Learning to Estimate Crowd Size by Applying Convolutional Neural

Network to Aerial Imaging Analysis

Wing-Fat Cheng

1

, Man-Ching Yuen

2a

and Yuk-Chun So

3

1

Department of Information Technology, Vocational Training Council, Hong Kong

2

iFREE GROUP Innovation and Research Centre, Department of Applied Data Science,

Hong Kong Shue Yan University, Hong Kong

3

Department of Information Technology, University of the West of England Bristol, U.K.

Keywords: Convolutional Neural Network, Aerial Image, Crowd Size Estimation.

Abstract: Using image and video to conduct crowd analysis in public places is an effective tool to establish situational

awareness. Currently, the gap between different organizations on crowd counting differs greatly. Many

research works investigated into utilizing image recognition technology to provide a fair estimation of the

crowd count. In this paper, we propose a convolutional neural network model on aerial image analysis to learn

to estimate crowd size. To find out the requirements of the efficient and reliable crowd size estimation system,

we also investigate current approaches in crowd size estimation, such as regression, CNN and by-detention

with image recognition technology. Our work allows the event organizers to get a fair description of the crowd

behaviors. The main contribution of this paper is the application of CNN for solving the problem of crowd

size estimation.

1 INTRODUCTION

Crowds, a large group of people, occur frequently in

our society. A large entertainment event can attract

thousands of fans. However, many train services in

Hong Kong are at their peak capacity even when there

are no large events taking place in the city (Joseph,

2018). When a large group of people needs to gather

together, it often creates bottlenecks for our public

transport system. Therefore, effective crowd control

needs to be implemented to prevent commotion and

riot outbreak. Crowd crushes can cause fatalities that

happen in public gatherings (Australia Community

Education, 2018).

Crowd counting refers to a technique used to

count the number of participants in an event.

Different techniques such as Jacob’s method,

observing physical interaction

1

and observation

point

2

are used to estimate the density of the crowd.

However, crowds don’t align regularly inside the

event and they can flow freely. As a result, when the

a

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2551-7746

1

Observing physical interaction means a team of evaluators

walks around the event and counts people in the shade and

finds out how people would congregate.

event is large, using humans to count such areas will

be slow and unreliable. In Figure 1, a combined chart

illustrates the number of participants of the July 1

rally in Hong Kong where the crowd size announced

by different organizations differs drastically (HKU

POP, 2018). It causes big confusion.

Figure 1: The chart shows different figures on the number

of July 1 protectors in the past 16 years (HKU POP, 2018).

2

Observing point is a fixed station set by evaluators near

the focal points of an event and tally number of people

who pass through the stations.

Cheng, W., Yuen, M. and So, Y.

Learning to Estimate Crowd Size by Applying Convolutional Neural Network to Aerial Imaging Analysis.

DOI: 10.5220/0011542500003335

In Proceedings of the 14th International Joint Conference on Knowledge Discovery, Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (IC3K 2022) - Volume 1: KDIR, pages 237-242

ISBN: 978-989-758-614-9; ISSN: 2184-3228

Copyright

c

2022 by SCITEPRESS – Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved

237

To reduce deviations between the results, using

computer software becomes a liable alternative. As

the processing system of computers becomes faster

and faster, using image recognition technology to

count crowd becomes a viable option. Using this

technology increases efficiency and reduces human

involvement during the counting process. It helps

achieve more accurate results and help the organizers

and police to plan future events and manage crowds

more effectively.

A limitation of using image recognition to count

crowds would require a large sample size to train the

neural network. Couple with problems of low

resolution, artifacts on video compression, and

changes in light conditions. The computational

requirement would be very high. However, this

problem generally exists in all machine learning

projects. Using a smaller sample size allows a deeper

analysis and comparison among different image

recognition approaches. In addition, the time and

resources would be limited to conduct a comparison

among all image recognition approaches. To

circumvent this limitation, one of the objectives of

this work is to investigate whether using image

recognition to count a crowd increases the accuracy

of crowd counting. The main contribution of this

paper is the application of CNN for solving the

problem of crowd size estimation.

The organization of this paper is as follows.

Section 2 presents the importance of crowd size

estimation. Section 3 presents the related work.

Section 4 describes our proposed crowd size

estimation system with the Convolutional Neural

Network Model (CNN) model. Section 5 shows the

experimental result analysis. Section 6 draws out the

conclusion and the future work.

