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The Most Accurate People Counter Technology

August 1, 2013

Updated 4/21/2022

Once you begin the search for a people counting system, certain questions always surface, such as “What is the most accurate people counter technology?”

To understand the improvements to people counter accuracy, think about computer technologies as a whole, you can see the leaps and bounds made in the last decade alone. The improvements to computers, smart devices, networks, and cloud storage have all paved the way for data-driven business models.

Businesses are ever-increasing their data inputs to gain more knowledge on their customers, products, services, performance, position in the marketplace, and everything in between.

One such data point is foot traffic. To confidently base a business decision off of this data, you have to trust its accuracy without a shadow of a doubt.

Types of People Counting Devices

To put the most accurate people counting technology into perspective, it’s useful to learn its history. The three most common technologies for counting people are break-beam, thermal imaging, and stereo video.

Break-Beam
Thermal Imaging
Stereo-Video

Photoelectric Break-Beam People Counters

In the early 2000’s break-beam style sensors were seen on doorframes across the country. The units used a basic technology to capture a general sense of a facility’s foot traffic. If the invisible infrared beam was broken, the sensor incremented a count. The sensing unit included a small display for staff to read the foot traffic statistics for the day and reset the sensor.

Thermal Imaging People Counters

Around 2010, thermal imaging people counting technology took over the market and at the time were the most accurate people counter technology. It resolved many of the inaccuracies posed by break-beam sensors. Mounted on the ceiling, the sensor captures a top-down view of a building’s entrance. It detects a person’s heat signature, allowing it to accurately count individuals in a group walking side-by-side and omit objects without heat signatures like bags and carts. The devices are also PoE, meaning they connect to your network and push traffic data to software – no manual data collection required.

Stereo Video People Counters

In recent years, thermal has taken a backseat to stereo-video based sensors as the most accurate people counter technology on the market, consistently boasting 97% or greater accuracy.

How do we know they are the most accurate people counter technology?

Our technical support team validates accuracy by recording video segments of the sensor’s view. They watch through the recording, using a tool to increment entrance and exit counts as they occur. This side-by-side comparison validates a sensor’s accuracy and helps our team ensure 97% or greater accuracy is achieved.

Why is stereo-video technology the most accurate?

Stereo-video sensors use two video lenses to view a scene, similar to how humans have two eyes to see. The benefits of two lenses, binocular vision, over a single lens, monocular, are the ability to see a larger field of view and to have depth perception.

The sensors are programmed to look for a very specific algorithm that defines a human, mainly focused around height and shape of head and shoulders.

Some stereo video sensors are also layered with machine learning, where the sensor continually fine-tunes its algorithm to detect humans, making it more accurate overtime.

Comparing Accuracy of Thermal Imaging vs Stereo Video

Both thermal imaging and stereo video technologies are highly accurate, especially compared to their historical counterparts, with thermal scoring around 95% and stereo video 97% accuracy rating. Where thermal-imaging falls short is when a person lingers or stands still for an extended period of time, the sensor begins to view their heat signature as part of the background and the sensor stops tracking and counting that person.

However, there is a specific scenario where thermal imaging outperforms stereo-video sensors – in darkness. In applications where there is very low lighting or complete darkness, such as a haunted house or concert venue, a thermal imaging sensor will continue to track and count heat signatures.

Continual Improvement

We like to consider ourselves “hardware agnostic” in that we are not tied to a specific hardware or type of technology. We are continually seeking out and testing different kinds of sensors, sensing technologies, and hardware manufacturers to ensure we truly are offering the best solutions to our customers.

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