Crowd counting 2: MCM Birmingham Comic Con

Following on from our previous experiment, the researcher repeated the crowd counting exercise in a more crowded environment, with a more complex task for Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to attempt.

(Read Part 1 to get the intro, method and background)

We will also be talking about crowd densities, comparing different types of events (Comic conventions) and looking at the size of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC).

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Crowd counting with a 360 camera and Amazon Mechanical Turk

A proof of concept to establish how timelapse 360 photography could be used to count crowds and examine general crowd dynamics at events.

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Outdoor events of all types, and especially those that are more temporary, moving (parades, processions) free to attend or unticketed typically have a difficult time establishing accurate figures for attendance.  Organizers may be incentivised to over-estimate these figures for funding or political reasons; they might also be incentivised to under-estimate these figures for licensing reasons. For sufficiently large events, or events that have taken place multiple times, organisers and emergency services will likely have produced an estimate though the methods and assumptions behind these often vary and there is rarely a clear process by which the process can be examined or scrutinized. Clearly from history and policy, a scientifically accurate estimate of attendance is rarely a requirement, arguably even ticketed and paid events could feasibly be wrong about their levels of attendance. Increasing study of events of all types mean this is a key area or investigation, or at least a key ‘stat’ for discussion. The technical feasibility and time required to carry out head counting, sampling and wider estimation is generally beyond the usual time-pressed event organiser.

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Open Audience Finder

Open Data Kit + Audience Finder = Open Audience Finder?

oafopts

I’ve worked on audience surveys for a long time and I’m always looking to improve my methods. Relatively recently the roll out of Audience Finder from the Audience Agency has done a lot of good in standardizing many basic questions and methods for a range of arts organizations. (see standard questions: link)

This makes a lot of people happy as they have a basis for comparing and contrasting their results with others. Most of the arts organizations I’ve worked with see the value, one way or another. Everyone has their own tweaks or preferences to suggest but some collaboration around some standard questions is generally a good thing…

Around the same sort of time, I started learning about and putting Open Data Kit into use, for various audience and other kinds of end-user/patient surveys. Hence the combination of the two, and in this post, I will be describing how you, with less technical expertise than you probably think, can use it too.

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QGIS examples

Here’s an example of just some of the things QGIS can do. In particular, I am using some of my own data collected at the relatively recent Leicester Belgrave Mela from audience members. (Thanks to the Mela for doing the fieldwork!)

  1. Just viewing OpenStreetMap (OSM) data in QGIS. Until we specifically download polygons/points/lines QGIS is only really doing the same job as a web browser at this stage but it is obviously very handy to not have to download a whole map to even get started. This also means the most recent data is available.

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STEM and STEAM: education by acronymisation

I think I bang on quite a bit in lectures about the differences between academic disciplines or fields of study, because I think if you “get” this, it puts everything else you do within a useful context. People don’t like to be told: “That’s interesting and original, but you only get a 50% because it doesn’t really address the question.” or “Your references are from good sources but not really relevant to the field.” The different disciplines, taken to an extreme, represent quite fundamentally different philosophical or ideological ways of seeing and experiencing the world. Perhaps it is no great surprise that there is ongoing and noisy debate about which disciplines should receive the most attention at varying levels of education. Artists are gonna want more arts, scientists are going to want more science.

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Festival fuel bills

This is what I call a BOAFP (Back Of A Fag Packet) Research paper, quickly put together for the Face Your Elephant project.

That’s a picture of Rudolf Diesel y’know. Anyway…

I estimate the fuel bill for Latitude festival is at least £80,000 – £90,000 on a typical year. (inc VAT & Delivery)

They use an average of 97,000 litres (over 4 years data 2009-2012 from the JB report) – or 107,000 litres if we include biodiesel.

