How to Select and Use a People Counting System featuring The University of Akron Student Union

Implementing a new technology can be a daunting task – especially in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the most accessed facility on a university campus, the student union. Michael Solema, Coordinator for Technology for the Department of Student Life at The University of Akron, walks us through his experience of selecting, installing and implementing a SenSource people counting solution.

Step 1: Define the Problem and ObjectiveAkron Student Union

While overseeing all of the technology in the 192,500 square foot Student Union, including the ballroom and meeting rooms, Solema has a keen sense of what is and isn’t working in the facility. As for people counting technology, it became apparent an upgrade was overdue. Solema explains, “Our old system was an infrared battery based Wi-Fi system that was at the end of its usable life. It required constant maintenance in that batteries had to be charged and replaced, had no auto report features, and lacked reliable bi-directional mass entrance and exit counts. I set out to find a company that would provide a more reliable, more robust, and most of all, more accurate product.”

Step 2: Find a Supplier

Once the problem has been identified and objectives set, the next step is to find a supplier whose solution meets your objectives. “SenSource offers a ton of value in their product over that of traditional infrared based people counters, which we previously used,” stated Solema. Working closely with SenSource sales representative, Chris Listorti, it was decided the ClearCount 3D Video and Vea Software solution would best fit the needs at the Student Union – reliable, robust and accurate. The Technology Coordinator continues, “From the demo that was arranged, I knew that SenSource had the features that we were looking for. Technology is evolving rapidly and if we were going to invest in a product, I wanted one based on current technology trends. With the Power of Ethernet, PoE, capabilities of the sensors, the ability to set entrance and exit boundaries to count multiple guests at one time, and the ability to run and send reports automatically at set intervals, SenSource was the clear leader.”

Step 3: Install and Implement the Solution

As with all large-scale projects, it’s best to have clear expectations and a realistic timeline for completion. The SenSource ClearCount series intelligent imaging people counters require cable to be run through the ceiling of a facility to provide power and data transmission. This usually requires collaboration with multiple facility operators. A team leader like Michael Solema is fundamental to a successful installation. “We had selected the video-based people counters with PoE, so first we had to confer with our campus IT staff to confirm we could send PoE to the sensors and set up the counting software server on our existing server. We then worked with our campus telecommunications office to pull new CAT6 Ethernet lines to the approximate location each sensor would be,” explains Solema. In addition to the sensor hardware, Vea Analytics Software is installed and calibrated to meet the unique needs of the Student Union. “There is a slight learning curve involved with the Vea Software in terms of knowing what things are called and where to find them. But once SenSource Technical Support ran me through the basics, I was  creating custom reports and auto-emailing counts within a few days,” continued Solema.

Step 4: Assess the Solution

Open communication between the customer and the team at SenSource creates a continual check-and balance that the solution is meeting the customer’s objectives. Solema details his  experience, “The great thing about the sensors and SenSource in particular is the customer service. Any time I have a question or concern, I can call or email Technical Support with issues and they respond within an hour with a solution or will set up a web conference to tweak any reports.”

Step 5: Make Better Business Decisions

The final and best part of selecting a people counting system is to use the foot traffic data to make better business decisions within the student union. The benefits are limitless, including gaining knowledge of traffic flow and patterns, optimizing staffing and marketing placement and justifying facility expansion or renovation. In 2013, The University of Akron relocated its Information Center within the Student Union and used the traffic data from its SenSource people counting system to determine the optimum location. Solema explains, “Part of the analysis on where to relocate our Information Center was looking at the data to determine what entrance was most utilized in the building. I ran a couple simple reports and found that an area down on our first floor that had recently vacated for construction would be ideal as it was the most trafficked entrance in the building.” On a day to day basis, Solema and his team use the SenSource Vea Software auto report feature to track building usage during hours of operation. The custom reports and automation keep personnel informed without adding strain to Solema’s workload. “Reports are emailed to key personnel notifying them of the overall visitor totals for the previous month and visitors the previous week. Future reports to follow include year-to-date over our University fiscal year,”
detailed Solema. Additional future uses of the system include trend analysis, traffic flow throughout the building to improve marketing efforts and installing additional sensors at points of interest within the facility.

Customer Profile

The Student Union at The University of Akron

What would you say to another university considering using SenSource people counters?

“I would suggest doing your research and get a demo arranged. Examine what your core needs are. For us, it was a substantial accuracy increase, the ability to count multiple people entering/exiting at one time, and the automatic report feature.” Michael Solema The University of Akron Technology Coordinator for the Department of Student Life

Solution: SenSource ClearCount 3D Video people counting system with Vea Analytics Software