Q&A: Alexandre Winter of Placemeter

Alexandre Winter
Alexandre Winter

Have you ever wondered how to measure and analyze foot traffic to your retail store? Or how municipalities measure pedestrian safety regarding bike lanes and sidewalks? A revolutionary new site, Placemeter, helps answer those questions and more with their open urban intelligence platform. We had the pleasure of learning more about Placemeter by interviewing founder and CEO, Alexandre Winter about the unique and innovative technology.

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1. What sort of industry gaps did you recognize that made you launch Placemeter?

The world, especially our cities, needs radical optimizations to support and handle the enormous population growth that is ahead of us. But, to optimize things, you need to quantify them! Placemeter measures movement in our modern cities, and provides anyone interested in making the best out of our cities with the data to make it happen.

The same applies for real estate! Before Placemeter, there was no easy, accessible or accurate foot traffic data available for real estate. Our platform gives brokers and agents an accurate and up-to-the-hour view into pedestrian and vehicular movement for any property, which can strengthen the estimated value of a real estate investment, differentiate property listings, and justify rental prices year over year.

Passing along property foot or vehicle traffic data to tenants can also be invaluable in guiding their operations and marketing strategies. For example, Palais des Thes, which has two tea shops in New York, estimated that 80 percent of foot traffic to their SoHo location came from the East, where it intersected with West Broadway, a major street. After looking at data from Placemeter for pedestrian movement outside the shop, they found only 60 percent came from that direction. As a result, the store added a new display on the West side to help attract those customers. The store also found traffic was actually higher on Fridays than Saturdays –  unlike their initial assumption – which led them to shift an employee to accommodate the customer flow.

2. Why do business owners, municipalities, and commercial brokers need Placemeter?

Placemeter provides business owners, municipalities and commercial brokers with real-time information about pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle movements. Municipalities can use this data to improve pedestrian safety by analyzing sidewalk capacity, bike lane routes, and intersection patterns. Retailers can also use movement data to optimize storefront marketing campaigns, business hours, and future store locations. Commercial brokers can use the data to prove the value of their various properties.

Specifically, Placemeter’s data can strengthen the valuation of a property by showing pedestrian activity at your location compared to similar properties based on zoning district, age, size, and Walk Score. Placemeter can also help brokers and agents differentiate their listings and prove the value of a property by providing accurate and trustworthy data about sidewalk traffic, which can be used to inform everything from site selection to justifying rental prices over time.

Additionally, by building a database of pedestrian data across properties, brokers and agents can compare neighborhoods to detect trends and patterns that signal a neighborhood’s resurgence. Increasing pedestrian activity over the course of a few months, for example, signals an area’s growth.

3. How does Placemeter work?

Our Self Serve Platform allows anyone to use Placemeter’s technology to begin collecting data right away.

Real estate brokers and agents can simply stick a Placemeter Sensor on a window at any of their properties and immediately access their selected data in real time, including counts of people, vehicles, bicycles and more. Placemeter can count people coming in and out of stores or buildings, and infer how many people are inside, by only looking at the outside.

This data can be measured against a historical baseline, visualized in Placemeter’s web dashboard, and exported for further analysis and comparison to internal data to uncover patterns and trends, or the data can be correlated with weather, holidays, time of events, days of the week, time of the day, calendar information, public video streams, and crowdsourced data to predict future activity.

Once the desired data has been collected for one property, the Placemeter Sensor can be easily removed and placed at another property to begin analysis. For example, Placemeter helped Rockfeld Group better market several of their properties by measuring sidewalk traffic over the course of two months and providing them with other comparable locations in New York City.

4. How accurate is the data that Placemeter provides?

Computer vision allows Placemeter to be both very accurate and very scalable. Until now you had to choose to be one or the other.

We have trained our system to work regardless of lighting changes, weather, sensor quality, frame rates, resolution and viewpoint – another asset for scalability.

Prior to launch, our team did an incredible amount of quality assurance – people would manually count objects from video feeds and compare results with our algorithms – as of our launch in June the accuracy of our algorithms was greater than 80 percent, and this number only continues to grow as every new video feed makes our system better, more robust and more scalable.

5. Where do you see Placemeter in 5 years?

Placemeter is an open platform that can be used by anyone, anywhere, for various use cases and in various industries.

Placemeter is democratizing access to data that quantifies the real world, just like the digital world. We are seeing so many people to derive insights from the data and correlate it with their own sources and use it to improve their environment. There is tremendous creativity around all the applications of the data we provide.

As we continue to disseminate our data across even more sectors and verticals, as more and more people find usages for our quantified analysis of movement that we have not even thought of, as the density of coverage of the world with technology like ours grow, we will, at some point, cross a threshold where the real world is as efficiently instrumented as the online world, and becomes as responsive and efficient. The future smart and reactive city is coming!

6. What are some of your favorite real estate tech sites or products?

There are so many innovations making a huge impact on real estate right now; it’s really incredible to see how everything from transactions to the actual usage of buildings is improving.

A few of my favorite examples include 3D showcases for existing properties as well as future developments are really exciting, which decrease the need for multiple in-person walkthroughs to help tenants and buyers find the perfect space for their business in less time. Pop-up stores are a fantastic way to make use of space that might otherwise sit vacant – PopUpInsider is a great New York-based service that matches tenants with landlords willing to fill space on a short-term basis.

I’m also a big fan, and avid user, of KISI, the secure keyless access system – this type of technology is sure to become widely adopted in the near future.