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Journal Sentinel: Bar-Scene App Tells You What's Hopping

May 29, 2012


From Journal Sentinel:

On the eve of my daughter's graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison last weekend, she took her parents to her favorite bar, knowing how proud we are of her. And knowing we were paying.

Her plan was to lose us oldsters later in the evening and celebrate with friends, so she was checking out other watering holes in town on her smartphone. I was amazed to see this app showing how busy these places were at that moment, the male-female ratio and the average age.

Now I know how the app does it, and it's giving some people the creeps.

It's called SceneTap, and Madison is the first Wisconsin city where it's available. The free app's creators say Milwaukee may join later this year. It started in Chicago last July and spread to San Francisco and a half dozen college towns, including Austin, Texas, where the company is based.

Cameras at the door count people going in and out, and they use facial detection technology to calculate the gender and age of each person from facial features and measurements. The information for each venue is updated every 15 minutes.

"It's not 100% perfect. It's plus or minus 3 to 5 years in either direction with about 90% accuracy. That's better than you or I could do if were just guessing," SceneTap spokesman Andrew Cross in Chicago told me.

Privacy-conscious bloggers and tweeters in San Francisco found this unsettling and threatened to boycott bars with SceneTap, which led to an open letter to the city this week from company founder Cole Harper.

"Here's the thing," he wrote. "There are no videos or images stored at any time. Once the data is triggered, the images are overwritten, deleted, gone. There are no tapes. There is no video feed either. No one can go to www.scenetap.com and see what is happening. It's all data and numbers - that's it.

. . .

For full article visit, Journal Sentinel.


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