Crowd Dynamics International experience analyst and ArcTanGent festival director Goc O’Callaghan explains how capturing data about crowd behaviour in real time will help make events safer in the future

The importance of crowd safety, as recently highlight by the catastrophic disaster that took place at Astroworld, is increasingly in the event organiser and attendees’ minds.

Ensuring that audiences feel safe within an entertainment environment is key to the ongoing success of that event, through the confidence to purchase an initial ticket and then in repeat patronage.

Audiences, now more than ever, are seeking transformational experiences and the damage caused to a brand by poor crowd management can not only be a threat to life, but also the reputation and longevity of an event. This highlights the importance for comprehensive understanding of crowd behaviour.

There is a need to better understand crowd behaviour and implement efficient crowd management at events and areas impacted by them such as public spaces and transport hubs. Technology is becoming the cornerstone of analysing human behaviour. For example, CrowdDNA, a Horizon 2020 research project, will lead to a radically new concept in the management of crowds.

The CrowdDNA project is exploratory in its approach, analysing crowd interactions during laboratory experiments and from real-life ‘observatories’. The importance of the observatories is to process data on authentic crowd movement outside of a controlled experimental environment. This is to be done at a range of events such as festivals, arenas, street events and temporary attractions.

Through the learnings harnessed from this research project, it is expected that crowd safety can be improved through a new generation of crowd simulation models which can predict the dynamic behaviour of crowds and the associated risk factors. Such technology should afford event organisers and crowd management practitioners better ways to analyse and forecast crowd behaviours while understanding what visitors are experiencing within the crowd. This increase in knowledge and technology will inevitably lead to safer working practices.

It is important that live events participating in projects enable the capture of crowd data as it happens, without memory recall bias of a participant’s experience; people report on their experiences differently when asked after the event. A series of data-capture scenarios can be set up within an event or entertainment environment. This data can then be  analysed to provide further insight into crowd dynamics and help to develop new technologies that improve crowd safety on site and to enhance consumer experience.

Owners and operators, through their participation in CrowdDNA, will gain insight into their audiences’ behaviour and areas where crowd movement could be improved to optimise experience. Participation not only benefits the project, but also the event and audiences.

If you are the owner or operator of an event or entertainment environment and would like to know more about the CrowdDNA project or are interested in participating, then you can visit www.crowddna.eu or contact Goc O’Callaghan at goc.ocallaghan@crowddynamics.com. CrowdDNA has received funding from the European commission.

This opinion piece features in the latest edition of Access All Areas magazine  – subscribe for free here