"We use two counting methods. One is the “gate” system: we count everyone who is crossing that gate on the City Centre Bridge, no matter what mode of transport they are using. We can even see the inside of buses and cars, with the help of the wifi signals of cell phones, which are never silent, from time to time, they “transmit”, and we receive these signals and use a special procedure to count the number of passengers in a car or in mass transportation vehicle" says Vilmos Bilicki, Assistant Professor of the Software Development Department of the IT Institute of Szeged University.
Besides, we also use cameras for counting – and it is this duality that makes our method a real novelty. The system does not use any kind of a central unit: the small boxes installed for the purposes of the project process the images internally, the sensors are cheap, and the only information forwarded to the server is, for instance, that five cyclists crossed the bridge in a given two-minute period.
"The system is fully anonymous: the only thing we need is the number. That is what our patent is about: on-site data processing and the fact that the box transmits only the amount of data that is necessary. Personal data are in no danger. However, we will know how many trucks cross the bridge and how the number of cyclists and pedestrians change over the different time periods of the day. This counting method is also suitable to compile a model on how people got from point A to point B. As an example, for someone who first got on a trolleybus, then walked and then took a bus, we do not count at the level of the individual but at the group level – using wifi, we compile flows, which show us that twenty people were going in the same direction, from point A to point B. The method has several uncertainty factors at this point, and is, therefore, still being researched and developed" added Vilmos Bilicki.
The cost price of a box is roughly the same as the price of a new smartphone. "The more of these boxes a city installs, the more accurate and detailed the counting will be. The method we apply (local and P2P-based distributed computing) is patented for Hungary, the United States and Europe. This is the first time that the patent has been applied in a live environment, in the framework of the SASMob Project" noted the Assistant Professor. According to Vilmos Bilicki, the next step is to use solar panels as the source of power for the boxes "this can be implemented quite shortly. Once this is done, the counting gates can be installed anywhere".
"The higher the number of boxes installed is, the more accurate the data and cheaper the system will be. – Let me emphasise again that the entire system is fully secure and lawful from a personal data protection point of view. No personal data are produced. We collect only aggregated data, the monitoring of individuals is not our goal and is impossible with our patented technology solution" said Mr Bilicki.