You know the feeling: you head out to your favorite restaurant for a relaxing drink after your hectic workday, only to find it’s packed and roaring. Or oddly worse: you’re all geared up for a night of partying, but the bar you choose is deader than JLo’s acting career.
SceneTap, which just won $10,000 and the title of “Chicago’s Coolest Startup” at the CEC Momentum Awards, is out to fix that.
Their free iPhone and Android app uses facial detection technology installed in venues to tell you the crowd size, gender ratio, and average age at restaurants, bars, and hotels. When SceneTap director of business development Andrew Nieman wants to see a Bulls game, for example, he just logs onto the app and searches for places at 30-70 percent capacity – buzzing, but not packed.
SceneTap is available at 250 venues in 13 cities, including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Pheonix, and San Francisco. You can receive notifications when a venue meets your requirements, or just browse the selection by looking at sports team affiliations, specials, and social comments.
As for the facial detection technology, SceneTap is adamant that they do everything to protect privacy. It’s not “facial recognition,” meaning it doesn’t match your face to a database of known faces. Videos are destroyed in real time, and SceneTap signs are posted outside all participating venues
“In this day and age almost every retail business, from a bar to a shopping mall, has security cameras installed. It is virtually impossible to leave your house without ending up on a camera, and many of these establishments already use customer-counting software similar to SceneTap,” says Nieman. “The difference for us is that SceneTap actually spits some beneficial information back out to the public.”
Unsurprisingly, the busiest nights in Chicago are Thursday to Saturday, and the average ratio of men to women on those nights is 60-40. College towns like Bloomington, Indiana, are more balanced. On a venue-by-venue basis, knowing activity and gender statistics can help them test out promotions and ultimately increase the crowd.
But all you have to do is go out and enjoy your Saturday night. And if anyone starts wondering about your sixth sense for picking the right bars, it’s up to you whether or not to reveal your secret.
SceneTap was the title sponsor of our Tech Cocktail Chicago Social in July.