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How "scan" passenger counting in transport is different from other technologies?

The health crisis linked to COVID-19 has changed travellers' habits: they are now more attentive to the sanitary conditions in which they travel. Comfort is also an important criterion, and is therefore at the heart of transport operators' concerns. They need to improve passengers' daily lives to encourage them to travel by public transport, especially as the ecological and energy situation is forcing us to use more environmentally-friendly modes of transport, such as public transport.


The current climate is therefore more favorable than ever to passenger counting! The benefits are twofold: on the one hand, it will enhance real-time passenger information to improve the comfort and daily lives of public transport users and make it their preferred means of transport. On the other hand, transport operators will be able to study the distribution of metro loads over time and space in order to adapt the relevance of their transport plans!



There are a variety of counting systems adapted to the transport sector, so it's sometimes difficult to make a choice... However, there is one that really stands out: the scan counting system! Before we explain why, let's take a look at all the technologies available on the market.


What systems are needed to count passengers on public transport?

Transport operators have a choice of solutions for counting their passengers. However, many of them have limitations that call into question the reliability and accuracy of the data provided.


Manual passenger counting


Although it is one of the easiest systems to set up, it has a number of drawbacks. Manual passenger counting is carried out by means of one-off surveys over a period that is supposed to be 'representative' of reality, but is not necessarily so. In fact, the passenger numbers can be skewed in the event of strikes, technical incidents or other events. Furthermore, manpower is relatively expensive, as an agent is needed for each entry/exit. The accuracy of the data will also depend on the staff, their attention, their availability and their correct filing. Lastly, the relevance of manual counting is questionable, since it is impossible to disseminate information on passenger numbers in real time to users, or even to store them automatically on a platform for immediate use by transport operators.


Participative data


The participatory data technique consists of using information provided by passengers via a mobile application in most cases. Unfortunately, users don't systematically communicate how busy they are, and even less so in real time. In the event of heavy traffic, it can be difficult for passengers to access their smartphones to find out how busy it is. What's more, access to the 3G/4G network may be limited in underground environments. In this case, they will probably broadcast the information after the event, which will greatly distort the data.


WiFi or Bluetooth counting (beacons)


They are also simple to set up and inexpensive. However, the data is less accurate because the count is based on a ratio of the number of people with the WiFi or Bluetooth option activated on their smartphone, rather than on the measurement of each person entering the counting zone. In addition, it is not possible to delimit the precise counting zone, so the data is not very usable.


Counting cells at the doors


At present, counting at doors is the solution most used by transport operators. Depending on the situation, counting can be carried out using infrared technology or a 3D camera. However, these counting cells are far from perfect, since they are long and costly to deploy and are dependent on the quality of the 3G/4G network in an underground environment, which has a major impact on their reliability. What's more, the possibility of passengers moving around in the trains makes counting more complex.


As you will have realised, all these systems do not allow passengers to be counted efficiently on public transport, nor do they provide reliable passenger information, such as accurate real-time passenger numbers.


Counting ascents and descents or calculating the load rate: whatever best suits my needs.


All these technologies can be complementary depending on the needs of transport operators.

Manual counting and counting at doors are the methods most used by transport operators... However, they are not always the ones that suit them best. Not all technologies are suitable for all needs!


As explained above, these systems can quickly become very expensive and complex to install on urban networks.


Why is scan technology the ideal passenger counting solution for public transport?


The scanning technology, patented by Affluences, is capable of scanning passengers through the metro windows to determine the load factor and communicate it to passengers so that they can distribute themselves more evenly on the platform.


How does "scan" work?

  1. Initially, it will measure the load factor at each metro door by installing video sensors directly on the platform. The principle is the same as when your passengers are standing on the platform and the metro passes before their eyes: they can see through the windows whether or not there are people inside. The sensor reproduces exactly how this works: it detects the metro as it leaves the station, reconstructs the sequence of metro doors and windows and estimates how busy it is through the windows.

  2. It will then be able to communicate the load levels at each door to the next station. There are a number of possible channels for disseminating this information: via LED lights above each door, on screens on the platform, via an application, etc. In this way, you'll be able to feed passenger information to improve distribution on the platform, which will greatly improve the comfort and everyday life of your users!

  3. Finally, the data will also be made available to you internally so that you can intervene immediately and effectively in the event of an incident, and then better understand and manage your passenger flows in order to adapt your transport plan.


Comptage de passagers dans les transports par scan


This is a real revolution for the transport sector, because its intelligent video technology means it can solve the problems of other systems. The reliability of the load distribution in the trains is very high, equivalent to a human estimate! The data is accurate and in real time, thanks to a constant 3G/4G network, because the sensors are placed on the platform and not directly in the carriages. Finally, the algorithm resets its count between each metro captured, so there's no accumulation of errors, and the data is stable over time.


Intelligent video scanning technology stands out from other technologies because it offers enhanced performance, in compliance with the principles of the CNIL (French Data Protection Authority), since the images are not stored and used solely for counting purposes!


Spotlight on the passenger counting experiment in the Lyon metro system


Metro passengers in Lyon can now find out in real time how busy the trains are as they approach Sans Souci station (line D, towards Vaise). The start-up company Affluences has installed a system of LEDs (green, orange and red) there to tell passengers how busy the trains are a few seconds before the metro stops at the platform, so that they can spread out as evenly as possible between the trains. To do this, a video counter (using scan technology) has been installed upstream, at Monplaisir-Lumière station, to measure the load on board and then communicate it to the next station, Sans Souci.


Comptage de voyageurs dans le métro à Lyon

Are you interested in scan-based passenger counting technology and would like to find out more? Then get in touch!

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