Smart building

What are footfall counters and how accurate are they?

Footfall counters, also known as people counters, are electronic devices capable of identifying and counting people as they pass. When positioned in the entrances of a given room, the occupancy of that space can be tracked over time.
Footfall Counter

Footfall counters enable movement trends in customer and staff behavior to be accurately measured, revealing which spaces are occupied at what times and by how many people.

By gathering this data, footfall counters provide business owners with information on how their space is used, enabling them to make better decisions regarding space, staffing and resource allocation. The result: footfall counters enable businesses to run more effectively and efficiently.

Applications and benefits of footfall counters

The data gathered by footfall counters is relatively simple but can yield significant advantages for businesses at every level, from staff scheduling to marketing decisions.

Footfall Counter Device

For example, paying attention to daily trends in occupancy can enable more efficient use of HVAC and lighting systems, powering on these systems at busy times and tapering them off as buildings empty. Smart Buildings take this idea and run with it, using networked footfall counter sensors to automate HVAC and lighting controls in direct response to room occupancy. 

By reducing ventilation in areas with low occupancy, turning off lighting in empty rooms and adapting heating to fit working schedules, these systems can significantly reduce the amount of energy used to ventilate, illuminate and heat spaces. (1) (2)

In retail and hospitality, footfall counters provide valuable insight into trends in customer traffic, which gives multiple opportunities to improve store performance. For example, footfall counters enable managers to schedule staff more efficiently: bolstering the welcome desk during peak times or reallocating shop-floor sales personnel when footfall count is low. Data from footfall counters can also be combined with sales data to identify missed opportunities or enable quantitative comparisons between stores.

How accurate are footfall counters?

Footfall counters come in many shapes and sizes and use an array of different sensing technologies. Common footfall counting technologies include WiFi/Bluetooth tracking, RFID systems, thermal cameras, CCTV, and ultrasonic sensors. However, each of these is subject to its own limitations: most have poor accuracy, while others capture personally-identifying information, which must be carefully handled in compliance with privacy and data protection laws. (3)

Terabee’s footfall counters instead use infrared Time-of-Flight (ToF) technology to provide accurate, reliable footfall counting which is anonymous by design. Our footfall counters – such as the People Counting L-XL and People Counting M – work by emitting a pulse of infrared light and timing how long it takes for the light to reflect off the surroundings and return to the sensor. Based on this data, the devices construct 3D images of their surroundings.

This depth of information provides sufficient data for onboard algorithms to filter out objects and reliably recognize humans, even in crowded areas of bidirectional traffic. However, the low spatial resolution means that, unlike with CCTV or RFID, no personally identifying information is captured. Terabee footfall counters are effective in low light environments and offer intrinsically anonymous people counting with 95% accuracy or more.

Interested in deploying footfall counters in your business premises? Terabee’s footfall counters are easy to install, easy to use and offer unparalleled value for money compared to other people counting systems. Get in touch with us today to find out more.

References and further reading

  1. Mysen, M., Berntsen, S., Nafstad, P. & Schild, P. G. Occupancy density and benefits of demand-controlled ventilation in Norwegian primary schools. Energy and Buildings 37, 1234–1240 (2005).
  2. Weng, T. & Agarwal, Y. From Buildings to Smart Buildings—Sensing and Actuation to Improve Energy Efficiency. IEEE Des. Test. Comput. 29, 36–44 (2012).
  3. Goodin, D. Beware of find-my-phone, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, NSA tells mobile users. Ars Technica https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/08/beware-of-find-my-phone-wi-fi-and-bluetooth-nsa-tells-mobile-users/ (2020).
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