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New crowd-monitoring technology comes to University of Rochester

Emily Putnam
Updated: November 22, 2020 08:45 AM
Created: November 21, 2020 07:49 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC)- The University of Rochester's River Campus has new technology that could help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

It's called Occuspace, and it's a crowd monitoring system developed by Nic Halverston, an inventor and entrepreneur from San Diego, California. The system is on college campuses across the country, like Baylor University, Oklahoma University, several University of California campuses, and now the UofR.

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The university began testing the technology at the beginning of the fall semester in five spaces within the Rush Rhees library. They'll continue to test it throughout this academic year and if all goes well, the university plans to explore other areas of campus where the technology can be used. 

The idea is to help students see, in real-time, how many other people are in a space before deciding where to study. 

"We know that many students, before they leave their dorms, before they leave their homes or their work or wherever they happen to be, they might want to check and see, you know where is there space for me to study?" said Lauren Di Monte, associate dean of learning, research, and digital strategies at U of R's Rush Rhees library. 

"For right now, in the moment of COVID, the questions are how do we give people safe places to study, to learn, to research? And that's what Occuspace is helping us with right now," Di Monte continued. 

The device plugs into a wall outlet and detects how many Wifi and Bluetooth signals are in the space. Di Monte explains "it basically senses those signals, pulls that information together and then uses an algorithm to determine if there's X amount of signals, it's Y number of people in the space."

The goal is to give students, faculty, and staff an idea of how crowded a space is before entering it, and to keep crowd sizes small in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. 


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