world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. The combination of our widely acclaimed leadership in microchip technology and profound software and ICT expertise is what makes us unique. By leveraging our world-class infrastructure and local and global ecosystem of partners across a multitude of industries, we create groundbreaking innovation in application domains such as healthcare, smart cities and mobility, logistics and manufacturing, energy and education.
As a trusted partner for companies, start-ups and universities we bring together more than 4,000 brilliant minds from almost 100 nationalities. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and has distributed R&D groups at a number of Flemish universities, in the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, and offices in China, India and Japan. In 2019, imec's revenue (P&L) totaled 640 million euro.
Imec is a registered trademark for the activities of IMEC International (a legal entity set up under Belgian law as a "stichting van openbaar nut”), imec Belgium (IMEC vzw supported by the Government of Flanders), imec the Netherlands (Stichting IMEC Nederland, part of Holst Centre and OnePlanet, supported by the Dutch Government), imec Taiwan (IMEC Taiwan Co.), imec China (IMEC Microelectronics (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.), imec India (Imec India Private Limited) and imec Florida (IMEC USA nanoelectronics design center).
About University of Antwerp
The University of Antwerp (uantwerp.be) is a research university where pioneering, innovative research is conducted at an international level. Research and education are closely linked. Educational innovation is a constant focus, and special care is also taken to welcome and guide each of the 20,000 students spread across our nine faculties.
The University of Antwerp is not an island: we build bridges to secondary education, to industry and, by extension, to society as a whole. With over 6,000 members of staff, the University of Antwerp is one of the most important employers in Antwerp, Flanders’ largest city.