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A people counter is a device that can be used to measure the number and direction of people traversing a certain passage or entrance.
- 1 Use cases
- 2 Business Metrics
- 3 Technologies
- 4 References
Conversion Rate: People counting systems in the retail environment are used to calculate the conversion rate, i.e. the percentage of visitors that make purchases. This is a key indicator of a store's performance and may provide more valuable information than traditional methods, which only take into account sales data. Taken together, traffic counts and conversion rates can reveal important sales information, such as why a specific store is experiencing more sales, whether or not year-over-year sales are down, why fewer people are visiting a store, or why fewer people are making purchases.
Marketing Effectiveness: Shopping mall marketing professionals rely on visitor statistics to measure their marketing. Often, shopping mall owners measure marketing effectiveness with sales, also utilizing visitor statistics to scientifically measure marketing effectiveness. Marketing metrics such as CPM (Cost Per Thousand) and SSF (Shoppers per Square Foot) are performance indicators that shopping mall owners monitor to determine rent, according to the total number of visitors to the mall or according to the number of visitors to each individual store in the mall.
Staff Planning: Accurate visitor counting is also useful for optimizing staff shifts. Staff requirements are often directly related to the density of visitor traffic, and services such as cleaning and maintenance are typically undertaken when traffic is at its lowest.
Monitoring of High-Traffic Areas: Shopping centers use people counters to measure the number of visitors. People counters also assist in measuring the areas of 'hot spots', where statistics gathered by people counters are often used to justify rental rates.
Museums and libraries
Funding Justification: Many non-profit organizations use visitor counts as evidence when making applications for finance, for use when planning for seasonal staffing, and other strategic operational decisions. In cases where tickets are not sold, such as in museums and libraries, counting is either automated, or staff keep a log of how many clients use different services.
Stadiums and Concert Halls
Crowd Management: There are often large traffic flows before and after an event. People counters are used to measure the traffic flows of previous events, and the traffic patterns are used to improve traffic flow, particularly when entering and exiting.
Smart Office buildings
Energy Usage Optimization: Commercial buildings utilize people counters to measure the use of different parts of the building at different times. This information can then be used to intelligently optimize the energy usage in the building (e.g. air conditioning needs, etc.).
Fire Management: In the case of fire, people counters are one of the tools used to approximate the number of people inside the building.
Footfall measures the number of people entering and exiting a venue.
Window Conversion Rate
Window Conversion Rate is the percentage of shoppers who enter a store over in relation to the number of people who walk by it. With WiFi counting, shops can estimate the number of people who walk past a store. A more accurate method is video counting. While revenue and footfall are important, the number of people who walk past a store often reflects the true potential of the store location. The Window Conversion Rate often depends on the attractiveness of the shop window design and the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
Visit duration is the amount of time visitors stay in a venue. WiFi counting has the ability to track both the time a person carrying a smartphone has entered the venue and when that same person has left the venue.
This metric looks at the number of people entering a store who had visited the store previously. WiFi counting has the ability to remember the Unique WiFi beacon signal ID emitted by shoppers, so if a shopper has previously visited a store, the counter flags the person as a returning customer.
This is the number of shoppers who enter a store who have previously visited other stores of the same chain. This is available for third-generation people counters that have WiFi counting functionalities.
1st Generation: Infrared Beam Counters
The simplest form of counter is a single, horizontal infrared beam across an entrance which is typically linked to a small LCD display unit at the side of the doorway. Such a beam counts a 'tick' when the beam is broken, therefore it is normal to divide the 'ticks' by two to get visitor numbers. Beam counters usually require a receiver or a reflector mounted opposite the unit with a typical range from 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) to 6 metres (20 ft). Despite its limitations, infrared counters are still widely used, primarily due to their low cost and simplicity of installation.
2nd Generation: Thermal counters
Thermal imaging systems use array sensors that detect heat sources. These systems are typically implemented using embedded technology and are mounted overhead for high accuracy.
Before the advance of computer technology that allows complex algorithms to perform video counting, thermal counters were the main choice for most businesses. They are fairly accurate; however they do have their limitations:
i) Thermal counters cannot be mounted on a high ceiling;
ii) Can only cover a narrow door entrance;
iii) Difficult to verify the accuracy of the counter;
iv) Accuracy is reduced in places with slight variations in thermal conditions.
3rd Generation: Video & WiFi counting
With the advance of computer technology, complex image processing algorithms can now be used to perform counting using camera imaging. The third generation counters also include Wifi Counting functionality, which collects WiFi probe request signals from shoppers' smartphones and adds a number of important metrics for businesses, especially for the retail industry. Many business are now deploying people counters to help them to gain insight into their clients.
Computer vision works via an embedded device. This reduces the network bandwidth requirements as only the counting data has to be sent over the network. Robust and adaptive algorithms have been developed to provide excellent counting accuracy for both outdoor and indoor counting using computer vision. Multilayer Background Subtraction, based on colour and texture, is considered[by whom?] the most robust algorithm available for varying shadows and lighting conditions. With the advances in image processing, video count can achieve 98% accuracy in various lighting environments. The use of artificial intelligence and pattern recognition functions can further enhance its accuracy.
WiFi Counting uses a WiFi receiver to pick up unique WiFi management frames emitted from smartphones with a range of up to 100 meters. While not all people carry a smartphone, WiFi counting can produce statistically significant metrics due to the large sample size available. Apple iOS8 attempts to randomise MAC address, however it makes little impact on the effectiveness of WiFi counting. Apple iOS9 and Android 6.0 Marshmallow use more aggressive MAC rotation schemes, making WiFi counting impractical in the future.
- Dillon, Chris (30 July 2015). "Sunder Sandher's tech game changer".
- Paul C. Box, Joseph C. Oppenlander (1976), Manual of traffic engineering studies, Institute of Transportation Engineers, p. 17, retrieved December 21, 2010
- "How a CCTV People Counting System Works". Retail Sensing. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
- Technologies, Zebra (2015). "Analysis of iOS 8 MAC Randomization on Loca tioning" (PDF).
- "Security and Privacy Changes in iOS 9". 2015.
- Amadeo, Ron. "Android 6.0 Marshmallow, thoroughly reviewed". arstechnica.com.