Foot Traffic Counter

Density is, as the company’s website puts it so simply, a people counter. Like other startups that analyze foot traffic, Density is designed to let retailers, coffeeshops, co-working spaces and other places collect better data about how many customers pass through their doors.

In conversations at online forums, Density’s founders are candid about their belief that hardware sales are becoming a tough game. That’s why the company’s own device is both simple and free. It’s essentially just a pair of infrared sensors, with parallel beams crossing a doorway so it can count the people passing through and know whether each one is coming or going. Getting and installing the hardware costs nothing; Density makes its money through subscriptions to its data-analysis service.

Counting customer visits is plenty useful for retailers and other venues, but as Density’s name implies, there’s a particular value in having an exact count of the number of people in a location at any given time. Grocery stores could use it to anticipate a rush at the checkout counters, and have more cashiers available before the lines build up; bars and dance clubs could use it to more precisely meter the flow of people through the door line.

The value of the information can also be passed on to customers by making the data available online or in an app. Imagine being able to check how crowded the local coffeeshops are, so you can pick a quiet place to have a conversation; or knowing before you leave home whether there’s an open desk at your local co-working space.

Infrared sensors aren’t the only way to count people, as the diversity among Density’s competitors proves. Technologies in this area range from Wi-Fi beacons that detect customers by pinging their smartphones, to pressure-sensitive floormats that count customers by their footsteps, to camera (or camera-like) systems that count people with machine-vision algorithms. And of course there’s the old “break-beam” sensor, which has been in use for decades, but tends to be neither networked nor capable of telling whether each person is headed in or out of a building.

Density is promoted as combining the best features of all these options: cheap and simple hardware, accurate real-time data, and completely anonymous. While competitors like Placemeter have to go out of their way to assure the public that their sensors are not really cameras and that they’re not using face recognition or other ways of identifying individuals, Density’s data is so low-fi that it undercuts most privacy concerns while still delivering useful insights.

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Related: In-Store Analytics, Placemeter, Scanalytics SoleSensor, Estimote, RetailNext


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