The last thing anyone wants to talk about these days is COVID-19. Unfortunately, a second wave of the virus is taking the U.S. by storm—and it’s growing in intensity with each passing day. Even with the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, it has become abundantly clear that the winter months ahead will be no walk in the park. It’s time to hunker down.
But we get it, everyone’s tired of staying at home. The desire to “return to normal” is probably the strongest it has ever been since the pandemic first landed on U.S. soil last year. We’re all experiencing ‘pandemic fatigue’ in one way or another, which isn’t making it any easier to accept the return of increasingly strict lockdown measures once again.
As state and local governments are straddling the fine line between keeping people safe and keeping the economy going, it’s clear that we all need to be more vigilant than ever to maintain the health and safety of not only ourselves but also of everyone around us.
This was the inspiration behind Crowdfree.me from Tripadvisor: A collaborative, in-kind effort supported and built by engineers at Amazon Web Services (AWS), Datadog, Mapbox, Mixpanel, Neura, Radar.io, SafeGraph, Slack, Softserve, Tripadvisor, Veraset, and X-Mode Social.
“Crowdfree.me helps give users the information they need to navigate this pandemic and stay socially distant. What is so great about this effort is that the tech community came together off-hours, on holidays, and on weekends over the last few months to create this public service for consumers. It’s simply one of those days you are proud to be in technology as you watch so many companies come together—and not for a commercial purpose—to help bring this needed service and technology to market.”
– Steve Kaufer, CEO and Co-Founder of Tripadvisor
Businesses are doing whatever they can to stay open and welcome shoppers, giving consumers a bit more courage to venture out. But with more people out and about in public, there are obviously more chances for the virus to be passed on from one person to another.
For consumers who are truly concerned about the growing risks of COVID-19 today, they can visit the Crowdfree.me from Tripadvisor app—currently in beta—to avoid crowds as much as possible whenever leaving their homes to go shopping or even go for a run in the park.
So, how does this platform work, you might ask? With the help of SafeGraph’s fully-anonymized, aggregated, and historical foot traffic data for millions of points of interest (POIs) across the U.S.—along with other real-time, anonymized data sources—the app can essentially tell consumers the right time of day to visit a business or public space. More specifically, it provides information for when those places are least likely to have large crowds of people in them.
Thanks to heat maps and other visual elements that make it super easy for consumers to see, at a quick glance, what the density of any public space looks like at all hours of the day, the app can help consumers make more informed and intelligent decisions whenever they go out.
First and foremost, all partners involved in the creation of the Crowdfree.me app take consumer privacy incredibly seriously. For starters, SafeGraph foot traffic data is derived from anonymized cell phone location pings from users who opt-in to share their location via their mobile devices. There is no personal information shared via this data in any way, shape, or form.
Similarly, to use the Crowdfree.me app, users must agree to the platform’s terms and conditions and opt-in to share their location data anonymously, as this is what will help make the platform more accurate over time. Additionally, location data displayed by the Crowdfree app pertains to open business and public spaces only; data for this app is not collected at private residences.
Finally, it’s also important to note that this data lives in a separate AWS environment from the rest of the Tripadvisor website and other related products, ensuring that this data can never be used or accessed by Tripadvisor or its partners for commercial purposes. As an added measure of security, this anonymized mobile location data is deleted monthly once aggregated insights have been derived to source crowd information purely for the general public’s benefit.
“We are proud to contribute the SafeGraph Places dataset to fuel the Crowdfree consumer app. At SafeGraph, we focus on building the most accurate and robust datasets on the physical world, so that our partners can focus on innovation. We’re humbled to be a key ingredient for determining metadata on public places in the Crowdfree app—and ultimately helping people stay safe during the pandemic.”
– Jason Richman, Director, Enterprise Sales at SafeGraph
The COVID-19 pandemic has essentially turned “normal life” upside down—over and over again. And while we’re not yet in the clear, there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel that brighter, more normal-seeming days are within reach.
Fortunately, with the help of apps like Crowdfree.me from Tripadvisor, we can all be smarter about the choices we make when we go out to public spaces. Getting through this second wave over the cold winter months ahead means being much more proactive about our health and safety than ever before. The Crowdfree platform can help people across the country continue going about their daily lives in the safest way possible.
That's it – that's all we do. We want to understand the physical world and power innovation through open access to geospatial data. We believe data should be an open platform, not a trade secret. Information should not be hoarded so that only a few can innovate.