The price of Red diesel I have assumed at an average of 66.90 per litre (not including VAT) as provided by this price aggregator (surprisingly this has fallen nearly 10p a litre from 2012-2014)

This is a ‘1000 litre’ price so takes into account bulk purchasing effects. I have elsewhere been quoted on a 20,000 litre price – I don’t know if this is a factor of oil tankers generally being about 20,000 capacity or suppliers only having so much available. Anyway the savings from 1000 to 20,000 are not substantial and could even be offset by the trouble perhaps of sourcing from a number of different suppliers, many deliveries.

Biodiesel is a bit harder to figure out, especially if we’re looking for Waste Veg Oil / Used Cooking Oil rather than Biodiesel produced from feedstock / ‘new’ crops. Overall I think it is quite a bit more expensive than regular diesel, probably as there is lower demand and fewer suppliers. It is harder to find an average price but from some browsing £1.00 a litre seems a target price that suppliers advertise (and this includes VAT+Delivery).  Even if it is the greener option, there’s still a strong cost motive to encourage efficiency and reduce demand first of all.

The headline estimate above doesn’t take biodiesel into account, as it is hard to establish an average price, but for the sake of completion, Latitude uses an average of 13,500 liters of biodiesel a year – at £1 a liter would add around £10,000 to the estimates above, even taking into account the red diesel it replaces.

Shambala uses an average of 17,000 litres (5 year average) and the vast majority of it is Biodiesel. So their bill is £10,000-£12,000 based on red diesel prices, or £17,000 based on biodiesel. While it is approx. 2.5 times smaller than Latitude (based on ‘person-days), Shambala also appears to be approx. 2.5 more efficient in terms of diesel used ‘per head’. To put it another way, if Latitude could match Shambalas efficiency, their fuel bill could be around £30,000. Are bigger events naturally more inefficient? Frankly I always thought the opposite was true; economies of scale and so on.

Finally there is also bottled gas: 2500 lt average for shambala vs 15,000 lt for Latitude. Canisters are rated in kg though, which translates into roughly double that amount in litres (a 50kg gas bottle = 100 litres). Don’t know if this is propane or butane- or if that makes much of a difference. More quick browsing suggests that 25-40p a liter is about what a domestic customer can buy gas for. So an additional £700-£1100 for Shambala and £4400-£7000 to Latitude. Not much by comparison and for other reasons certainly preferable for heating large amounts of water.

In terms of who is using the power at festivals, the JB report breaks down total consumption to core/production/site and concessions/traders. This ratio varies quite a bit across years, but generally the core consumption is higher than the traders. At Latitude, it’s approx. 6:1 whereas at Shambala 3:1 . Therefore at a smaller festival, the traders make up a larger proportion of consumption than at a larger festival. Of course the stages are physically bigger and higher specced (more lights!) – could also speculate that bigger names = bigger tour buses = bigger backstage/production village. Or perhaps many of the smaller stages at Shambala are ‘lumped in’ with the concession consumption.

Conclusions

Ultimately in terms of pitching the work needed to make energy savings to festival organisers I think we are close to the “1% saving = £1000 saving” mark – even what seems like a small reduction would pay off.

Aside from addition carbon savings (which is obviously a good thing) there could also be delivery breaks – if you can save an entire tankers-worth (10-20%) or downscale one 20,000 litre tanker to a 10,000 – there’s maybe another few hundred pounds or so in delivery costs alone. No one wants to have to order 20,001 litres!

Assuming it’s similar at Festival Republics’ six other main events (of which there are 3x in the UK 1x in Ireland, 1x in Norway and 1x in Germany) – this makes a yearly cost of £480,000- £540,000. That 1% = ~ £1000 saving per festival becomes 1% = ~£5000 per year. And that’s saved every year, for the foreseeable future, while energy prices presumably continue to rise (although as pointed out earlier, red diesel is falling in the short term at least)

So – implement solution XYZ, save 1% of energy used, save £25,000 in 5 years?

Or have a target to save 1% year-on-year for 5 years – that’s £75,000 over 5 years?

(NB: if you have an idea for solution XYZ please let us know!)

Richard Fletcher – rfletcher@dmu.ac.uk