Kelton Keck / Combine
Kelton Keck / Combine
By Zoe Katz 09/28/21 10:00 PM
When a student walks into the Fondren Library, there are many factors that go into deciding where to study – the amount of natural light, the comfort of the chairs, or maybe someone cute sitting in the room. proximity. Recently, Fondren has started to share another factor to consider before students even enter the building: crowd levels, posted online and at Fondren’s entrances.
Earlier this semester, Fondren partnered with Waitz Corporation, a company that informs users of the current occupancy of a public place, according to library staff.
Waitz measures Bluetooth and WiFi signals to quantify occupancy levels. Custom IoT sensors search for signals emitted by computers, phones, smartwatches and other devices. The figures obtained are between 80 and 95% accurate, according to the FAQ on the Waitz website.
“[The service is] a way to provide students with real-time occupancy data in some of our popular open space study areas, ”said Sandi Edwards, who works as Assistant University Librarian for Research Services at Fondren Library.
Waitz currently displays crowd levels for Fondren’s Basement, 1st Floor, 2nd Floor Mezzanine, 3rd and 6th Floor. According to Edwards, a library visitor can download the app or use the Fondren website to check the occupancy of each location without setting foot on the ground.
Adel Iqbal, a sophomore at Sid Richardson College, said he visits the library once a day.
“Whenever I go there, I definitely use the information available online as a measure of where I will be in Fondren,” Iqbal said.
Iqbal said the crowd-level service has a big impact on where he is studying.
“Yes [Waitz] says it’s above 50, 60 percent capacity, so I’ll completely avoid that floor, ”Iqbal said.
However, not everyone is so familiar with Waitz and the services it offers. Danny Zhang, a freshman at Lovett College, says he’s going to Fondren to study. However, he said he had never heard of the crowd-level watch service. According to Newton Huynh, a sophomore at Will Rice College, the service would have an impact on where he would study – he just wasn’t aware of Waitz in the first place.
“I would probably prefer to go somewhere less crowded,” Huynh said.
“[Waitz’s services are] done in real time, so the numbers are always up to date, ”Edwards said.
According to Iqbal, however, the numbers don’t always seem correct.
“There are a couple of times where I feel like there is definitely a gap in what or how this service describes crowd levels and what I see,” Iqbal said.
Edwards said the service is not without flaws. In the near future, Fondren will have staffing for occupied floors and will compare the results to Waitz’s occupancy levels, according to Edwards.
“They’re going to do a recalibration of the numbers,” Edwards said. “It’s one way to test if the numbers are correct.”
Edwards also said Fondren continued to use COVID capacity levels for library floors. These can contribute to the accuracy issues found by Iqbal.
“[The occupancy levels] that we are using are pandemic numbers, ”she said. “They probably will stay that way for a while. “
The pandemic provided the inspiration to implement Waitz in Fondren, according to Edwards. She said Fondren’s management hoped crowd level monitoring would encourage users to socially distance themselves.
Iqbal said he finds the service useful for his own COVID security.
“[It helps in] make sure I am able to socialize while in school, ”Iqbal said.
Even after the pandemic has receded, Edwards said she sees a future for Waitz at the Fondren Library.
“It will always be something we want to continue with. [Capacity levels] will eventually change and affect the changing environment. I just don’t know when, ”she said. “I see it as a long-term service.