A Cognitive Systems Approach to Managing the Movement of Large Crowds

This project will develop techniques to support design and assembly of a cognitive and adaptive system for the management of crowds during a large-scale public event or emergency evacuation. In a cognitive systems approach, system design is based on supporting goals at both system and individual levels. Such an approach is well-suited to the management of pedestrian movement in complex situations with high levels of uncertainty. In these situations, the goals of the pedestrians, security personnel and other system users or operators change during the course of the event in response to environmental factors that are affected by both evolving conditions associated with the physical surroundings and crowd movement and growth. Assistance provided by such a system can aid in alleviating over-crowding, improving flow rates, and regaining individual control of personal movement, thus, gaining greater efficiency from the existing physical capacity. Instructions that are provided are suited to individual priorities and goals, improving adherence to given directives. This research effort will culminate in (1) designed strategies for instructing system operators and users so as to improve event efficiency, safety and security while exploiting knowledge of individual and crowd behavior and rules and (2) a working system prototype of a cognitive and adaptive control framework that enables (a) changing goals of the crowd manager, security personnel and system users; (b) changing instructions that reflect knowledge of changing goals, evolving conditions associated with the physical environment, and the evolution of crowd movement and growth; and (c) response by system users to instructions that are updated as a consequence of improved situational awareness and changing environmental conditions.