How College Campuses Benefit From People Counters

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Colleges and universities exist to provide top notch educations and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for students. However, with the recent budget cuts in higher education, that becomes increasingly difficult to do. 

Over the past several years, colleges and universities have been forced to raise tuition and implement changes that undermine the quality of education and experiences offered to students and potential students. Foot traffic data is an essential ally when trying to justify funding for facilities, programs, services, and classes.

Once hailed as “the great equalizer,” higher education is now under more scrutiny than ever. Promoting the value of a college degree remains the most difficult university challenge faced by higher education establishments. It’s no surprise, when rising tuition costs and fewer high-paying job opportunities are a growing concern.

Every area of the budget must be tightened up to combat the increased cost and reduced funding. Universities know that accurate data is crucial to overcoming budgeting challenges, and student and visitor traffic trends are no exception.  There are three key challenges that can be met by utilizing this data harnessed by a people counting technology solution.

1. Managing Operating Costs.

It’s always a struggle when you’re asked to do more with less. If you aren’t looking at foot traffic patterns, you may be missing a critical area where you could be saving. Facility management can be expensive, and you may be spending money keeping facilities open during hours they aren’t likely to be used. If your budget has been slashed and gutted in every area possible, yet you’re still being asked to further reduce expenses, you’re not alone. Many schools are facing this same university challenge. People counting data can help pin point areas of waste, so that the staff and equipment needed for a student union, library, or recreational center can fit into to allotted budget.

2. Finding Funding.

Non-profit universities especially rely on funding and donations to stay afloat, but without presenting comprehensive data in grant proposals and funding requests, how can you successfully secure the funds you need?  Providing the facts and figures is a crucial step to justifying any request for funding.  If you want to expand and grow programs and facilities on campus, you must first show how these are currently being utilized. Finding funding for projects like these can be a tough university challenge to overcome, but hard data is difficult to ignore.

3. Showing Value.

With arts, clubs, and athletics on the chopping block, it is vital that proof be given for which programs are valuable to students. People counting sensors gauge the success of events and programs to determine the popularity of each, so that decision makers understand the tastes and interests of their students. If proving your school’s worth both as a learning and a cultural center has become a major university challenge for you, foot traffic data can be used as hard evidence to support your claim.

4. A Path to Success

Running a university and ensuring its success will never be easy. As an administrator, you have to work extra hard under immense pressure to make sure your students are learning and thriving, and that the university itself continues to secure the funding it needs while remaining affordable enough for prospective new students. With an ever-diminishing budget and a surge in tuition rates it is increasingly difficult to make changes that don’t negatively impact the quality of the education and experiences you offer. Campus foot traffic data will play a large part in helping you meet your university’s challenges head-on.

If you are ready to start counting people that traffic your college or university to aid your budgeting and funding requests, contact us today to discuss the unique challenges faced by higher education and how we can help.

Benefits of People Counting Systems for Student Unions 

Student unions are generally the hub of activity for a college campus. Throughout the day, crowds of students and faculty members come between classes. With a flow of visitors that is constantly fluctuating, it isn’t easy to keep track of how many there are. Without knowing how many visitors there are, it is impossible to know how many resources are needed to accommodate them. Keeping track of trafficking ensures that the facility is operating at optimal efficiency.

Being in-tune with the building’s trafficking is helpful for these reasons:

Measure which areas are used most.

Knowing the most-traveled doors and hallways in the building may come in handy when placing informational fliers, kiosks or help desks for new students. Also, knowing which areas of the student union receive the most trafficking tells the school where to concentrate its money. It may be the fitness center; it may be the cafeteria. Whichever the area, if it is heavily-traveled then it is likely to return the money that was spent in it.

Optimize employee placement for peak and non-peak times.

Managers can calculate building hours and personnel needs based on actual data reports from the people counting hardware, rather than making estimations. With a sensor installed, the building may never be over- or understaffed again.

Because of school budgets, it is important for student unions to use their money wisely. Many student centers can’t afford to pay several employees on the same shift, and even if they can, they shouldn’t have to. People counting allows student unions to optimize their labor.

People counting can be used to estimate the proper amount of employees for peak and non-peak times on an average day – and on the not-so-average days, too. When hosting well-attended events – sometimes several at once – the building may need more staffing. People counting helps you predict and prepare for special occasions.

Justify requests for additional resources.

