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Situational Awareness – New Year’s Edition

In the last two days, I have written about two situational awareness applications for embedded hardware products. Thefirst was toward the creepy side and the second much more acceptable on multiple fronts. I think you will find this somewhat in the middle.  As the New Year’s Eve approaches, you might find this application provides you with actionable intelligence that you can really use.

In Wednesday’s Boston Globe I read a story about a company called SceneTap and they provide a downloadable application that can give you current population and demographic information from local bars or hangouts that you might be interested in. How does SceneTap provide this product? The answer is quite interesting from both a technical and business perspective. Let’s look at both sides:

Business Perspective: SceneTap provides the downloadable application to users for free and it is activated when users open an account using a valid e-mail address. To the potential patrons, they can use the application to see if a place is “hopping” or not. SceneTap earns revenues by selling the hardware and/or service to establishments in a covered urban area. The value proposition to one of these establishments is multi-faceted. First of all, if you have a place that is relatively popular at least some of the time, it should increase business because more people will know that it is a good place to go. If they have a good time, they are likely to come back. The application can also provide management with actionable intelligence about the exact demographics of patrons during all hours, days, and/or events. Previously, this would have been done with less accurate and manpower-intensive qualitative data. SceneTap could also provide information on the application use either inside the establishment or, at a minimum how many times users looked up the establishment. This data could be used to send e-mail offers to targeted users and also be a source of advertising revenue for SceneTap.

Hardware Perspective: The SceneTap embedded hardware consists of people counters at the entry/exit doors and cameras that provide facial images that are analyzed by local and/or cloud-based computers. We believe that SceneTap can use something like Intel’s AIM Suite as part of the solution stack. SceneTap stresses that their application only performs facial analysis as opposed to facial recognition which is a very important distinction for placement of this product on the creepiness scale. So, if you are using the SceneTap application to determine if a specific person is at a particular place, you will have to use Twitter, Facebook or something else like a phone call for that actionable intelligence.

Other embedded hardware that could potentially deployed as part of the solution stack would be microphones and DSP components to detect sound levels and Wi-Fi equipment that could detect the number (but hopefully not identity) of SceneTap users inside the particular establishment.   

Final Thoughts: So, as you look for a place to go on New Year’s Eve, you might think of using SceneTap if they are covering your area. I am lucky because they do have coverage in Boston, but I would probably use it in a way that SceneTap founders probably did not originally envision.  Since I am no longer young, hip, or single, I would tend to use SceneTap to find a quite place that is NOT hopping. Then, I won’t have to stand in a line to get in, wait very long to get served, and most importantly, be able to hear the conversation of my wife.

Have a great New Year’s everyone and best wishes for a prosperous and fiscal cliff-less 2013.

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