Sometimes getting a meal at the ballpark can be as nail-biting as the game itself. There are so many options to choose from and, once you do pick, the circular architecture of arenas can make finding a particular concession stand confusing. When you finally get there, the line might be so long as to not even be worth it at all.
This is where WaitTime comes in. The Detroit-based startup installs cameras and artificial intelligence (AI) systems in stadiums and arenas to basically become a Waze for event food. The cameras mounted on the ceiling outside of concession stands watch all the bodies moving underneath them. Using computer vision and AI, computers on-site examines the movements of all those individuals and determines how busy each stand is.
From there color coded wait times are broadcast to giant screens installed around the stadium letting attendees know which stands have long (red), medium (yellow) and short (green) wait times. Screens also provide directions and serve as ad space for on-site stands that want to run a special.
Additionally, WaitTime works with mobile apps relevant to that space to provide this same wait time information directly to someone’s phone. So if you are a fan of the Miami Heat watching a game at their home, the American Airlines Arena, you would bring up the Heat’s mobile app and be able to see your food options from the comfort of your seat.
This data works the other way as well, with venue owners and managers able to see which concessions or retail is attracting crowds, where they are forming, at what time and for how long. Armed with this information, managers can better prepare for (or generate) long lines.
I spoke with Zachary Klima, Founder and CEO of WaitTime this week to learn more about his company. Klima told me that unlike cashierless checkout systems like Amazon Go, WaitTime’s patented software isn’t following and identifying specific people. Bodies in the camera’s view are treated like anonymous objects; all the software cares about is how many of those objects there are, which direction they are headed and how fast they are going. All the computer vision and data crunching is done on-site and not in the cloud.
Klima said that WaitTime is being used by eleven venues around the world including the aforementioned American Airlines Arena, T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Venues buy the cameras and pay licensing fee for the service. Specific pricing depends on the venue and the installation.
WaitTime is yet another example of how stadiums are ushering in some of the most exciting innovation in food tech. Yesterday, Picnic came out of stealth mode to reveal its assembly-style pizza-making robot that’s being used at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. Flippy the robot has been cooking up chicken tenders at Dodger Stadium. Zippin opened up a cashierless checkout convenience store in Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. And Postmates lets you skip the line entirely with designated pickup points in Yankee and Dodger Stadium.
While we don’t know the upfront costs of implementing WaitTime, it seems like a no-brainer for most entertainment venues. It’s an unobtrusive way to improve the game experience for attendees by minimizing the time spent in line, so they can spend more time watching the game. No more leaving early in the inning or quarter to avoid the rush.
As of now, WaitTime has raised $20 million from private investors, and Klima said that stadiums and arenas are just the beginning as the company is also eyeing airports and other retail outlets for its technology.
If WaitTime can find mass adoption, the only suspense during your day at the park will be whether your team wins.