Israel: Michal Isaacson, a doctoral student working with Dr. Noam Shoval of the geography department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, has recently shown that GPS can also be applied commercially to better deal with crowd or shopper management, and can even be used to evaluate patient recovery following surgery.
Isaacson’s research has already been recognised for its importance; she has been named the first prize winner among students in this year’s competition for the Kaye Innovation Awards at the Hebrew University. Furthermore, the system has recently been licensed to an American company, Location Based Intelligence, for further development and commercialisation in the medical area.
Issacson’s study shows that by tracking movement of people, we can better understand their activity in different settings. For instance, in urban areas, shopping malls, theme parks, and national parks, people might show different patterns of movement, from which we can learn how crowds interact in each setting.
The system Issacson and Shoval have developed harness GPS technology to record the location of people for a designated period of time. In order to do so, the individuals are required to carry a small GPS unit with them. The new application has already been tested at the Port Aventura theme park in Spain, where people were given such GPS units. Afterwards the tracking data was analysed using a computerised time/space analysis engine. The resulting maps indicate the volumes of activity throughout the location; moreover, the software created charts that show how different types of populations spent their time in the location.
Besides creating post-hoc informative reports, such as charts and maps, the obtained data can also be used in real time. Such usage creates virtual “radar”, which shows the activity of visitors throughout a destination during events. The new technology also has medical applications. By giving post-surgery patients a GPS unit, their mobility could be detected (by tracking their movements), thus allowing the treating staff to have follow-up information. By combining this information with physiological data (such as heart rate and blood pressure), physicians could ensure that their patients are recovering at the expected rate.
The medical aspect of the new technology was developed in collaboration with Dr. Yair Barzilay, of the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School and the Orthopedic Surgery Unit at Hadassah University Hospital.