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Physical Distancing

De-densification Tech Monitors Foot Traffic


In fall 2020, the University of Rochester is planning a hybrid online and in-person approach to meet standards of physical distancing. The university recently adopted a new technology that monitors foot traffic, which it will use in concentrated locations on campus, starting with its main library.

The technology from Occuspace is customized for each site. Sensors are used to scan for Bluetooth and WiFi signal activity in the area. Then algorithms estimate the number of people those signals equate to. According to the company, the accuracy rate is "over 90 percent." Occuspace said there's no personally identifiable information collected or stored, and the sensors can be installed without changes to the immediate infrastructure.

Annual pricing is based on the total devices used, which is predicated on total square footage. A site that's 100,000 square feet, for example, would be priced at between $10,500 and $15,000.

At Rochester, the tech will be used for the Rush Rhees Library to continuously monitor and share patron density in five areas.

The university is also using Waitz, an Occuspace app that provides a real-time view of a given space's occupancy, so students can find out ahead of time when specific study areas are full or have space for more people.

"When we were thinking about reopening in the fall, we thought a lot about what it means to de-densify," said Lauren Di Monte, assistant dean of Digital and Research Strategies, in a campus article about the implementation. "This technology gives us the ability to help our students make informed choices about where they study and when."

She noted that the data collected each day will also give the library an opportunity to evaluate how spaces are being used and how they might be modified to make them safer or more accommodating.

"We can also look at a broader swath of data and use it to inform long-term and strategic plans," Di Monte said. In time, she added, this could become a research opportunity for students.

Occuspace products are also being used in other institutions, the company said, including the Universities of California in San Diego, Santa Barbara and Irvine; and McGill University.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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