Antwerp to measure crowds through mobile phone data


The city of Antwerp will soon start the largest project of its kind in Europe when it begins monitoring the flow of people using their mobile phone signals

“Privacy assured”

The city of Antwerp plans to begin monitoring how people move around in the city using signals from their mobile phones. The City of Things project, said to be the largest of its kind in Europe, is a joint venture between the city, digital research centre iMinds and mobile network provider Mobile Vikings, and is due to begin at the end of the year.

The project involves installing sensors around the city, mostly in the tourist areas and the main shopping and traffic arteries. The sensors will pick up signals from each phone in the vicinity. Once all the data are brought together, researchers will be able to map the flow people at any given time or place.

Privacy is assured, mayor Bart De Wever said. “We only pick up the signal, we don’t know whose phone it comes from.” He explained one of the uses of the technology: last year’s winter sales, when the centre of Antwerp was brought to a standstill by dense traffic. The real-time information from the City of Things would have allowed a more rapid response, allowing visitors arriving by car to be diverted to parking places on the edge of the city, he said.

The system will also be able to more accurately determine numbers at gatherings or protests. The system was already tested at last year’s Gentse Feesten, but the Antwerp project is much larger.

Photo by Antoine Sipos/Flickr Commons


iMinds is an independent, non-profit ICT research organisation with departments spread over five universities across Flanders and Brussels. It was founded by the government of Flanders to stimulate ICT innovation in the region.
IBBT - The organisation was originally established as the Institute for Broadband Technology in 2004. The iMinds name was adopted in 2012 to reflect the expansion of the institute’s activities.
Action areas - iMinds supports research for innovative ICT services and applications in six areas: media, energy, health, ICT, manufacturing and smart cities.
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2013 research budget in millions of euros