The journey of BlueFox

In 2012, with legislation for consumer privacy on the horizon in Europe, Jan Willem Korver mused that there might be a privacy-respecting solution for measuring the presence and movement of people. This solution could take advantage of characteristics of smartphones–those running Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android–not previously available.

Several approaches to foot traffic analytics were already available on the market. Some, like cameras and computer vision, were (and are) moderately invasive. While cameras themselves were becoming cheap, the processing power to run machine learning models at the edge (in a privacy-friendly way) was still very expensive. 

Another approach, using mobile applications that continuously track consumer location via GPS and report consumer whereabouts to resellers, were (and are) highly invasive. This approach essentially depends on persuading consumers to run a freeware mobile app (e.g. a weather forecasting app) on their smartphones and then to share location data 24 x 365 with the app. Unbeknownst to the consumer, the mobile app, via a third-party software development kit (SDK), sells the consumer’s location data to brokers who aggregate and resell the data.

Korver wanted to deliver a solution for measuring foot traffic that was accurate, inexpensive, and would protect consumer privacy. Korver’s insight was to use smartphones as a proxy for people, and to count the number of mobile phones in a detection area defined, in part, by smartphone Wi-Fi signal strength. The solution did not require any software to be installed on smartphones for those phones to be detected. It respected consumer privacy because the consumer’s name and phone number were never known. The solution only learned the consumer’s smartphone’s MAC address, and that was encrypted upon reception and retained only ephemerally, no longer than 5 minutes on-average. This made the concept compliant with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

Korver reserved the domain name “BlueFox.io” in November 2012 and teamed up with Guillaume de La Tour, a veteran of the advertising media business. Together they founded BlueFox, Inc as a Delaware C-Corporation in January 2014. Venture investors, led by Baseline Ventures, invested funds over the next six years to finance the R&D that delivered five USPTO patents and saw BlueFox deploy sensors at customers, including JCDecaux, in the out-of-home (OOH) advertising market. 

In 2020 the Covid pandemic rocked the OOH advertising market as spending on OOH advertising plummeted. BlueFox needed additional capital to weather the shock.  BlueZoo, Inc was founded in August 2020 as a successor entity and acquired BlueFox’s assets, including its full patent portfolio. The complete BlueFox engineering team transitioned with Korver to BlueZoo and measurement services continued uninterrupted.  

After smartphone operating system manufacturers (Apple & Google) started making it harder for consumers to report their location via mobile apps (e.g. share location “only when using the app”), OOH media owners worldwide began to reconsider the use of brokered GPS location data for OOH impressions measurements. BlueZoo was ready with a better solution.

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