Why even the best tech couldn’t give us a precise inauguration headcount

photo of inauguration

Posted by (@JohnMannes)

Alternative facts aside, attendance at President Trump’s inauguration was low. Citing crowd scientists from Manchester Metropolitan University in Britain, the New York Times reported an estimated 160,000 people attended Mr.Trump’s speech. Yet the administration continues to unrealistically assert that attendance was considerably higher. The President claimed between a million and 1.5 million attended the event during his talk at the CIA without providing supporting evidence — between photos and academic estimates, we can safely say this wasn’t the case.

But in the interest of precision, we decided to shake some trees in the geospatial analytics space to understand why a headcount remains elusive, even with today’s advanced technologies. Companies like Orbital Insight and Descartes Labs make their money finding answers to arcane problems like this by pumping satellite imagery and accompanying data into complex machine learning models to derive insights and forecasts.

It seemed intuitive that a technology that can count cars in a Walmart parking lot to predict company financials in advance of a 10-K filing could also count heads on the National Mall. Yet, despite being a seemingly obvious use case, providers have remained silent about inauguration attendance. Read more at TechCrunch.