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Cornell considers app that predicts traffic at campus locations

A Cornell University Design & Tech Initiative plans to launch a mobile app that can inform students of the foot traffic at key campus locations like dining halls and libraries.

As reported by the Cornell Sun, the Density app will be available on both the App Store and Google Play and is the brainchild of a trio of Cornell students. Density provides a simple, easy to navigate interface for students to view both live and historical data for the “busyness” of dining locations on campus.

The app will use an algorithm that leverages student ID card swipes and historical data to approximate the traffic of each location. It’s an algorithm that the student developers are continuing to build out.

“Knowing how many people were coming in and buying things wasn’t enough,” said Raymone Radi, one of the app’s developers, in a Cornell Sun interview. “We didn’t know how many people actually sat down after they got something or how many would just come and sit. We’re trying to tell students how busy a place is and it’s hard to do that without knowing some other things than just transactions.”

The developers are drawing inspiration from popular navigation app, Waze. “We want to do the same thing with traffic flow,” said Andrew Xiao, product manager for Density. “We track the traffic flow of certain campus facilities in real time and then we report it to our users, which allows them to avoid crowded places and find the best places to go at the best time.”

Due to a short development timeline, the group has yet to test the app outside of the project team. The goal, however, is to have an iteration of the app ready for the campus community before finals week, as it’s a time when popular campus locations are at their busiest and will provide a good test for Density.

Real-time traffic and data collected from ID card swipes isn’t completely accurate at the moment as the algorithm is still being honed. But the app can pull from historical data to, as an example, illustrate the foot traffic of a campus location for all Fridays that have been measured in the past. The dev team hopes to improve the app’s accuracy over time through user feedback.

While in the current iteration of the app this feedback will only be used by the team to refine the algorithm, the team hopes to eventually relay the crowdsourced information back to its users. Future features for the app include expanding to additional campus facilities such as libraries and campus rec centers.

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