One little-known home and retail automation startup might seem like an unlikely candidate to help combat the ongoing pandemic. But its founder says its technology can do just that, even if it wasn’t the company’s original plan.

Butlr, a spin-out of the MIT Media Lab, uses a mix of wireless, battery-powered hardware and artificial intelligence to track people’s movements indoors without violating their privacy. The startup uses ceiling-mounted sensors to detect individuals’ body heat to track where a person walks and where they might go next. The use-cases are near-endless. The sensors can turn on mood-lighting or air conditioning when it detects movement, help businesses understand how shoppers navigate their stores, determine the wait-time in the queues at the checkout, and even sound the alarm

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