Motionloft analyzes people and vehicle traffic for commercial and civic purposes

By June 13, 2013
San Francisco Union Square buildings

Motionloft has developed a solution for collecting and aggregating real-time data on San Francisco’s pedestrian and vehicle traffic, which can be used by real estate or retail sector players or to help with city planning.


Gathering and analyzing data on a city’s urban traffic – both pedestrian and vehicle – provides a priceless mine of information for its retailers, real estate firms and the local authorities. In San Francisco, Motionloft is gradually gaining a reputation as a provider of essential tools for a variety of sectors. A number of startups have recently developed technologies to measure in-store traffic and help retailers optimize their costs. These systems are constantly being refined to increase the granularity of the data harvested.  In order to reduce the need for special infrastructure, some solutions make use of the mobile phones carried by passers-by to measure footfall. This is how Palo Alto, California-based  Euclid Analytics, which describes itself as the “Google Analytics solution for the real world”, works, measuring in-store traffic using WiFi. The only drawback is that the system only picks up on customers who are carrying a portable device, and only measures pedestrian footfall. Now San Francisco-based startup Motionloft has developed technology which provides measurement of vehicles (cars and bicycles) – as well as pedestrian – traffic using simple sensors installed on the outsides of buildings. The system can be applied to many different fields of activity, from town planning to the real estate business.

Collecting and aggregating real-time urban movement data

What is special about Motionloft’s approach to ‘sidewalk analysis’ is that it measures all the traffic in the vicinity of a given location, whether public or private. Motionloft installs low-energy sensors which gather data 24/7 from the outsides of buildings. Each sensor measures around 12 ×12 cm, and can, for example be fixed to a window with a clear view onto the street, its pedestrian flow and vehicle traffic. All information gathered is stored in the cloud and is then transformed into charts and graphs which Motionloft supplies to its customers. Data is of course collected anonymously: no video system which might identify individuals is used. The basic charge for the service is $279 a month, increasing according to the level of customization required. As well as San Francisco, Motionloft has also installed sensors along New York City’s Broadway, including Times Square, and elsewhere in the United States. The company is now refining its data gathering, and will soon be able to indicate the make of a vehicle driving past, the speed at which passers-by are walking, and also to compare traffic data against a range of weather conditions.

Providing data to different city players

There would appear to be an almost infinite number of uses for Motionloft. However, the first applications have been commercial ones, with real estate agents and retailers the main client’s for the startup’s data packages. For instance, traffic and footfall measurement provides a basis for assessing the value of a piece of commercial real estate. Meanwhile an individual store can use this kind of data to determine the best city neighborhood in which to open a new outlet, the most suitable opening hours for an existing business, and even to monitor how passing traffic in front of the store goes up and down in relation to its shop window displays. Other uses have also been tried out. Motionloft has also made data available to the San Francisco local authorities on the city’s open data platform. San Francisco authorities publishing data collected by a private company is actually a first in the San Francisco Bay area, the aim being to stimulate ‘civic entrepreneurship’ and to encourage entrepreneurs to come up with solutions to urban issues. Last but not least, Motionloft data might well be of use to ordinary people planning a move to a new town. Obtaining some information on a neighborhood before taking the plunge and moving in certainly makes sense.

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