How to Choose the Right People Counter

Wrong And RightRetail environments come in many different sizes and configurations, from intimate boutiques to mega-sized superstores. People counting requirements can also vary widely, from simply tallying how many people come through the door to highly detailed mapping of customer movement. Fortunately, there are a wide range of technologies designed to fit a variety of location types, business needs, and budgets.

People counter systems deploy three main types of technologies, each with its own positives and negatives. They are:

1) Horizontal Wired/Wireless Retail Counting Systems

2) Overhead Thermal-Based Sensor Systems

3) Overhead Video-Based Sensor Systems

Door-mounted horizontal people counters are the most basic type of system, using sensors mounted on entrance doors’ frames that cast a horizontal infrared beam across the doorway. People are counted as they cross the threshold and “break” the beam. These systems are generally the least expensive option for people counting, in large part because their location on the door frame makes for quick and easy installations.

The negatives of such systems are their limitations in terms of accuracy. If several people are entering at the same time some may block the beam, affecting the count’s accuracy. Horizontal people counter systems are best for smaller physical establishments with a relatively low density of people moving through at any given time. These factors, along with their affordability, make them a strong choice for small businesses seeking basic people counting tools.

Both types of overhead people counting systems offer more detailed data, not only about the number of people within a location but what zones they may be entering while inside and who they are (i.e. adults vs. children, men vs. women). These technologies are valuable because such data can be fed into analytics software that maps customer traffic patterns, determines optimal staffing levels, and pinpoints the best placement for featured promotional items.

Thermal sensors track the heat from people’s bodies, providing a high degree of accuracy, particularly in buildings where direct sunlight at the entrance or low light conditions would affect video-based sensing technology. However, their accuracy can be affected by external weather conditions, and people must be in motion for the sensors to pick up their “signal.”

Thermal people counter systems can also:

  • Gather multidirectional data about people’s movements in and out of a building
  • Cover wide entrances with no loss of accuracy
  • Offer overall accuracy rates of 95% or higher

Video-based people counting systems also use ceiling-mounted sensors to map customer traffic. They operate best in locations with consistent lighting, and their positives include:

  • Ability to handle wide areas with multiple units
  • Support for remote video capture, e.g. on an Internet-connected laptop or tablet
  • Data can be safely stored in the event of a power outage, with flash memory storing up to 10 days’ worth of data
  • Ability to filter carts, children, and strollers, providing a more accurate count of actual shoppers versus total number of people in the store.

Among the negatives of video-based people counters is the cost – higher than for either horizontal or thermal systems. Installation time and costs can be higher than for thermal people counter systems.

Whatever your retail environment or business needs, there’s people counting technology available offering a strong ROI, in the form of accurate, scientific data on the customers in your store at any given time. To learn more about the variety of people counting systems and which will fit your requirements, download our latest eBook, “Which Type of People Counter is Best for You?”