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Police to use LSE crowd control app

A new smartphone app designed to share real time information with the police and people in the City of London will be free for download in the Apple App Store before the Olympic Games begin, with an Android version to follow.

The City of London Police app has been researched by the London School of Economics and Political Science(LSE) and developed jointly with the force.

The app has been developed as part of a four year European project called Socionical by three partners (German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI); ETH Zurich and LSE). Socionical is funded by the European Union and aims to help scientists and policy makers better understand how the applied use of new technology can benefit society.

The new app is multi-functional and likely to attract considerable interest from people in the ‘Square Mile’ of the City, which is the financial heart of London with 9,000 residents and weekday commuting population of more than 300,000 individuals. The City is also a regular venue for high profile national events attracting large volumes of visitors.Mobile_phone_(large)

The app, available soon, offers a host of general day-to-day useful features about the City of London Police. Anyone installing it on their smartphone will get access to:

  • Street level crime information, navigable maps showing police stations, London Underground transport links and many other points of interest
  • Links to the latest City of London Police news and live @CityPolice twitter feed, plus the force’s website
  • Useful information about the City of London Police, including its community policing teams and role as police service lead for tackling economic crime
  • Information on how to be prepared in the event of an emergency

There is an additional key feature that will help the City of London Police to assess and monitor crowd density – but it only works when people who have installed the app agree to share their location data.

When the force ‘switches’ on this crowd sourcing capability during big events or gatherings, people with the app installed receive a message asking if they are prepared to opt into the service.

People who agree will share their location. This information is used anonymously by City of London Police to help to generate virtual ‘heat maps’ of crowds. By combining this data with reports from officers on patrol and CCTV, the force can evaluate the impact of crowded areas or large gatherings.

The app’s crowd sourcing component will provide greater clarity on the movement of crowds during events and allow the City of London Police to send relevant warning and informing messages to people through the app, on twitter and through the force website.

City of London Police Assistant Commissioner Frank Armstrong says: ‘This app is packed with useful features and is also about helping to keep people safe. It is an excellent way for people to learn more about the force. It will also help the City of London Police to monitor crowds during large events and to keep people informed. This really is about police and the public working together for our mutual benefit.

‘I have no doubt it will prove to be a valuable tool to guide our policing response during events, or emergencies – but we can only do this with the public’s trust and help.’

Prof. Eve Mitleton-Kelly, from the LSE, has been involved with the app since its inception. She said: ‘This is a tremendous breakthrough in the use of technology that can be of real and practical benefit to society. It was initially designed to be used for safe evacuation following a major incident, but has proved its worth in peaceful but crowded events by making them more enjoyable. The app provides information about the event, as well as about sites of interest. Its main feature, however, is providing advice to users within a specific location.’

Tobias Franke, developer of the technology behind the app and working for Prof. Paul Lukowicz at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) said: ‘We feel very honoured that the City of London Police puts so much trust in our crowd sensing research. This is truly cutting edge technology taking smartphones to the next level of functionality by making them part of a large scale cooperative sensing network without any trade-offs in user privacy.’

Sgt Rebecca Walker, from the City of London Police’s Emergency Planning department, has been working closely with the (LSE) Socionical Project.

She said: ‘Location data collection will only be activated on certain occasions including large planned events, or an emergency and people have to agree to opt in. We have taken into account people’s concern about legal data protection and privacy issues. Personal mobile numbers are not collected and the data is sent anonymously. We’re certainly not tracking individuals – we are purely assessing crowd density and movement. 

Sgt Walker added: ‘The LSE Socionical project and the force were both adamant on this point – we want people to feel safe and comfortable when using the app in the City and to know they’re helping the police – and in turn that we can help them. The app also had to meet stringent EU regulations on privacy.’

A version of the app for Android smartphones is currently being developed and will be introduced soon.


Notes to Editors:

  1. While in development, the app was successfully trialled to monitor crowd source data during the 2011 Lord Mayor’s Show. You can see the type of heat map produced by visiting www.vimeo.com and searching for “Crowd Density at the Lord Mayor’s Show 2011”. This is also available on the LSE website at www.lse.ac.uk/complexity
  2. Screen shots showing the final version of the app before submission to the Apple App Store are attached.
  3. Frank Armstrong, the Assistant Commissioner of City of London Police, is available for interview by contacting the force media office on 020 7601 2220.
  4. Prof. Eve Mitleton-Kelly, Director of the Complexity Research Group, at LSE, is available for interview by calling 020 7635 5553 or 07887 514522.
  5. The complete list of features the app offers, in addition to the crowd sourcing component, include:
    • Maps with points of interest within the City of London (Police Stations, Tube Stations, Train Stations, DLR, Hospitals, Medical Centres, Pharmacies, Fire Stations, Cycle Parking, Visitor Attractions, Public Toilets)
    • Location Based Services: get up to date information about the area you're currently in (for example, warnings about congestion)
    • Contact us with the touch of a button
    • One touch navigation guiding you to the nearest Police Station
    • Street Level Crime Map: within the City of London you can visualise the locations of crimes within a one mile radius around your current location
    • A central place to store all your emergency info (including people to contact, your blood type, any allergies)
    • Access to the City of London Police twitter feed @CityPolice
    • Messaging service - receive messages directly from the City of London Police through three separate channels (general information, traffic advice, emergency information)
    • Access to the latest City of London Police news
    • Information about fraud
    • Information on how to plan for an emergency
    • A checklist with items you should always have nearby in case of an emergency

The City of London Corporation is soon to launch an app called Visit the City that will be available in the Apple App Store and for Android. The Corporation’s app provides a guide to what’s on in the City of London along with attractions, events and an itinerary of what’s available according to the time and date the user is visiting. It will also provide useful weather and travel information. More information is available from the Corporation’s Public Relations Office on 0207 332 145