Pedestrian Safety or ‘Beyond the Induction Loop’

Image Source: Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star

One of the more complex challenges in traffic management is the safe road crossing of pedestrians. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users and especially children or the elderly might not even have an alternative to participating in traffic. There are ongoing efforts to increase the number of crosswalks and improve their design. The options range from various traffic lights over nudging elements for motorized traffic to different positions and the general designs of crosswalks.

However, all of these interventions are ineffective if they do not meet the natural needs and behaviors of pedestrians. Significant mismatches (missing or misplaced crosswalks) lead to a behavior known as ‘jaywalking’ or ‘rogue/wild crossing’. And hence to some of the most dangerous situations in urban traffic.

All that said: By observing pedestrian behavior,  it is easy to gain insight into the need for changes to the placement and design of crosswalks.


The key elements are surprisingly simple. For each counting element, do not just count expected traffic along lanes and intersection origin-destination tracks.

Simply add one or more counting lines in the middle of the road and have the optical sensor count the number of pedestrians crossing the road in each respective zone.

Image Source

This grants immediate insight into the acceptance of current installations and possible remedies such as: 

  • Relocation of protected zebra crossing
  • Obstacles such as fences to prevent unauthorized  crossing
  • Nudging signals to push pedestrians back to protected crossings


For far too long, we have focused on measuring the expected. Induction loops count traffic only in expected lanes. Infrared or photoelectric barriers count pedestrians at traffic signals.

Safety, however, is about knowing what happens unexpectedly: Cars and bicycles driving in the wrong lane or even in the wrong direction, pedestrians crossing where there is no crosswalk or traffic light, vehicles speeding, bicycles with high-velocity differences on narrow lanes, buses overtaking bicycles without a  safe distance. Improving safety in increasingly tense traffic situations requires better infrastructure and smart sensors capable of measuring the impact of any intervention. The first step can be taken tomorrow, if not today. Save lives.

Innsbruck, AustriaPedestrian Safety or ‘Beyond the Induction Loop’

Dumb Sensors (aka Inductive Loops) vs. Smart Swarm Sensors

We often think of students counting traffic as (until very recently) the old-school way of doing traffic counts (aka Students-as-a-Sensor (SaaS)). We think of Inductive Loops as the modern traffic counting sensor.

But when was the first real traffic counting sensor? The 1980s? 1970s? Try 1937! In an early project...traffic recorders….operated off a strip laid across the street, and used a six volt battery. Each hour it printed off a paper strip with the total for that hour…” (source)

In fact, current Inductive Loops are a slightly updated version of the same 1935 sensor. They may lie beneath the asphalt, but they are fundamentally the same sensor technology (minus the paper printer!).

Inductive Loops are:

  • Expensive and disruptive to deploy
  • Are prone to hardware failure
  • When they fail are expensive to replace and redeploy
  • Are not updatable
  • Cannot handle slow or stationary traffic
  • Are Inaccurate

“Dumb sensors, always remain dumb” (Wieland Alge)

People are often skeptical that a video-based sensor, using standard IP cameras and Dynamic Perception Technology, can be as accurate as ‘tried-and-tested’ Inductive Loops. This is in fact not the case, as two recent independent tests (by a globally active corporation with more than 50 years of experience in traffic management) have shown.

Parking Area Entry/Exit Test

Swarm Perception was deployed for one camera overlooking an entry-exit area to an outdoor UK parking area, where there were exiting Inductive Loops to count entries and exits. The Hikvision camera used costs just under €200.Over a period of a few weeks, the organization ran a live test comparing the accuracy of Inductive Loop, Swarm Perception, and Manual entry/exit counts of vehicles (day and night). Swarm Perception delivered significantly more accurate counts than the Inductive Loops. Induction Loops missed some vehicles (especially on entry) and also over-counted vehicles (especially on exit).


Why? Well, one example shows this. A car broke down at the exit, causing traffic chaos around it, this made a mess of the inductive loop counts (as cars were either stationary, drove too slowly, or drove around the Inductive Loops) while Swarm Perception continued to count as accurately as ever (without even breaking into sweat!).

Fast Highway Test

In a different test, by the same organization, Swarm Perception was deployed for one exiting standard IP camera overlooking a fast highway in Denmark, where there were exiting Inductive Loops.

Over a period of weeks, the organization compared traffic counts between the Inductive Loops, Swarm Perception, and Manual Counting over 15 minute periods. To make it more fun, the camera with the worst resolution and worst night vision configuration was chosen for the test. About 7500 vehicles pass the test location on a usual working day.

Yet again, Dynamic Perception Technology was shown to be more accurate than the Inductive Loops, even at night-time! This was despite having fast-moving vehicles further away from the camera.

