Cameras in Downtown Crossing stores monitor shopper traffic and trends

Cameras in Downtown Crossing stores monitor shopper traffic and trends

BOSTON — Data collected in Downtown Crossing stores is helping Downtown Crossing business owners to track the habits of their customers.

"Most of the information that we had is anecdotal," Rosemarie Sansone, the president and CEO of Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, said. "Now, we have data sensors that can capture data 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter what the weather is, no matter what's going on."

Sansone said 12 camera created a series of dots, and they're also equipped with infrared sensors. The dots are counted up to monitor pedestrian traffic patterns and trends.

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"The information can be used by leasing agents," Sansone said. "It can be used by people who are planning special events."

The cameras could bring up some privacy concerns, but Kade Crockford, the director for the ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project, said the cameras are a good sign for the future.

"It is certainly a case that shows us this type of technology can be used in ways that don't raise immediate flags for privacy," Crockford said.

The Business Improvement District says no data is stored, and identifying data is erased once the dot is created.

Crockford said if the system does what it says it does, it could be a model for other systems.

"There are many, many ways that we can use big data and automation, which I'm assuming is being used in this system to make our cities more productive," Crockford said. "More safe, more efficient, and we welcome that."