The Czech proptech start-up Iterait began marketing an upgraded version of its Vividi footfall counter over the summer. The company’s co-founder Adam Blažek says that the technology does a lot more than just count bodies by offering instant age and gender tabulation.
Shopping malls owners have been able to count footfall numbers automatically for years now by placing simple infrared sensors at the entrances. But the advent of digital technology, APIs and artificial intelligence means makes legacy systems look like something out of the last century. Vividi now comes in a cool-looking box leverages a sophisticated camera and advanced AI capabilities to offer granular information about a center’s performance.
There are many points of entry for proptech entrepreneurs. Some provide integrate an array of building monitoring systems into a single user interface, apps or other software solutions. Some hardware providers buy their equipment from 3rd party producers. Iterait decided to leverage the AI and technical expertise of its founders to develop its own prototype.
Falling costs, rising power
But while the prototype enjoyed some commercial success, the plan was always to replace it with an improved, saleable upgrade. Iterait staff were producing the old box’s components themselves and assembling them from the company’s offices on Hybernska in Prague. For the updated version, Blažek is sourcing components from around the world so that staff simply have to assemble the units in Prague.
He says that until very recently, the cost of installing monitoring equipment around an entire mall was prohibitively, especially compared to the value of the data produced. But huge leaps forward in computing power combined with AI and wireless data transfer have left the archaic people counters in the dust.
“It’s only been in the last couple of years that it became economically viable,” he says. “The price of the hardware and the services and the difficulty of installation have all improved over the past couple of years. It’s suddenly started to make sense now.”
What this means is that mall owners now have a cost-effective way of monitoring their entire center and to get far more valuable data taken from each wing and hallway. Blažek says it’s gotten to the point that individual retailers could subscribe to the service on their own. This would allow them to monitor movement within their store and even the number (and demographics) of people walking by them. And because Iterait owns both the hardware and the user interface, the company can tweak the boxes and the information they produce to match individual customer needs.
Data, not face collection
It probably goes without saying that with current privacy concerns, the product is GDPR compliant. Iterait isn’t providing facial recognition services and isn’t even set up to do so. The resolution of the data the boxes collect only goes as far as age (accuracy of 6 years) and gender. Blažek insists that no visual images are ever stored.
David Nekovář, who is working with Iterait to establish cooperation with shopping centers, says the potential value of this sort of detailed value is huge. Once subjected to proper analysis, he says that landlords and tenants could create better marketing plans that could even widen their target groups. But having worked for companies on both sides of the divide, Nekovář warns that the biggest hurdle tends to be getting them to share data, even if they share a common goal.
Blažek says the company is focused on retail at the moment. But he sees other potential applications for the system, such as exhibition and congresses. At the moment, he says, stand organizers have no idea how many people are going by them, making it difficult to benchmark the success of their location and design. “I think within five or ten years, this kind of detailed information about how your exhibition performed and what kind of impression you made will be an industry standard,” he says. “Basically, any organizer that doesn’t provide this kind of information will be left behind and outperformed.”
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