People Counting Systems: Software and Technology Update 2021

Dernière mise à jour : 24 sept. 2021

In the post-covid world, many professionals are re-opening touristic and cultural attractions, as well as retail stores to the public...but how will they be able track visitors or simply the number of customers?


You have probably already heard of people counting systems. There are a multitude of them but you can quickly get lost, not knowing which device to choose. In this article, we remind you of the interest of a counting system and thanks to an overview of the different devices and sensors available on the market, you will be able to choose the one that suits you best!


Why get a people counting system?


First of all, it is important to know that a people counting system, as its name indicates, counts all the visitors who enter and leave an establishment to the public. For the most part, this attendance data is then transmitted and recorded on a software program so that it can be viewed in real time.


But beyond counting, what is the point of these sensors? Thanks to the information obtained, it is possible to analyse the number of visitors to your establishment and thus smooth out your visitor flows. This allows you to have a better understanding of your customers' behaviour, i.e. to know when traffic is highest and when it is lowest on a particular day or at a particular time. You can anticipate your peaks in traffic and adapt your organisation accordingly, for example by providing more staff during these peaks. But you can also try to attract more customers during slower periods, by putting in place promotions, animations, events, etc.


Counting visitors also allows you to control your visitor gauge in real time, thanks to an alert when the maximum threshold that you have configured is exceeded. You can adapt it according to any imposed gauges, such as those linked to the COVID-19. The safety of your visitors is guaranteed and their comfort is maximised. You therefore improve the reception and satisfaction of your customers! It will be even higher if you opt for real-time communication of the number of visitors, which is becoming an increasingly important element in the visitor experience.


The data from these counters is particularly useful for the retail sector. Shop managers will be able to easily analyse the traffic in the shop, analyse the customer journey inside the store and thus identify cold and hot spots. They will also determine the conversion rate, optimise the opening hours, optimise the moments of commercial activity or even the implementation of promotions during off-peak hours.


Opting for a people counting system can therefore inform different departments such as marketing, sales, staff organisation, customer experience, within all types of sectors.


What automatic counting sensors and systems are available on the market?


The market for people counting sensors is relatively dense. There are different devices, each with its own technology: infrared counters, 3D video cameras, 2D video sensors, counting mats or WiFi counting systems. Each counter differs in terms of ease of installation, accuracy, cost, etc. It is important to note that sensors are usually installed at the entrances and exits of your facility, so you will not choose the same device depending on whether you are indoors or outdoors, whether your entrance passages are wide or narrow. The configuration of your structure is also part of the criteria to take into account when choosing the device that best suits you.


The infrared counters


The infrared meter is the historical solution used by many facilities today. As the name suggests, it uses bi-directional infrared beams to count the number of visitors entering and leaving the building. Two boxes are generally installed on either side of the passageway. Its advantages? Easy to install, no wiring is required and they are very autonomous as they work with simple AA batteries. This device is particularly well suited to narrow passages, such as in gates at the entrance to an establishment. The data will be even more reliable and accurate if the access is equivalent to one passage unit.


Infrared counters
Infrared counters

The counting mat


Floor counting with a connected mat is also a very common device in public places. It is an intelligent flat surface, equipped with sensors, that captures and interprets the events that occur on its surface. It is very easy to install as it is placed directly on the floor at the entrance of your establishment, like a simple carpet. It is considered non-intrusive, and relatively unobtrusive compared to other technologies. It is a system that can be placed both inside and outside. Beware: the greater the flows, the more the accuracy decreases and the reliability of the data returned also decreases. It should also be noted that the durability of the equipment is questionable, especially in an outdoor environment.


The 2D video sensor


Analysis by video sensor is without doubt one of the most efficient technologies, offering very precise information. This is the case of the 2D video sensor, which works thanks to local algorithmic image processing on the fly. This means that it will capture images, process them and count the number of people present on these images thanks to an algorithm. This device only requires a power supply and is placed high up on the periphery of the counting area. The data is representative and much more accurate than the systems mentioned above. It is a technology that adapts relatively well to all types of structures including open spaces.


2D video sensor
2D video sensor


The 3D video camera


The 2D camera is not the only one on the market, there is also the 3D video camera, which is also very powerful! This camera is not a simple surveillance camera but a dedicated counting system. It is equipped with an intelligence that allows it to measure the number of visitors with the greatest precision, distinguishing between humans and shopping trolleys or pushchairs for example. This counter is placed above the area to be measured, the entrance to the place or a specific area. The disadvantage? POE wiring is required for installation. This system is suitable for the most complex structures with large flows or wide passages and guarantees high accuracy.


3D video camera
3D video camera


The WiFi counting system


There are a multitude of systems and sensors on the market: hardware counting solutions to be installed in structures as listed above, but there are also systems that work through WiFi and visitors' smartphones. These devices use the basic operation of smartphones that continuously seek to connect to a WiFi terminal around them. Each smartphone will therefore "call" silently all the time and it is this call that the WiFi counters detect and count. To do this, WiFi hotspots need to be installed and plugged into electrical outlets. There are no constraints on the positioning of these terminals, they can be connected to available electrical outlets, for example, as long as they are placed in the metering zone. This is a solution that can be deployed very easily but the data collected will be moderately representative and not very accurate. Moreover, it is increasingly obsolete as most smartphone operating systems have implemented a system of address randomisation, which now makes it almost impossible to count. This means that the same device can change address randomly and be counted several times. Finally, the frequency of WiFi requests sent by the phone is not known, so a person may have travelled several hundred metres between two requests.



Between infrared counters, smart cameras, counting mats... which device to choose?


When it comes to choosing the most suitable people counting solution for your organisation, are you a little confused and have difficulty comparing all these counters in an efficient way? Here is a summary comparison of the technologies described! Several criteria have been taken into account: ease of installation, data accuracy, ease of maintenance and cost.

Ease of installation

Data accuracy

Ease of maintenance

Economic

Infrared counters


++++


++

++++

+++

Counting mat

++++

++

+

++

2D video sensor


+++


+++

+++

++

3D video camera

++

++++

++++

++

WiFi counting system

++++

+

++++

+++


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