Path Intelligence uses sensor technology to understand shopping behavior in retail spaces by detecting and tracking the RF signals from mobile phones.
As Sharon Biggar, co-founder, succinctly puts it – “we are like Google Analytics for the real world” giving offline retailers the same visibility on shopping behavior that online retail has enjoyed for years.
While human observation has been put in the service of retail analysis for a long time, using machine based sensing and computation is different in a few fundamental ways. First, the quantity and efficiency with which data is gathered simply wouldn’t be possible using human observers. Second, the data is based on unbiased observation of people in their habitat and avoids a lot of the errors built into any research that relies on self-disclosure (I wandered around Victoria’s Secret for half an hour – I think not.)
Using sensors to understand and optimize retail flow is a logical first commercial step. This type of technology gets more interesting when it gets applied to other problems. As Sharon describes in the podcast there are opportunities to deploy the same techniques of mobile sensing in areas as wide ranging as counter-terrorism (locating phones that have been stationary for a long period of time is a potential indicator of phones being used as detonators for roadside bombs) and emergency services (using these sensors to gauge attendance and large events and scale services accordingly).
Sharon will be participating at the Summit in the panel, Humans as Sensors.
Disclosure: O’Reilly Alphatech ventures is an investor in Path Intelligence.