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Voxel51 EarthCam
Courtesy of EarthCam

As crowd monitoring rises to the forefront due to public safety concerns, more companies are introducing novel platforms to track outdoor gatherings.

In April, Voxel51, a startup at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, released new features of its existing digital platform. The offering now pairs with underlying custom AI to track vehicle, cyclist, and pedestrian traffic.

In turn, the system assigns each place a “physical distancing index,” or PDI score, once every 15 minutes.

“The PDI score helps people understand and compare how (an outbreak like) the coronavirus is changing social behaviors over time, and enables municipalities to visualize how they’re doing from a public health perspective,” says Jason Corso, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at U-M and CEO of Voxel51. “Overall, we could see that the public response to (recent) stay-at-home mandates has been rather dramatic and impressive.”

While other systems are tracking lockdown compliance, what’s different about Voxel51’s approach is that its real-time, video-based data protects privacy. Data sources like mobile phones don’t protect privacy, and only offer approximate locations.

On Voxel51’s platform, viewers can click on a specific point in time to see historic footage as well as details about policies like school closures. The company says it gains permission to use existing cameras.

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