Wifi footfall system that tracks mobiles could see Gwynedd towns use data to help save high streets

A wifi-linked footfall measuring system could help transform town centres, using crucial data to support retail and leisure on high streets.

Social enterprise Menter Mon has installed Presence Orb software on free town centre wifi systems in eight Gwynedd towns under a venture called Patrwn.

It counts mobile phones and can follow shoppers around a town, helping analysts look at key patterns like direction of travel and dwell time.

It is similar to that used by supermarket giants, which use it to design the layout of their stores.

In the case of a town centre, data could be crucial in things like the positioning of signage to measuring the impact an event or new shop opening has on a high street. It could also help potential new retailers select a suitable unit.

Police could also use it to target potential hotspots in the evening.

The system has been used in Aberteifi (Cardigan) and data shared widely to help businesses in that town.

No personal data is taken and Menter Mon said it is fully compliant with GDPR.

Dafydd Gruffydd, Menter Mon managing director, said it was started in April and has helped track the increased footfall as lockdown is eased.

He said: “The system count devices so every time someone walks past it will count them and also see how long they stay and where they go.

“It is what some supermarkets have been using for years but we can start thinking how this information could be useful to our town centres and high streets.

“It can see where people go, where they congregate. What has been interesting is the different personalities of the towns where this is set up.

“This data will be open-sourced and it will be interesting to see what uses can be made of this data and see what patterns there are in each town.

“It could measures things like the impact temporary free parking has on a town or an event, it could help decide where signage is placed. At a time when more people are shopping online I hope this can help our town centres.”

Patrwm is a collaboration between Gwynedd County Council and Menter Mon, through the Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig project.

Cllr Gareth Thomas, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Community at Gwynedd council, said: “This opportunity is  great for the rural communities of Gwynedd. 

“It will allow us to look at how people move around our communities, allowing us to plan for the needs of residents and businesses in the area. 

“This will indeed be a great planning tool in light of recent events.”