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Butlr revamps privacy-focused sensors to help mitigate COVID-19
Hannah DeTavis
Butlr's people-sensing platform
Butlr’s people-sensing platform. Source: Butlr

While many retail-focused companies are suffering from the pandemic, MIT spin-out Butlr (HAX 2020) has pivoted its privacy-centric indoor people tracker to keep stores open safely.

TechCrunch recently spotlighted Butlr for its wireless, battery-powered hardware and artificial intelligence used to track people’s movements indoors without collecting any personal data. Using ceiling-mounted sensors, Butlr’s technology detects body heat to track where an individual walks and predict where they might move next.

Butlr initially envisioned its technology for triggering air conditioning when the sensors detect movement, helping businesses visualize shoppers’ walking patterns in their stores, and sounding an alarm when a person is in a store after hours. But with many stores now closed or with strict shopping restrictions, Butlr is now rolling out new software to manage occupancy and queues, enforce social distancing rules, and show outside shoppers how crowded a store is.

The company protects privacy by using passive infrared sensors to detect body heat without collecting any personal information, including images of your face. Individuals are no longer tracked the moment they leave the sensor’s range.

Even before the pandemic, the technology saw huge success, making its way into 200,000 retail stores for its focus on affordability and privacy. Even at the peak of the pandemic, though, Butlr has continued its trajectory, raising $1.2M in seed funding just last month.