Innsbruck, AustriaDumb Sensors (aka Inductive Loops) vs. Smart Swarm Sensors

How Can You Use Your Existing Infrastructure to Gain Smart Data?

You want to gain smart insights into your business but don’t want to exchange your entire camera system for smart cameras? Investing in expensive counting systems is not an option for you? Now you have the chance to gain smart insights cost-efficiently using your existing cameras. How does this work? With a device for your camera, called the Swarm Perception Box. It’s a small device that enables you to gather smart real-time data with the latest AI technology, right at the camera location. The installation only needs power, internet connectivity, and a connection to the camera.

Easily control what data you get

After the plug and play installation, you can configure your device in the Swarm central management platform, using our detailed documentation. The great advantage of this self-service setup in the Swarm Control Center is that you can define the data collection according to your needs and requirements, making it fast and smart. As the picture below shows, you can draw counting areas or entry-exit-zones on the camera’s view to gather location-specific information. It only takes you a few clicks to set up and requires no special computer skills or programming knowledge. You can adjust the setup for every intersection or road. When you think about it, every street or intersection is different, so you should be able to adapt your data gathering accordingly.

What smart real-time data can you get?

As well as traffic data, as briefly described before, you can also gather smart parking, retail, and public transport data. Here is a short list of just some of the possibilities:


  • Identify the number of people entering and leaving your retail space
  • Coming soon: Estimate customers’ age range and presented gender


  • Identify the flow of road users across intersections, sidewalks, and bike paths with entry and exit zones.

  • Identify cars, buses, trucks, cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians with smart object classification


  • Recognize the occupancy rate of parking spots

  • Identify parking vehicle classes including cars, vans, motorcycles, and trucks

Public Transport

  • Identify the number of people in public transport vehicles and stops or stations
  • Coming soon: Estimate passengers’ age range and presented gender

What are the benefits?

  • It’s fast to deploy as it works with your exiting cameras
  • Make better decisions faster. You get real-time data fast, as we analyse video streams in real-time 24/7 at up to 30+ Frames per Second (FPS).
  • It’s easy to integrate into your infrastructure as we use standard Cloud, IoT and Edge Technologies
  • It’s massively scalable. 1000s of Swarm Perception Boxes could be easily managed via our central management
  • It’s much more affordable than counting systems or smart-cameras. We offer transparent and fair pricing, via a predictable all-inclusive annual fee.
  • You save time and money by purchasing only the smart component you need
  • Our smart box is a software defined sensor, meaning that new features and improvements are automatically delivered at no extra cost
Innsbruck, AustriaHow Can You Use Your Existing Infrastructure to Gain Smart Data?

How Can New Traffic Flow Insights Improve Decision-Making in Cities?

Making good decisions about urban traffic relies on actual data about roads, intersections, and bike paths throughout the city. When you think about traffic counting, what comes to your mind? Probably traffic counting students, who manually count cars while standing on the side of the road. Although this practice is well-known, decisions based on this information are not holistic and sustainable since urban traffic is complex. For instance, it’s nearly impossible to manually track directions of vehicles on intersections. Wouldn’t it be great to have such information?

Now, you can implement a new generation of sensors with the Swarm Perception Box to collect reliable traffic data, not only about a few key intersections but about the whole city! Of course, it is also possible to upgrade your existing traffic cameras super easily. The Swarm Perception Box makes it possible to collect traffic data in real-time, 365 days a year, to recognize traffic patterns and trends accurately. For instance, vehicles, pedestrians, and bikes can be counted and tracked simultaneously across intersections, sidewalks, and bike paths. Also, the directions of road users can be recognized by using defined entry-exit zones.

An Example

Let’s take a real-life example to show how these new traffic insights can help at intersections. A typical intersection has four entries and exits. The goal here is to identify the most frequent directions or patterns of usage, which could be a high traffic volume from street C to street A in the morning and high traffic volume from street A to street C in the evening. Around noon you have a peak of pedestrians walking from B to D and then back again.

These gained insights can be used to make traffic flows in cities more efficient and smooth while reducing noise and air pollution. Further examples of using the data are:

  • Identifying road usage patterns and frequently used directions throughout the day
  • Adjusting traffic light systems to typical road usage
  • Taking it as a reliable source for urban planning
  • Comparing traffic volumes of different roads and intersections
  • Comparing and monitoring road usage over time

In the Swarm Control Center, the devices can be managed centrally and configured in minutes. With a few clicks, you can define what data is collected by creating new entry-exit-zones (as shown in the picture above: Street A, Street B, etc. ). This ensures that the gathered data meets your needs and expectations, enabling you to gain insights, analyze, and compare traffic.

