Quantifying Crowd Size with Mobile Phone and Twitter Data

When a protest takes place, estimating the number of people present poses problems for authorities and organisers alike. We suggest that data generated simply through our use of mobile phones and Twitter might offer surprisingly accurate estimates of crowd size. We analysed data from Milan, Italy, and found that we could estimate attendance numbers for football matches in San Siro stadium, as well as the number of people at Linate airport at any given time. Our results could be of value in a range of emergency situations, such as evacuations and crowd disasters.

Have a look at the original journal article if you are interested!

I presented the results of this work at the CS-DC’15 world e-conference. The presentation was recorded and is now available for everyone to access.

Or watch a live interview on BBC World News about this work:


You can also listen to a live radio interview on BBC Radio Scotland!


Or to another live radio interview on BBC Radio Wales!


The results of this analysis have been featured in:

Science: Measuring the mobs

BBC: Crowds ‘could be counted’ with phone and Twitter data

Wired.it: Si può calcolare la quantità di una folla grazie a Twitter

Phys.org: Smartphones, Twitter help gauge crowd size

Business Insider: Here’s how Twitter can help first responders in an emergency

Countries that reported news of our analysis include:

UK, France, U.S.A., China, Italy, Russia, Germany, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Malaysia, Jamaica, Australia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil


I would like to acknowledge that this project would have not been possible without the Big Data Challenge 2014 set up by Telecom Italia, which provided us with most of the data (with the exception of the attendees figures and the flights schedule). All of the data released for the challenge (with the exception of the Twitter dataset) are now also open access for everyone to download: Open Big Data