Placemeter recently began taking pre-orders for its unique machine-vision sensor, which is designed to make anonymized counts of vehicle and foot traffic in public places.
The New York City startup made headlines last year with the announcement of a $6 million funding round. At that time, the company was recruiting paid beta-testers who would run its app on old smartphones or webcams placed in windows overlooking busy intersections and plazas. And while the platform still works on those kinds of traditional camera hardware, Placemeter says its new sensor is an improvement for privacy, reliability and ease of use.
“The Placemeter Sensor has a lens, but it’s similarity to a camera stops there,” representatives of Placemeter wrote in an email to Postscapes. They were unwilling to tell us exactly what components the sensor includes, but they explained that the big difference between the sensor and a camera is where the images are stored and processed.
They explained that traditional cameras have to transmit their video feeds over the Internet to Placemeter’s servers before the images can be processed by the company’s traffic-counting algorithms. The new sensor, however, does all of that processing locally. That means the numerical traffic data is the only thing that is routinely stored and transmitted — raw images and video are only collected in tiny amounts, for occasional quality assurance checks.
In addition to protecting the privacy of the people being discreetly and unknowingly counted, that also greatly reduces the bandwidth needs of the sensor. And with less data to transmit, it becomes feasible for the sensor to have its own cellular data connection — which, the Placemeter team writes, “alleviates a pain point for customers such as real estate brokers who want to collect data on properties where there is no internet connection.”
Other uses for the Placemeter platform range from counting visits to retail stores, to helping city planners identify hotspots of traffic congestion, to allowing residents and urban activists to quantify the impact to their neighborhoods of changes in things like public transportation, zoning and urban infrastructure. Placemeter describes its platform as “self-serve,” meaning that the company expects users to collect whatever data they’re interested in and put it to creative uses that will improve the way cities are designed, used and understood.
The Placemeter Sensor is set to begin shipping in the fall of 2015. Learn more in the video below.