2 IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING

THE CROWD SIZE

In demonstrations, knowing the size of a crowd is

important (Bernardis and Stella, 2011; Carylsue,

2017; David, 2012). Knowing the size understands

the amount of support in a movement or a cause. If

the number of participants is seen to be large, it

becomes easier to persuade others to agree to the case

and to join the demonstrations. The success of a

demonstration is judged by the size of a crowd. One

side tries to justify the clause by boosting the numbers

while on the other side tries to minimize the clause by

lessening the numbers. Although the crowd size is

often manipulated to score political points, the police

or security forces still need an estimate of the

numbers without any political bias to conduct

effective crowd management and crowd control

(Watson, and Yip, 2011). An effective crowd

management prevents injury and death.

Crowd disasters can create serious problems.

Air Raid Shelter - In 1943 London, 173 persons

died of compressive asphyxia and 92 injured in

an Underground air raid shelter after someone

fell on a lower level entry stair. With an

addition to bombing sound, people at surface

continued to press forward which resulted in a

tangled mass of humanity on the stair (Dunne,

1945).

Sporting Event - In 1991 New York, 9 persons

died of asphyxia on a gymnasium stair in City

University of New York. An excess of people

arrived at the gymnasium for a celebrity

basketball game. Doors at the lower landing

entry to the gymnasium opened outward to

comply with fire codes. People precariously

queued on the stair were driven into the

restricted landing and closed doors by crowd

pressures from above. Police in the street

outside the venue did not establish

communications with inside security, and were

unaware of the evolving disaster, even though

the stair could be seen from the street (Mollen,

1992).

3 RELATED WORK

Existing crowd counting techniques require humans

to stay in a location and count the number of people

manually. It requires many human resources to carry

out such tasks. Recently, many research works focus

on adopting computer vision technology to find a

solution to reduce human work, for example, using

standard “scanning-window” methods attempt to

detect objects (people) in the crowd.

Loy et al. (Loy, Xiang and Gong, 2013) proposed

a unified active and semi-supervised regression

framework with ability to perform transfer learning,

by exploiting the underlying geometric structure of

crowd patterns via manifold analysis. The authors

carried out extensive experiments to demonstrate the

effectiveness of the model in terms of various

performance measures related to accuracy. Rodriguez

et al. (Rodriguez, Laptev, Sivic and Audibert, 2011)

demonstrated how the optimization of such an energy

function significantly improves person detection and

tracking in crowds. Tan et al. (Tan, Zhang and Wang,

2011) proposed to use Semi-Supervised Elastic Net

(SSEN) regression method by utilizing sequential

KDIR 2022 - 14th International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Information Retrieval

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information between unlabelled samples and their

temporally neighboring samples as a regularization

term.

Deep learning is usually used for image

recognition (Goodfellow, Bengio, Courville and

Bach, 2016). In literature, there are some studies on

adopting deep learning method in crowd counting

(Wang, Gao, Lin and Li, 2020; Zhang, Zhou, Chen,

Gao and Ma, 2016). It gives us motivation on further

investigating the adoption of deep learning models on

crowd size estimation.

4 OUR SYSTEM

We design a system for counting and analyzing the

crowd of the event by inputting a stream of pictures

or videos. Our system analyzes the content of the

image or video, classifies and labels all people within

those streams and finally returns the number of

people within that image or video stream.

The following sections describe the method of

generating a heat map through a neural network and

produce an estimation of crowd count from the

network. Crowd size estimation system is designed

for event organizer to know the number of people

participating in the events.

4.1 Data Collection

The data used in the modeling stage for training and

testing should satisfy the following criteria:

1. The amount of data should be enough for

training and testing

2. The data should feature different size and scene

3. The data should be labeled

4. The data should consist of a crowd

5. The data should be collected at a crowd place

with enough lightning to see the crowd and

there should not be too many obstacles to

obstruct the view.

Datasets meeting the above 5 criteria should

produce a good model.

4.2 Data Preparation

Data Selection/ Acquisition - To reduce the

time to gather data, UCF-QNRF_ECCV18

dataset (UCF-QNRF - A Large Crowd

Counting Data Set.) is used to train the model.

The dataset consists of 1201 training images

and 334 testing images which is enough to train

the model.

Data Integration and Formatting - Each data

from the dataset comes with a JPG image and a

MATLAB file which shows the number of

people in the image. The contents of the

MATLAB file are converted to CSV files to

enable reading the label in numpy.

Data Cleansing - The data in the dataset should

be correct and accurate. If data is found to be

false, the data should be dismissed immediately.

