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Crowd Control? Baidu Has an Algorithm For That

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Passengers crowd the Shanghai Hongqiao railway station.

A unit of Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc. has developed an algorithm that can predict crowd formation.

Credit: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Baidu's Big Data Lab has devised an algorithm that can predict crowd formation, which researchers say could be used to help warn authorities and individuals of unusually large crowds that threaten public safety.

The algorithm correlates data from Baidu Map route searches with the crowd density of the places people search for to anticipate crowd formations at a certain place and time.

"Our algorithm is able to use crowd data from Baidu maps to predict how many people will be [at a certain location] in the next two hours," reports Baidu researcher Wu Haishan.

The traditional approach to predict crowd formations is performed with video sensors and computer-vision technology, and Wu says there are no privacy complications with the algorithm because its use of aggregated data ensures individual users' anonymity. He also says the research or algorithm could be shared with product development in the future or easily made available to local governments, authorities, and venue operators. In addition, it could be made accessible to general users in Baidu Maps, according to Wu.

The algorithm illustrates how Baidu is employing its big data to analyze social and economic factors.

From The Wall Street Journal
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