WaitTime Expands Crowd Analytics Service Into Mega-Malls In Cisco-Intel Partnership

November 17, 2021 by Dave Haynes

The load-balancing outcomes the Detroit start-up WaitTime brings to sports and entertainment venues has always seemed like a smart play, but I am not sure about the company’s new partnership with tech giants Cisco and Intel for places like giant shopping malls.

The three have “collaborated to deliver an artificial intelligence (AI) solution that provides real-time capacity, crowd density and shopper experience insights to Mall of America. Using the data, Mall of America can make informed business decisions and improve shopper experiences, while maintaining the privacy of individual visitors.”

“With the help of WaitTime, Intel and Cisco, we can remove the guesswork about how and where shoppers are spending their time and make real changes to improve shopping experience,” said Aaron Nielsen, VP IT at Mall of America & American Dream. “The insights gained are invaluable, especially when we connect the dots to Wi-Fi and directory usage.”

Fueled by Intel Xeon Scalable processors with AI accelerators in combination with Cisco’s Meraki and analytics solutions, WaitTime uses artificial intelligence to precisely count the number of people in a given area and determine whether they are congregating or passing through. WaitTime also provides detailed analytics that operators can use to provide better shopper experiences.

There are lots of technologies – from slick stuff like AI-driven computer vision and wifi sniffing to old-school stuff like mechanical counters – that can give a mall operator a sense of how the space is used by different parameters, as well as shopper behaviors. So I am not sure this is problem still looking for a solution.

Where WaitTime started is in sports and entertainment venues with what I think is a clever, spot-on solution for improving fan experiences and selling more stuff at concessions. The company uses anonymous computer vision cameras to analyze crowds and lines in the concourse areas of arenas and stadiums, visualizing in real-time the state of line-ups for things like washrooms and food and beverage counters. Those visualizations are on digital signage screens and have the effect of telling people while THAT line for the women’s washroom near gate 52 is horrendous, there’s little or no line around the corner at gate 48. Same goes for the beer line.

The net effect is people don’t miss part of a game or concert waiting in line to go pee, so better experience. Load-balanced hot dog and beer lines means fewer ticket-holders abandon the lines, which means more sales.

I’d do airports waaaay before I did shopping malls, as that’s the kind of venue that has big-time line-up problems all over the place. But I’ll stress I don’t know the inner workings of WaitTimes’ business, or the needs or goals of Cisco and Intel. I just know that while retail has some serious supply chain issues lately, there is no shortage of retail analytics solutions on the market.

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