Deep learning in crowd counting: A survey

Lijia Deng, Qinghua Zhou, Shuihua Wang, Juan Manuel Górriz, Yudong Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Counting high-density objects quickly and accurately is a popular area of research. Crowd counting has significant social and economic value and is a major focus in artificial intelligence. Despite many advancements in this field, many of them are not widely known, especially in terms of research data. The authors proposed a three-tier standardised dataset taxonomy (TSDT). The Taxonomy divides datasets into small-scale, large-scale and hyper-scale, according to different application scenarios. This theory can help researchers make more efficient use of datasets and improve the performance of AI algorithms in specific fields. Additionally, the authors proposed a new evaluation index for the clarity of the dataset: average pixel occupied by each object (APO). This new evaluation index is more suitable for evaluating the clarity of the dataset in the object counting task than the image resolution. Moreover, the authors classified the crowd counting methods from a data-driven perspective: multi-scale networks, single-column networks, multi-column networks, multi-task networks, attention networks and weak-supervised networks and introduced the classic crowd counting methods of each class. The authors classified the existing 36 datasets according to the theory of three-tier standardised dataset taxonomy and discussed and evaluated these datasets. The authors evaluated the performance of more than 100 methods in the past five years on different levels of popular datasets. Recently, progress in research on small-scale datasets has slowed down. There are few new datasets and algorithms on small-scale datasets. The studies focused on large or hyper-scale datasets appear to be reaching a saturation point. The combined use of multiple approaches began to be a major research direction. The authors discussed the theoretical and practical challenges of crowd counting from the perspective of data, algorithms and computing resources. The field of crowd counting is moving towards combining multiple methods and requires fresh, targeted datasets. Despite advancements, the field still faces challenges such as handling real-world scenarios and processing large crowds in real-time. Researchers are exploring transfer learning to overcome the limitations of small datasets. The development of effective algorithms for crowd counting remains a challenging and important task in computer vision and AI, with many opportunities for future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCAAI Transactions on Intelligence Technology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • artificial intelligence
  • computer vision
  • image analysis
  • image processing


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