With an increased amount of students using a fixed amount of resources, a school’s budget is bound to tighten. However, if people counting hardware is installed in the student union, the sensors will pick up on the increase in trafficking. This data ensures that student union resources don’t get the axe when it comes time to make budget cuts.

Retailers and Universities Merging 

Today, more high school graduates are starting to choose alternate paths rather than going to college. In fact, NBC News recently pointed out that college enrollments are declining. To counter these issues, college universities are joining forces with retailers to bring in additional revenue.

One community college in California, Ohlone College, has decided to launch an initiative to raise additional revenue for the school using its unused property. According to the Contra Costa Times, the school is considering leasing 15 acres of surplus land to a local developer for 90 years.  The developer would build apartments on the land that would provide a new revenue stream for the university.

The idea to build new housing on university land was born out of necessity, and as more institutions find themselves in a similar situation, we may see more of these types of projects in the future. Clearly, it’s a new way to fund the institution and maintain the retail and restaurants that serve the student body. Preserving the community surrounding a university is critical, as vibrant social centers are what help to draw new students and give the university its character, even as the pool of high school graduates shrinks.

Universities and their facility management teams can see how successful their alternative revenue streams—whether it’s new housing or another initiative—are by tracking and counting people they attract over time.  If the new housing is providing fresh revenue for the university, traffic in the neighborhood will increase.

Many colleges already employ people counting sensors and technology in their student unions, libraries and bookstores. Similarly, university-owned and privately owned retailers and businesses can use people counting to see the tangible results the new housing is having on their bottom line. 

Traffic counting technology should also be employed in gathering places, like university libraries, student unions and dining halls. By tracking peak hours and shifts, universities can ensure they have each location appropriately staffed and that they are not overbuying food products for dining halls or other items needed for their day-to-day operations.

3 Signs it’s Time to Upgrade the Way You Measure Foot Traffic

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Imagine a busy Saturday at your store, library or museum. You’ve known for a while that these afternoons always have the most foot traffic, and you’ve done what you think is necessary to prepare for the surplus. It started off as a great day with customers and patrons flowing in and out, but then an hour into your most hectic afternoon of the week, you begin to notice that your staff or volunteers are really struggling to keep up with demands, and people are getting upset at increased wait times. You remember this happening before, but you learned your lesson, and took steps to prevent it from happening again by comparing the numbers week to week and making sure you had the staff. What happened?

The problem lies in the numbers themselves. Most likely, your past counts were off, resulting in inadequate staffing. If foot traffic isn’t recorded accurately, you can only guess how many employees you’ll actually need on any given day. Everyone who runs a business effectively knows they need to accurately measure foot traffic. The benefits to this practice are numerous:

Think you might need to upgrade your current people counting methods? Here’s how you can know for sure:

  1. You are doing manual counts.

We feel your pain if you still use this outdated people counting method and have to rely on pen and paper to count people. If you’re currently in this situation, do yourself a favor and switch to an automated system to measure foot traffic. You and all of your staff have much better, more profitable ways you could be spending your time. Not only that, it’s really difficult for humans to get an accurate measure when a place is busy. Nowadays, you can even find thermal sensors that can use body heat to track customer movements around your store, so you don’t just know how many people are coming in, but which sections they’re more likely to go to.

  1. You are using horizontal cross beam sensors.

Cross beams aren’t as tired as manual counts, but they’re still less accurate and less efficient than overhead sensors. If people often arrive in groups, horizontal sensors are more likely to give you false foot traffic recordings. While they may be okay in small doorways that don’t leave room for more than one person to enter at a time, you might be better off switching to a thermal or video sensor that can give you spot-on counts no matter the size of the group coming in.

  1. Your current solution cannot distinguish between adults and children.

This is a big one if you operate a library, museum, casino, or any business where you would benefit from distinguishing between adults, children, — even service animals. Horizontal sensors and thermal sensors by themselves are unable to analyze the type of foot traffic entering your place of business; they can only measure the overall volume, and sometimes not very accurately at that. If you need to know more than a head count, a combination of a thermal and video sensor will be your best bet at categorizing patronage.

Keep your bases covered.

If your palms got sweaty just from imagining the stress of the scenario at the beginning of this post, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, this pops up all too often, making customers wonder why the owners aren’t staffing their business the way they should. Worse yet, customers generally aren’t very understanding when it happens. The best way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you in the future is to have an accurate, efficient way to measure your foot traffic with a modern people counting solution, so you can stay ahead of the game.