In this project, data cleansing is used to ensure

the number of crowds is in range.

Data Transformation - In this work, the

number of crowds are categorized into 26

groups. Each group represents a 200 people

interval. The first group represents the image

containing 0 – 199 people. The second group

represents the image containing 200 – 400

people. The 26

th

group represents the image

containing more than 5000 people.

4.3 Modelling

4.3.1 Convolutional Neural Network Model

- VGG16

We use VGG16 model and python coding to develop

the crowd size estimation system. VGG16 is a

convolutional neural network (CNN) model. One of

the main features of CNN is the ability to capture the

main feature of an image. It can find out the relations

between the images across different categories with

high accuracy.

In Figure 2, VGG16 architecture is characterized

by 3 x 3 convolutional kernels and 2 x 2 pooling

layers, and the network architecture can be deepened

by using smaller convolutional layers to enhance

feature learning (Jiang, Liu, Shao and Huang, 2021).

4.3.2 Model Specification

The model of this project is based on the VGG16

model.

The input of cov1 layer is fixed size 400 * 400

RGB image. There are 64 filters with size of 3

* 3. The activation function is ReLU. The

conv2 block contains 128 filters with size of 3

* 3. The activation function is ReLU. The

conv3 block contains 256 filters with size of 3

* 3. The activation function is ReLU. The

conv4 block contains 512 filters with size of 3

* 3. The activation function is ReLU.

After Conv4 block, the 2D output of the

convolution block is flattened into a 1D vector

for feeding into a fully-connected network.

Learning to Estimate Crowd Size by Applying Convolutional Neural Network to Aerial Imaging Analysis

239

Fully connected layer 1 uses 512 nodes with

activation function ReLU.

Fully connected layer 2 uses 256 nodes with

activation function ReLU.

The output layer (Fully connected layer 3) uses

26 input nodes with activation function softmax.

4.3.3 Model Training

Our system first loads the dataset and categories the

image according to the transformed crowd count.

Then each color of the image is rescaled from 0 to 255

to 0 to 1. A helper function is defined to visualize the

accuracy of the model at a later stage. Finally, the

model is built and trained according to the analysis

specification. As shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3, we

use a VGG16 network architecture which is the same

as that used in Jiang’s work (Jiang, Liu, Shao and

Huang, 2021).

The model training takes 60 epochs with a batch

size of 128. It takes 90 minutes to train a model using

i7-7700 CPU with 32GB of RAM.

Figure 2:

Specifications

of VGG16 network

architecture (Jiang, Liu, Shao and Huang, 2021).

5 PRELIMARY RESULT ON

PERFORMANCE EVALUATION

As shown in Figure 4, our model can recognize

training image with more than 90% accuracy after 45

epochs. However, it can only recognize testing image

with only 40% accuracy. It represents the system may

have issues when dealing with unfamiliar

environment. Therefore, this approach requires the

model to be familiar with the environment.

Figure 3: VGG16 network architecture (Jiang, Liu, Shao

and Huang, 2021).

Figure 4: Accuracy of our system on image recognition.

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6 CONCLUSION AND FUTURE

WORK

6.1 Conclusion

We aim to design a system which allows the

organizers and the security forces to get a fair

description of one of the crowd behaviors. It is great

for them to conduct crowd analysis and provide

insight to others who wish to implement such

systems.

This paper investigates current approaches in

crowd counting and different approaches like

regression, CNN and by-detention with image

recognition technology. It also suggests the

requirements of the to-be system should be efficient

and reliable.

In this work, our system requires the model to

recognize hundreds of items inside an image which it

proves to be difficult. The problem can be improved

by increasing the number of neurons in the system.

However, this comes with a major drawback of

increased resources required and long learning time.

6.2 Future Work

A CNN neural network with a heat map generation

can be done to further improve its accuracy.

Generating a heat map would only require modifying

the output layer to support such application.

The model of the neural network can be replaced

with Capsule Network (CapsNet) (Sabour, Frosst and

Hinton, 2017). CapsNet is currently the most accurate

state of the art image recognition model. However,

due to it being very new, here are very few resources

that can be found online which greatly increase the

development time of this work. We can use the

finding of this paper to develop a recommendation

system for event organizers to recommend the most

appropriate preparation work based on different

situations (Yuen, King and Leung, 2021).

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This research was in part supported by grants from

the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong

Special Administrative Region, China (Project No.

UGC/FDS15/E02/20 and UGC/FDS15/E01/21).

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