Companies have been developing tools to track users both online and “IRL” (in real life) for roughly as long as there has been a commercial internet.
So, news that the city is using an AI-driven software tool to gain additional insight into the people who come to big events in Boulder City may come as a surprise. But only a little one for those who’ve been paying attention.
“Placer.AI is a software tool that will not only allow the city and the chamber to have a better understanding of the impacts of economic development and business activity within the community, but it will also be helpful to local businesses to understand the amount of traffic that’s coming into their business and where those consumers are coming from,” said Community Development Director Michael Mays as part of his annual presentation to the City Council at their meeting on Oct. 24.
“In addition, it’s a way for us to track the number of people that are attending our special events, which is a very important economic development stimulus for Boulder City,” he continued.
According to TechCrunch, Placer.AI is a five-year-old startup tech company that received at least $150 million in funding at a total valuation of $1 billion from a group of investors that includes Jeffrey Katzenberg (of Disney and Dreamworks) and a number of real estate-oriented funds.
Placer says it has more than 1,000 customers and municipalities are part of their client mix. Some retail outlets use it to track crowd movement, size and sentiment to help with decision making and planning.
How does it work? Per the company’s website, it goes something like this: If the user of a mobile device such as a smartphone has consented to share data anonymously with any one of an array of mobile applications, those applications can share geolocation data with Placer.AI in real-time through their software development kit or SDK. They can then crunch that data to accurately track foot traffic to any location, including big events in Boulder City such as Art in the Park and the Best Dam Barbecue.
Short market investors have used it to track foot traffic to AMC theaters nationwide and then share that info in online forums and the company was quoted by the fashion publication Womens Wear Daily in a recent piece about a drop in mall traffic in the U.S.
The news that Boulder City has adopted this tool was a short part of a larger presentation and none of the council members asked about it during their period for questions.