KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The same Kansas City-based technology start up that has already been counting how many people come to the metro’s big events could also play a big role in enhancing the 2026 FIFA World Cup Experience.
EB Systems was founded about nine years ago, intended to be an easy way for students to alert campus police when they needed help. Co-Founders Jon Ruiz and Brendan Waters morphed that idea pivoted into helping businesses track employees and equipment in a wide variety of ways.
In early 2020, they were developing the ability to count and anonymously track the number of people in a large crowd.
“We got a lot of interest and excitement around this crowd flow, large-scale event management and obviously COVID hit so there were no events anymore,” Ruiz said.
After waiting out the pandemic, EB Systems got another chance with other big events just down the block from their Kansas City office space, giving them massive championship parades and an NFL Draft to test their equipment.
“It really was fortunate that Patrick [Mahomes] did his job, got us a couple Super Bowl Parades,” Ruiz said. “I mean, you can’t really get bigger than that when you have full scale events.”
Round beacons can be posted on light poles or buildings, counting the number of cellular devices that are within a certain range.
“We don’t know who a specific person is, we just know that there is a unique device within range,” Ruiz said
That anonymity is important to Dallas Innovation Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Sanders, who uses EB Systems beacons to help track crowds in her city. She says some of its findings have already surprised her organization and changed how businesses operate.
“We saw a big spike on Tuesday and Thursday from 2-3 pm and we thought, ‘I wonder why this is,” Sanders said. “The community college had class schedules that broke out then, so businesses were able to say, ‘I want to capture that traffic,’ so they adjected some of their appetizers and specials to bring those people in.”
Sanders says that kind of information will help Dallas when they host World Cup matches in 2026, which is a similar challenge that Kansas City neighborhoods are trying to address as well.
“We can identify where our problems might be, what type of problems they may be, how often [security services are] called to a particular location,” said Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO and Independence Avenue CID Manager Bobbi Baker-Hughes.
Her organizations use EB Systems’ software to log where issues pop up, creating a data set that lets them see patterns. Already, she says, they’ve changed how parts of the neighborhood work to address those challenges.
“We’re actually working with the facts that are data driven as opposed to me thinking, ‘Oh, maybe we need to spend more time in this particular location,” Baker-Hughes said.
Data collection has only been what got EB Systems to where they are now.
Ruiz says the goal for the World Cup is to stand up additional features that will help visitors find their way around Kansas City and enhance their experience with features like scavenger hunts.
“Really, what I envision is this concept of a virtual tour guide,” Ruiz said.
He says he already tested out some features of it on his own during recent big events and was encouraged by how it worked. The goal is to partner with neighborhood groups and sponsors to build the feature out in multiple parts of town, built for the visitors the metro will have from all over the world.
“I want it to be like you’re getting travel tips from a Kansas City local,” Ruiz said. “And more importantly, in a language of your choice.”