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UCSD graduate's app shows crowd levels on campus

Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 27, 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A UC San Diego graduate is using a technology he created as a student to help avoid crowds during the pandemic.

Nic Halverson launched Waitz in 2017, an application that measures and publishes how busy a space is at any given time.

Using "Occuspace" sensors plugged into wall outlets, the app uses Bluetooth and WiFi signals to calculate how many people are in the room at a time. Halverson said it does not take any personal data and solely looks at how many devices are present.

He said he first thought of the idea as a student who came from a small town of 3,000 people, then was overwhelmed by the crowds of San Diego.

“I just turned to my friend and I was like, ‘man I wish we knew how busy every floor was before we came here,’ and that’s when kinda the light bulb went off,” he said.

At UCSD currently, the application is used in two libraries, two gyms, and the main food court area. As of the end of August, about a dozen schools across the country will be signed up for the technology, with an anticipated number of close to 60 schools by the spring semester.

While it’s useful for students trying to find a study spot, 2020 has changed the need.

“We and other people realize that people care about how crowded places are now more than ever and it kinda transformed from being that was just convenient to have, it was nice to know how busy a place was before you went, to something that was more a matter of health and safety,” he said.

While UCSD has not announced any plans to incorporate the app in any official coronavirus plan once students return to campus, the technology will still remain live.

Halverson said they are currently talking to ski resorts to use the app to publish wait times for ski lines or restaurants, and he hopes it will continue to grow from there.

“My dream is one day, you’ll be able to look and see how busy every Starbucks or Chipotle is right there on your phone,” he said.