People Counting: Understanding its Importance

Buying a people counter is often considered a long term investment. It is now widely accepted that an accurate and reliable traffic count is a key metric in the world of retail and shopping centers. Most large retailers have at least one technology installed, and if you ask them, most would tell you they cannot run their business without it.

Although people counters are now mainstream, it is still difficult to find buying guides, guidelines or tips on what people counting technology is needed in your store. My goal today is to change that and give you all the information you need on what can be a confusing topic for some retailers.

While I write this article I’ll reference our products, but only do so occasionally, so that this can become a go to reference on people counting solutions. I want to present to you what I’ve learned in the last ten years testing different technologies, supporting customers, and speaking with them about their experiences.

Let’s split the analysis in to two scenarios: 1. if you are not counting 2. if you are already counting but want to change your current solution


Customer Counter Technology

Customer Counter Technology

How Effective Are Beam Solutions as Customer Counters?

Customer-Counter-Technology Customer Counter Technology - Customer Counter Technology 300x203 - Customer Counter Technology The beam solution is the “original” method of counting traffic. Even today, beam solutions produce a reliable number and can obtain high accuracy, but their effectiveness is highly dependent on the following: customer-counters Customer Counter Technology - customer counters 1 300x116 - Customer Counter Technology

Firstly, for a beam system to work, it needs a clear line of sight between its two components. These are usually called a receiver and a transmitter.They are installed on each side of the door and this is where point #1 and #2 are important.

Regarding point #1, beams can have a high range (15 to 25 feet is typical and up to 100 feet is possible). If your entrance is extremely broad and/or it possesses displays, such as a table or a rack with items, it could cause the beam to get blocked by the display and render it ineffective. If displays encourage people to stop where the beam is, the person can block it, and sometimes they can obstruct it long enough to avoid the counting of other people entering the location.

Now to point #2- the entrance design. Particularly in malls, entrances have evolved tremendously in the last ten years. Frameless design with glass doors is growing in popularity, which makes the installation of the beam almost impossible because of the effect it would have on the store layout. Also,the lack ofa door frame to mount the beam and thefact that the doors now create a backswing that blocks the beam when they are opened make it close to impossible to consider a beam based traffic counting system Regarding point #3, the beam is a passive and simple system. This means that if your traffic flow is high, and two or more people are entering your store side by side at the same time, the beam will only count this as one person.

People Counting Cameras: An Overview

People Counting Cameras: An Overview

Intelligent People Counting Cameras

As you may have noticed up to now, the technologies we have been going through are reused from their original purpose and were adapted to count people. They all have their limitations. That is what caused smart cameras to appear on the market. Their goal is to count with increased accuracy in different kinds of scenarios. “Back in the days”, which means just a few years ago, these were connected to a collector box such as our STC. They required a laptop using a special calibration tool and a technician to be calibrated and validated. These days they are all IP based which allows for remote calibration and validation. There are many different technologies in this category. Today there are three distinct camera technologies to capture counts. 3dscope-3 People Counting Cameras - 3dscope 3 300x193 - People Counting Cameras: An Overview

The Meaning of Intelligent Cameras

I use the term intelligent to indicate that, unlike the previous technologies we discussed, these cameras have software algorithms built in that process the collected images to determine counts. This allows for a great deal of different features and “intelligent” options to ensure better counting in a challenging environment. These features can include:

  • Very high accuracy of 98% plus
  • Available for both indoor and outdoor scenarios
  • Counting all persons entering or leaving the store, even if they are walking through the entrance at the same time
  • Protection from repeated counts from persons staying or shopping around the entrance
  • Count modes, such as:
    1. Filtering out “u-turns” such as a customer coming in the store and leaving right away. This reduces to a minimum multiple counts from the same customer, or from staff walking near the entrance.
    2. Register one count every time the number line is crossed in the correct direction
    3. Or counting the person every time they cross the line
  • Screening out of objects or children by height measurements or through shape recognition
  • Built-in Wi-fi or Bluetooth transceiver to capture cell phone signal for additional features such as capturing time spent in store, identifying repeat customers, or filtering out staff*

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