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Density Brings Traffic Counting to New Venues

Using a simple infrared sensor, the startup is providing real-time traffic counts to small brick-and-mortar merchants—but is finding interest from other sectors as well.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Aug 06, 2015

Compared with highly precise, complex technology—flying robots, for example—one might guess that counting foot traffic into and out of a place of business would be relatively simple and, therefore, affordable for even small retailers. Guess again. Video cameras powered by facial-recognition software, Wi-Fi access points (collecting MAC addresses from cell phones), pressure-sensitive mats, infrared electronic eyes, heat maps—these are all technologies that retailers rely upon to not only better understand traffic patterns, but also determine which merchandizing displays attract the most shoppers, and how traffic patterns correlate with sales.

Retailers use traffic counters and their companion analytics services to better compete with online sellers. But the way Density CEO Andrew Farah sees it, there are stakeholders that these systems do not directly help: consumers and small businesses (not only retailers, but also café owners and restaurateurs) that can't afford advanced traffic-tracking systems.

A Density sensor
Density, a startup that launched in mid-July, has introduced a traffic-counting system—based on a simple infrared sensor and an accompanying application programming interface (API)—designed to benefit both types of stakeholders.

Workfrom, a Portland-based startup that helps freelance workers or other individuals find coffee shops offering good Wi-Fi and available seating, is piloting the Density system as a means of directing users to locations where they're likely to find a seat. Requested, a Sacramento-based startup that developed a smartphone app that gives diners a way to request meal discounts, is testing the Density solution as a means of automatically accepting such queries whenever participating restaurants have low traffic. And starting this month, Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) will install Density sensors at UC gyms in order to let students know how busy (high, moderate or low) the gyms are at any given moment. Workfrom, Requested and ASUC are all using Density's API to add the occupancy data to their existing mobile or Web-based applications.

The Density sensor transmits a pair of parallel infrared beams. "The sensor is mounted at waist-height in a doorway, " Farah says. "When someone goes past, the waveform is disrupted and it creates a spike in the sensor's voltage." The walker's direction is thus deduced from whichever of the two IR beams is disrupted first.

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