FuturICT FET Flagship

Participatory Computing for Our Complex World

Prof. Dr. Dirk Helbing


Scientific Co-ordinator
WP3 - Designing an Innovation Accelerator


Prof. Dr. Dirk Helbing is Chair of Sociology, in particular of Modeling and Simulation, in ETH Zurich, and the Scientific Coordinator of the FuturICT Flagship Proposal.


Prof. Dr. Dirk Helbing

Chair of Sociology, in particular of Modeling and Simulation

ETH Zürich

CLU E 1 Clausiusstraße 50

8092 Zürich

Phone: +41 44 632 88 80

Fax: +41 44 632 17 67

E-Mail: dhelbing@ethz.ch


Some recent publications:



Previous success stories:


* Based on an application of the 'slower-is-faster effect', the supply chain management of etching devices in Infineon Technology's semiconductor production was considerably improved, increasing the throughput by 30%.


* In a project for the ddg Traffic Data GmbH, it was possible to reduce the delay times of traffic jam detection and to improve its accuracy by a factor of two each. The novel approach was based on the integration of real-time infrared detector measurements with floating car data and real-time fluid-dynamic traffic simulations, which also contained an on-line calibration module. The software was subsequently used by the company T-Traffic to monitor traffic on Germany's freeways, and it still seems to be in operation.


* In a collaboration with Volkswagen, a new automatic cruise control system was developed, which can improve the collective traffic performance (i.e. increase the traffic flow and its stability). The system is based on adaptive car-following strategies and inter-vehicle communication and has been successfully tested in real traffic as well as on special test tracks.


* A completely new, fully decentralized traffic light control based on concepts of self-organized coordination and self-control has been patented in Japan, Germany, and other European countries. A pilot study is currently being performed in the city of Dresden, Germany.


* An agent-based software to easily assess the logistic performance of production plants, using self-organization concepts, has been developed in collaboration with SCA Packaging. The software is now being used by the spin-off ACM Managing Complexity GmbH.


* A pedestrian software for multi-modal traffic, crowd and evacuation simulations has been developed, based on the social force model of pedestrian motion. The software is commercially distributed on an international scale by the PTV AG through their VISSIM simulation package. This software has in the meantime supported the planning of the Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, the North Melbourne Station,

and various arenas and mass events all over the world.


* A video analysis software based on sophisticated pattern recognition approaches was developed in order to help prevent critical conditions in pedestrian crowds. The spin-off company Crowd Vision Ltd. is now selling this software world-wide.


* The biggest success was probably the scientific development of novel concepts for the organization of the pilgrimage in and around Mecca in the context of the construction of the New Jamarat Bridge, a 1 billion Dollar investment. The concept required us to take hundreds of factors as well as many religious, political, historical, cultural, financial, and ethical constraints into account. The series of unfortunate crowd disasters in previous years has been stopped by a combination of various measures, and a safe Hajj was celebrated in 2007 (1427H) despite difficult circumstances, particularly with more or less the same capacities during that year, but with 25% more pilgrims than expected. These measures included: counting and monitoring crowds through newly developed video analysis tools, the implementation of a scheduling program for pilgrim groups, re-routing strategies for crowded situations and contingency plans for possible incidents, an awareness program and also an improved information system, which had to guide millions of pilgrims speaking about 200 different languages. The insights gained in this project also help to explain crowd disasters in other places and to reduce the likelihood of future ones by careful application of the lessons learnt.


Several of the above innovations have been awarded by research prizes (eight altogether, several of them based on national or international competitions). The reader can easily imagine, how much could be achieved, if Europe would focus the power of several hundred research teams through a flagship project.

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