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New life-saving app

How often has a pleasurable day at a major event ended with frustration because roads are blocked and tube stations are impossibly crowded? One of the benefits of a new app being tested at the Lord Mayor's Show in the City of London on Saturday 12 November could make your return journey less stressful.

The new iPhone app, however, has been designed with more serious intent in mind, to save lives following a major disaster. Since the researchers cannot set up a disaster to test the app, its first major trial will be at the Lord Mayor's Show in London. The app has been developed by experts at the University of Passau in Germany and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The app will show the density of a crowd, but give no information about individuals. In fact the researchers have gone to great lengths to anonymise all data.  The data will help organisers to advise and guide app users on congested routes and suggest alternative routes when travelling to and from an event. If there is an emergency during the event, app users will again receive relevant advice and information.

There will, however, be many practical benefits for the app user during the Lord Mayor's Show, which is expected to attract over half a million people. Spectators lining the streets to watch the historical procession will be encouraged to download the app free via the Lord Mayor's Show website http://www.lordmayorsshow.org. The up-to-date information will include travel news, a show schedule, as well as information about the floats and the City's historical buildings.

Eve Mitleton-Kelly, Director of LSE's Complexity Research Group, and her team have been researching the social and practical aspects of the technology. She explained: "This app will help with crowd safety at major events and could help save lives if there was an emergency. However, to make it work, we need as many people as possible to download the app and to tell their friends. The data will be totally anonymous and the app will only be active on the day of the Show and only within the event location. As researchers we take ethical issues of data protection very seriously. The app will provide users with some very useful information on the day; they will also have the opportunity to enter a prize draw to win an iPad."

The app is part of a research project, called SOCIONICAL, funded by the European Commission to discover new ways of how technology can help society.


To interview Professor Mitleton-Kelly at LSE, please call (07887 514 522 or 020 7635 5553)

To interview Professor Lukowicz at University of Passau, please call (+49 171 276 8963)