Five interesting things that result from gobs of foot traffic data

1. Windows get monetized.

Yes, your window could actually make you money. A New York start-up is paying city residents with a good view up to $50 a month for posting a smartphone in their window. Placemeter wants to canvas Manhattan with video feeds so that it can accurately track pedestrian traffic. Given the limits and costs of accessing cameras across the city, it’s crowdsourcing the project. Participants with a good view of a street can apply on Placemeter’s Web site. The start-up aggregates the videos from around the city into data on how many pedestrians travel on each street. They hope to use pedestrian data to make cities smarter and more livable.

“Our big vision is to radically change the way we interact with the physical world. We being customers, or consumers or business owners. We want to really make that data prevalent,” Placemeter chief executive Alex Winter said.  The six-person start-up has signed up 500 people to make money via their window. It says it needs between 2,500 and 2,700 video feeds to properly cover the city. Regarding privacy concerns, Winter said the video feeds are immediately converted into data and the videos are then deleted from Placemeter’s servers.


Shouldn’t brands pay less when fewer people walk by their ads? (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)

2. Billboards and on-street ads can be better targeted.

With high-resolution cameras Placemeter says it can detect the gender of pedestrians with between 75 and 80 percent accuracy. The opens the potential for advertisements to be targeted to a more appropriate audience.

“It could be much more like an online way of buying advertising with programmatic buys, depending on the hour of the day and depending on the audience. You could imagine a world where around 5 p.m. we know a lot more people are passing by and they walk fast so they’ll have less opportunity to connect with a billboard, and there’s a bigger discrepancy between men and women,” said Florent Peyre, Placemeter’s chief operating officer. “Once you have all that data, you can start targeting.”

For billboard owners who face stiff regulations as they try to post new signs, finding a way to charge more for existing billboards — thanks to highly-targeted ads — may be the best path to growing their businesses.


Better foot traffic data could let retailers know whether they’re paying too much for a location. (Andrew Toth/Getty Images)

3. Retailers pick the best location to open their next store.

The location of a store can make a huge difference in its success. Placemeter wants to sell its foot traffic data to businesses to help them get a leg up.

“We’re trying to find inefficiency in the market. We’d like to know when we’re looking at new locations, how many dollars am I paying for the person to walk past the door effectively and get the biggest bang for our buck,” said David Reid, the chief financial officer at Dylan’s Candy Bar, which will be conducting a pilot with Placemeter’s data.

“Frankly the existing data out there is pretty unreliable,” Reid said. “An area becomes hot and rents start to gradually increase as the area becomes hot, but that likely takes some time. The first person who moves in there is getting some solid results there, then people get to eventually know about it, real estate agents get to know about it. Ultimately the price starts to increase to a level that accurately reflects how good or bad the area is. We’re trying to effectively short circuit that.”


With enough trash cans, littering becomes less of an issue. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

4. Smart cities: Government can better deploy services

Placemeter has rigged up three smartphones in an office window overlooking the 9/11 Memorial in New York to help officials understand the flow of pedestrians.

“They want a sense of the ups and downs of traffic flow,” Peyre said. “It’s for varied reasons, some are operations. They want a sense of how many people they should have on staff in the park at any given time.”

Brooklyn, N.Y. resident Alan Minor has teamed with the Green Point Chamber of Commerce to apply for a Green Point Community Environmental Fund grant have additional trash cans deployed. The grants calls for using Placemeter’s data to determine the best locations for trash cans.

“It would take a lot of time and resources on our own to sort of guestimate where trash cans should be placed,” Minor said. “I haven’t found any sort of metric that cities would use that would be better than what Placemeter has been using.”

Minor developed an interest in reduce littering by improve waste disposal infrastructure after walking home from a concert one night. Someone walking ahead of him dropped a vitaminwater bottle, and Minor picked it up.

“My friend looked at me incredulously,” Minor recalled. “I told him that I was going to throw this empty vitaminwater bottle away in a trash can.” Minor ended up walking eight or nine blocks before finding a trash can. Without a better infrastructure of trash can, he knows New York’s littering problem can’t be fixed.


Imagine if you could find out how long a line is before showing up. (Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg)

5.  Customers get an idea of how long a line in a store might be.

Thanks to its video feeds Placemeter can monitor the number of people exiting and entering stores. With that data they know how many people are in a store, and have a rough idea of how long the lines are.

“It still drives me crazy when I go to Trader Joe’s and one day there’s no line — it’s great for whatever reason — and the next day it is completely packed,” Peyre said. “If you think about the amount of devices that get connected to the Internet every second, it’s insane we haven’t found a way to gather that data and push it out to people.”

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
SECTION: {section=national/on-innovations, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=national/on-innovations, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Next Story
Tuan C. Nguyen | June 16