FC Barcelona has completed the first phase of a crowd management project that utilises the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) as part of a major European Union-backed technology programme.

The top-tier Spanish La Liga club has linked up with one of Europe’s leading supercomputing centres for the project, which has created a digital twin system – a virtual model of a process – that analyses and predicts the movement of people inside and outside its facilities, including the Camp Nou stadium.

The collaboration with Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC) was first announced a year ago, with both partners among the 23 organisations from eight nations to sign up for the EU’s €20m IoTwins Project. The project seeks to utilise new technologies for digitising industrial processes and products through the EU’s wider Horizon 2020 programme.

The IoTwins project was initially seen by Barcelona as an opportunity to influence decisions made in the Espai Barça development, however it is also now seen as important in safely managing the return of fans to stadiums following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project consists of modelling the movements of people through the club’s facilities, collecting anonymous data and creating a computer simulation that reproduces the most common movements by the public.

The partners said this system will provide information that allows decisions to be made in real time, optimally managing the use of the facilities once the public can return to the stadium. It will facilitate movement, anticipate crowds and organise emergency devices, as well as aid in the rearrangement of spaces during the construction process for Espai Barça.

“FC Barcelona and the BSC are working to adapt this tool to serve as support for managing the gradual return of the public, when authorities allow,” the club said in a statement.

“This is done by incorporating a Covid-19 transmission model into the simulations, which would allow the analysis of different ways of regulating entry of fans into the stadium, seeing which one best suits safety measures: Social distancing and capacity restriction.”

Espai Barça is a wide-ranging development plan that will see the capacity of the Camp Nou increase from around 99,000 to over 105,000, with a new roof to also be fitted at the iconic stadium. The project will also see the 7,500-seat Palau Blaugrana arena, which serves as the home of Barcelona’s basketball and handball clubs, be replaced by a new facility.

Last month, SoFi Stadium, the recently opened new home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers NFL teams, claimed it had become the first major venue in the US to implement digital twin technology through an agreement with Willow.

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