A report from Markets and Markets says the global people counting system industry is expected to grow to USD 1.4 billion by 2026, growing at a 9.4% compound annual growth rate from 2021 until 2026. The report also indicates the adoption of footfall counting systems in retail stores, supermarkets, shopping malls, and transportation facilities is driving the growth.
Read on to learn more about footfall counting and the different people-counting technologies that businesses use.
What Is Footfall Counting?
Measuring the number of people at a Van Gogh exhibit on Tuesday from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm is footfall counting. Counting the number of shoppers in a grocery store on Saturday from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm is also footfall counting. Calculating the number of people at a stadium for a Sunday night football game is footfall counting, too.
In other words, footfall counting refers to measuring foot traffic or the number of people in a given place at a given time. Footfall counting is also known as people counting, visitor counting, and customer counting.
Now that you know what footfall counting is, the next logical question is, how do you do it?
Football Counting Technologies
Technology enables footfall counting.
Without it, you will have to go back to the old way of counting: standing by the entrance, tally counter on hand, and clicking the counter for every person who passes through the doors. It is tiring, tedious, and prone to human errors (thus, mostly inaccurate).
The following are a few of the most common people counting technologies in use today.
1. Infrared Beam Counters
Infrared beam counters are some of the simplest types of infrared counting technology. In this setup, an infrared transmitter and an infrared receiver are positioned on opposite sides of a doorway, ensuring a continuous IR transmission.
When someone crosses the threshold or the doorway, the transmission between the IR transmitter and receiver is broken. Every instance the IR beam is broken is one count.
The infrared beam sensor is easy to install and set up. However, it also provides the most rudimentary measure of footfall data. It will only tell you how many people entered the store at any given time and not much else.
It is also not the most accurate. When two people go into a store side-by-side, an infrared beam counter will count only one person instead of two. It also doesn’t distinguish between people and objects, like strollers and shopping carts. Moreover, the accuracy of the infrared beam declines as the distance between the transmitter and the receiver increases.
2. Infrared Time-of-Flight People Counters
The infrared time-of-flight people counter is an improvement over the simple IR beam counter. Like the IR beam counter, it relies on IR beam interruption. However, unlike beam counters, Infrared ToF counters create a field of view rather than simply counting the number of times the infrared beam is broken.
Specifically, IR ToF systems pulse IR throughout their expanded field of view, creating a 3D representation of the place where footfall is being tracked (i.e., the detection area). The following are some of its characteristics.
- It can sense entries and exits, thereby keeping an accurate count of people inside the detection area.
- It provides for advanced filtering. You can set a minimum height to filter children and only count adults. You can also set the system up so it ignores staff.
- It can distinguish between people simply passing by the entrance and people going in. It should also not count partial entries.
- It can also measure dwell times or the amount of time people stay inside the area of concern.
3. Thermal Imaging
People are warmer than inanimate objects and the ambient temperature. Thermal imaging people counters use this knowledge to count visitors. Specifically, thermal imaging sensors use people’s body heat or infrared radiation to create a thermal image and detect visitors. This way, they can count only humans and ignore the furniture.
Thermal imaging people counters work well even in well-lit or shadowed areas. Since thermal imaging sensors detect only heat signatures, sunlight and shadows do not affect them.
It is not a perfect people counting solution, however. If the ambient temperature is close enough to the typical body temperature of humans, the system can become inaccurate. When the place is packed, thermal imaging sensors may also find it difficult to count individuals.
4. Wi-Fi Trackers
Technically speaking, wi-fi trackers count phones rather than human visitors. When their wi-fi is enabled, phones periodically transmit a wi-fi signal probe request every two to eight seconds. This wi-fi signal contains the phone’s media access control identification or MAC ID, an ID that is unique to every device. Wi-fi trackers work by collecting and counting visitor devices’ MAC IDs.
Wi-fi trackers use triangulation to pinpoint exact device locations. Wi-fi routers use signal strength as a basis for triangulating visitor positions. Thus, the more wi-fi routers there are, the higher wi-fi trackers’ level of precision. This makes footfall pattern or customer in-store behavior tracking possible.
However, wi-fi tracking assumes that everyone carries a phone with them and that such phones are wi-fi enabled. Therefore, wi-fi trackers cannot count people who do not have their phones with them or have wi-fi disabled. They also overcount in cases where a person carries more than one device.
There is also a privacy issue with this method. People do not know their device information is being collected, and this is problematic.
5. 3D Video Counters
In this people counting system, closed-circuit television cameras act like eyes. Multiple cameras can capture different images of a person. These multiple images are simultaneously processed and 3D information extracted about the visitor through software.
3D video counters can be highly accurate. Artificial intelligence can also enhance their capabilities, ensuring more precision and advanced information collection and visitor tracking.
For instance, store owners can use AI-powered video people counting systems to track repeat customers. They can also use them to monitor customers’ in-store behaviors and footfall patterns. Additionally, they can use it to filter out visitors who might have come in to use the store as a shortcut.
In stores that connect two distant areas of a big shopping mall, people might come in through one entrance then leave through the other. They simply might not want to go the long way around.
Which Technology Is for You?
There are different people counting systems, from the most basic infrared beam counters to advanced AI-powered video counting systems.
If you’re wondering which technology is the best, it all depends on you. The technology that can provide you the information your business needs from a footfall counting system is the best people counting technology for you.