DEPLOYMENT: Infectious SocioPatterns

Type: Exhibition
Location: Science Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
Period: Apr 17–Jul 17, 2009
Size: ~30,000 participants

Event description

The mission of the Science Gallery at the Trinity College in Dublin is to ignite creativity and discovery where science and art collide. It opened its doors in February 2008 and has since offered a changing programme of exhibitions, festivals and experiences. In 2009 the Science Gallery held four exhibitions, one of which was INFECTIOUS: Stay away. This exhibition investigated mechanisms of contagion and strategies of containment through science and art. It ran for three months.

Promotion image for INFECTIOUS exhibition.

Promotion image for INFECTIOUS exhibition.

INFECTIOUS teaser movie.

Deployment description

Contributing to a better understanding of the spreading of infectious diseases has always been one of the research objectives of the SocioPatterns project. Given a human-to-human contact network, researchers can perform data-driven computer-based simulations of human-to-human infection spreading over that network. While the study of such infection dynamics considering the complex topology of cumulative contact networks is not new, the SocioPatterns project aims to contribute by enabling such studies on detailed datasets on physically grounded person-to-person contact that include the temporal dimension, allowing researchers to consider the causal order of contacts.

When the Science Gallery learned about the SocioPatterns project, they engaged us to consider a deployment in the INFECTIOUS exhibition. We gladly pursued this opportunity for a number of reasons. On one hand there was anticipated size of the dataset that could be collected during a deployment of that duration. But we were also very interested in the specific nature of the setting. The continuous flux of visitors forms a substrate for social interaction that is structurally different from those found in e.g. a school or a conference, but similar to those found in airports or train stations. Data on the person-to-person interactions in such a setting would thus form a scientifically relevant addition to our collection of datasets. As the organization of such a data collection operation is much more challenging because of the continuous flux of participants, the opportunity of partnering up with the Science Gallery to make it happen was consequently too good to not embrace.

Infectious SocioPatterns

To strengthen the engagement of the visitors, the behavior of the system was extended such that it became a continuous live simulation of the epidemic spreading of a contagious agent through person-to-person contact. Each badge worn by a visitor assumed one of two states: uninfected or infected. Upon entering the exhibition, the visitors’ badges were initially uninfected. The infected state, however, was contagious: uninfected badges could get infected when being near an infected badge. The current state of a badge was indicated by the blinking patterns of its LED light. Special badges were used to selectively seed the infection to some visitor, after which it was allowed to spread among the other visitors.

Real-time visualizations of the interaction network were located throughout the exhibition. In these visualizations the infected badges were shown as green marks, and infected as red marks. The system also involved a reactive part with audio-visual effects triggered by the proximity of infected badges.

The following is an extract from the April 16 journal on the national Irish TV (RTE) that should give you an idea of the exhibition in general and the dramatic framing of the tag distribution process, as well as some of the reactive features of the deployment.

Extract from the April 16 journal on the national Irish TV (RTE).

The following video offers a nice overview of the complete exhibition, starting with the Infectious SocioPatterns deployment.

Overview of INFECTIOUS exhibition


To wrap up this page, we would like to share some pictures from the exhibition.

A bunch of SocioPatterns/OpenBeacon tags at the entrance.

A bunch of RFID tags ready to be distributed at the entrance.

The handing out of the tags

Handing out the RFID tags.

The handing out of the tags

Handing out the RFID tags.

The tunnel contains alarm effects triggered by sentinel tags and disinfection stations.

The tunnel contains alarm effects triggered by nearby infected tags.

Nearing the end of the tunnel with the disinfection stations.

Nearing the end of the tunnel with the disinfection stations.

Queuing to get healed at the disinfection stations.

Queuing to get healed at the disinfection stations.

The visualization at the end of the tunnel during the busy opening event.

The visualization at the end of the tunnel during the crowded opening event.

Close-up of real-time visualization in exhibition.

Close-up of real-time visualization in exhibition.


  • development: Ciro Cattuto and Wouter Van den Broeck
  • deployment: Derek Williams, Don Pohlman, Ciro Cattuto, and Wouter Van den Broeck
  • thanks to: the participants, Michael John Gorman, Vittoria Colizza, Alain Barrat, the exhibition hosts and hostesses, and the ISI administration
  • sponsoring institutions:


New paper in Nature Communications

We have published a new paper in Nature Communications. In this paper, we consider the issue of how to correctly inform numerical models of the propagation of infectious diseases when only partial information on the contacts of individuals is available, due to population sampling.
Indeed, the coverage of the population in many measures of detailed contact networks is incomplete, and this yields a systematic underestimation of epidemic risk if the data is used without precaution. Here, we introduce a method to compensate for this systematic bias and obtain accurate evaluations of epidemic risk using incomplete data. To this aim, we have developed an algorithm that effectively fills in the gaps of the empirical data with a realistic picture of the missing contact network. Although the obtained surrogate contacts are different from the actual missing contacts, using them in the simulation of an influenza-like process gives an accurate estimation of what would have been obtained on using complete data. It is therefore possible to have a good estimation of the epidemic risk, even if a substantial fraction of the contacts are missing from the empirical data.

New paper and new data available!

We have just published a new paper in PLoS ONE. In this paper, we present a detailed comparison between various types of data describing contacts and relationships between students in a high school: data collected from wearable sensors, data from contact diaries and data from surveys in which students were asked to name their friends.

We release all the corresponding data both in the Supplementary Information of the paper and in the SocioPatterns page dedicated to data.


SocioPatterns at a full-scale emergency response exercise

On May 27t the SocioPatterns platform was deployed to track and analyze the interactions of people, objects and spaces during a full-scale exercise organized by the CRIMEDIM Research Center in Emergency and Disaster Medicine in collaboration with the Italian Army and a number of other partners, including the ISI Foundation. The exercise involved almost 500 people, a ROLE2+ military field hospital, 2 primary care centers, 8 ambulances and a coordination center. The tracking system featured fully-distributed recording of the interactions between people, ambulances, hospital rooms and equipment, with real-time monitoring of the hospital workflow and live views in the operations center.



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