Benefits at a Glance

  • Easy configuration of entry-exit-zones in the Swarm Control Center
  • Gathering of data on entry-exit-zones, taking into account multiple areas (Street A, B, C, D, etc. )
  • 24/7 real-time data on traffic flow
  • Possibility to improve traffic flow and create efficiencies based on the data
  • Possibility to reduce air pollution and waiting times

For more information, visit our urban traffic solution page.

Innsbruck, AustriaHow Can New Traffic Flow Insights Improve Decision-Making in Cities?

How Has COVID-19 Changed Vehicle and Pedestrian Traffic?

What happens when people limit their social interactions and work from home? People should have little reason to go outside or use their car, except for going food-shopping or going for a short walk. So, the streets should be quite empty in these times, right? Nevertheless, the current situation can be very challenging for authorities to check and see whether people are actually staying at home. It is not safe to send out people to count traffic and pedestrians or setup new traffic counting devices.

The question is, how can we easily see the impact of Covid-19 on traffic then?

Gathering Traffic Data with Counting Lines

Swarm Analytics allows you to collect reliable traffic data 24/7. The Swarm Perception Box transforms conventional cameras into intelligent visual sensors by “translating” the video stream directly into insights. After you have configured counting lines, using the web-based management platform, you can collect data in real-time about all vehicles and pedestrians crossing this line. Since no image ever leaves the camera, we fully protect the privacy of individuals while providing the essential traffic information to the respective city, town, or authorities. The real-time data can provide the basis for understanding city-wide patterns, identify critical areas, and help you implement control measures more efficiently.

Swarm Control Center – enabling easy configuration of new counting lines
Example: counting line for traffic

Dashboard Examples From Real-World Real-Time Data

To illustrate which traffic data can be gathered with the Swarm Perception Box, here are some real-world examples during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Typically, people would use their car for traveling to work in the morning and back in the evening. In figure 1, it can be seen that traffic peaks disappeared and that overall traffic volume decreased.

Figure 1: Traffic counting data – 7 days
Figure 2: Bus traffic counting data

But what about Public Transport? By filtering the data to show the number of busses, on this road, it can be seen that busses still continue to operate to more or less the same levels (see figure 2).

In theory, with the Covid-19 restrictions, people should be spending more time at home than on the streets. However, when looking at the pedestrian data, there are significant peaks in the afternoons, suggesting that people are going for a stroll in the warmer afternoons (see figure 3). And when people counts are visually compared to defined limits, it becomes easy to identify when and how often the set limits were exceeded (see figure 4). These insights could be used to take the respective safety measures and actions.

Figure 3: People counting data
Figure 4: People counting compared to a defined limit

For more information, visit our urban traffic solution page.

danielHow Has COVID-19 Changed Vehicle and Pedestrian Traffic?

Using Traffic Insights to Master Smart City Challenges

What city does not have to deal with traffic jams, bottlenecks, or parking? These days probably very few. Therefore, all people who are living in, working in, or visiting cities have to deal with waiting times, air pollution, and frustration. So the question is, what could cities do to become more efficient and react to road usage demand?

Of course, it is not easy for cities to control how many commuters or tourists use their streets every day. Nevertheless, cities must find ways to deal with significant traffic issues. The key is reliable data for the actual traffic situation and usage patterns of streets, paths, and intersections. These insights can be used to create effective plans and respond to traffic issues.

Traffic jam in the city

Swarm Analytics enables cities to get those reliable traffic insights by providing a device for upgrading existing traffic cameras with AI technology. With the Swarm Perception Box, cars, trucks, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and busses counted and tracked in real-time. Even the directions vehicles take at intersections are recognized (e.g. zone a to b or zone b to a). With access to these granular traffic insights, more efficiencies can be created in cities. At the same time, we ensure 100 % GDPR compliance as no picture leaves the camera.

Dashboard Examples

So, how can the gathered data be put into use? Here is a real-world example of traffic insights displayed in a traffic insights dashboard. The different graphs provide an overview of the current traffic volume, capacity status and road usage, as well as historic numbers. It is even possible to gain detailed insights into the types of road users like cars, trucks, busses, motorcyclists, cyclists, and people.

Putting the Data to Use

Of course, traffic data can vary widely depending on the city, intersection or road. Here are some general recommendations for how you could use the traffic data:

  • Analyze traffic volumes, peak times and types of road users
  • Compare data of different intersections or roads
  • Adjust traffic light control
  • Forecast traffic volumes
  • Use the data as a basis for urban planning
  • And generally, streamline operations based on historical and real-time data

For more information, visit our urban traffic solution page.

Innsbruck, AustriaUsing Traffic Insights to Master Smart City Challenges