Optimise with people counters | StoreTech


People counters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavours. From break beams, infrared, thermal, and video all can capture people's movement.

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A brief history of people counters

StoreTech is hardware agnostic, which allows us to try and test the best people counters on the market and recommend the right type of counter for your environment. We can even make use of people counters you may already have, for a cost-effective upgrade to your current system linked to our powerful performance management cloud portal.

People counters have evolved over the decades like most electronics. Becoming more accurate, robust and reliable. Likewise the cost has also come down as the technologies become more widespread.

The earliest people counters were the manual clickers. Still used today in some instances. This requires someone standing close by to literally count everyone that passes by. As you can imagine, this is quite labour intensive, requiring the person with the clicker to not get distracted. Accuracy will vary greatly as human error will play a big part.

StoreTech started in 1998 and was one of the first companies to count people in retail environments. We understood the benefit of knowing how many people were entering your store could provide invaluable insight and allow the store to objectively measure and optimise performance.

Electronic people counters

The first electronic people counter used where break beam devices, these were mounted horizontal across an entrance. A count would be registered when a person breaks the beam. This issue with these devices is that more than one person walking in side by side would only be counted as one. It is also possible to block the device and therefore the system is inoperable. 

From early 2005 new manufactures started producing thermal counters. These devices would be installed overhead and use an array of sensors that detect heat sources within their field of view. Early devices required a data collection unit or Headcount box to store each count and send the data back to a back-office PC or server.

Similar to Betamax and VHS so there are thermal and video technologies both capable of providing people count data. Video counters use complex algorithms and camera imaging to count the number of people in their view.  

It's worth noting that unlike overhead thermal or video counters, CCTV devices are generally installed at an oblique angle, this can hinder the field of view and cause issues with accuracy if used as a people counter in addition to a security device.

Another recent addition to the people counter sector is using Wi-Fi detection to count smartphones and other devices with Wi-Fi turned on. This is very much 'sample' data and although won't give an accurate absolute count of the number of people entering your store or space it can provide new metrics that is not possible with traditional people counters. This includes repeat visits, 1st time visits, passer-by, dwell and bounce metrics.

The most recent technological advances have allowed manufacturers like Irisys to use 'time of flight’ technology. You may have heard about this in smartphone cameras. This technology in people counters like a laser tape measure. Active infrared Time of Flight technology is used to measure the time difference between pulses leaving and returning to give a measure of distance. An array of pulses gives a height map of the scene and allows for a more accurate constantly updating view of the field. With excellent handling of dwelling/stationary targets, immune to lighting variation, unaffected by background patterns we now have people counters with an accuracy level of >99%.

Your guide to people counters

With so many different people counters in the market from various manufacturers, where do you start? Let us help... 

Battery Powered Beam People Counters

This battery-powered counter comes in two parts, the transmitter which is constantly emitting an invisible infrared beam, and a receiver. Each is positioned on either side of a single door. When the beam is broken by someone walking through the beam, a count is registered.

2D Mono Video People Counters

2D mono counters as the name suggests have a single camera lens. The people counter is installed on the ceiling above a door. Due to poor vision depth, the device can struggle in low or very bright sunlight, where there are shadows, and where there is high footfall.

3D Stereo Video People Counters

3D sensors from the likes of Flir and Xovis provide a high resolution and processor of three-dimensional objects. Suitable for high-traffic areas and customer engagement. Devices are powered over Ethernet. Sensors can be daisy-chained together for wide entrances.

Thermal People Counters

Irisys developed the early thermal sensors for people counting. They detect the temperature difference between the environment and an individual walking underneath the field of view. Ceiling mounted they can be linked together for wide entrances and can operate in total darkness. 

4D Time of Flight People Counters

Irisys lead's the industry with high-end ToF people counters. Ceiling mounted, they work in a similar way to a laser tape measure. GDPR compliant, as no video imaging is used to detect a person's movement. Accuracy can be >99% and therefore ideal for occupancy detection. 

Infrared People Counters

Mounted above the entrance, the device works by using infrared light to count people as they move across the field of view. Thermal and infrared people counters do not use any personally identifiable information during their processing.

Passive Infrared (PIR) People Counters

Wireless passive infrared sensors from our sister company Flexicount provide a low-cost, battery-operated method of usage over a single door. The sensor detects changes as someone walks underneath the device. Data is available in 15 or 30-minute increments via a separate 3G hub. 

CCTV for use as People Counters

A closed-circuit television camera's main purpose is for security monitoring. However, some manufacturers will highlight the ability to provide people count or occupancy data. Depending on the oblique angle of the CCTV device accuracy can be compromised due to occlusion.

Wireless Wi-Fi Counters

Using Wireless Access Points from companies like Meraki and Cisco it's possible to monitor the number of 'devices' a person has with Wi-Fi turned on. Some smartphone manufacturers randomize a phone's MAC address and therefore a device may be picked up more than once. 

RF Sensor

This 4G mains powered sensor is ceiling mounted and gathers anonymous, non-personal radio frequency signals emitted by shoppers' personal devices. Using AI the data provides walk-by insight, and using trilateration can provide the full customer journey including dwell time.

Customer Counting Technologies

Customer tracking technologies | StoreTech

Real-time locating systems (RTLS) are used to automatically identify and track the location of objects or people in real-time, usually within a building or other contained area.

As you can see there are trade-offs in cost, accuracy, and range depending on the type of people counter you select for your business. 

With over 24 years of experience in the people counting sector, we've tested many of them.

If you would like a no-obligation chat about our experience and what we would recommend for your environment. You can trust us to only put our name against tried and tested people counters. 

Get in touch with a people counting expert.

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Why use people counters?

Powerful people counting insight, so you can make the most relevant business decisions.


What time of day should I expect the most footfall?

Effective resources

When is the best time to plan staff breaks?

Staff to demand

Does my site have the right number of contracted hours?

Performance focus

What affect does a promotion have on traffic?

Smart planning

Is my site affected by the manager's day off?


Do we carry out tasks at the right times of day?

Irisys people counters

  • Highly accurate people counting; >99%
  • Time of flight 4D technology
  • Accurate occupancy analytics
  • Truly anonymous people counting
  • 450,000 sensors installed worldwide
  • Powered via PoE
  • One outbound port open for data transmission
learn more about Irisys people counters
Irisys Vector 4D People Counter | StoreTech

Q&A on people counters

How do you calculate footfall?

Using the latest time of flight infrared sensors, customers and visitors are counted accurately and anonymously from an overhead sensor. The latest IoT devices are highly accurate at >99% and offer complete privacy by being infrared.

For more information please see: Irisys people counters

What type of sensors are used to count people?

You may see them called people counter, footfall sensor, door counter, or traffic counter. They all deliver the same basic principle of people tracking using video, thermal, and time of flight technologies. Accuracy levels can vary and therefore we'd recommend carefully selecting a people counter that is reliable and consistent. In terms of accuracy, you do want a people counter that you can believe in the data, knowing that in most cases you will be using it for statistical analysis, meaning it should be suitable for providing patterns and trends on your customer or visitor flow in and out of your space.

How do people counters work?

People counters or footfall counters are sensor technologies that capture the movement of people within the field of view. Technologies include break-beam, infrared, video, and time of flight, each becoming more accurate than the previous. In recent years, sensors have been shown to achieve over 95% accuracy and are now used to provide occupancy data insight in retail and office workspace environments. If you are unsure as to what technology is right for you, or perhaps you are looking to upgrade your old people counters. Get in touch as we've helped many to businesses to do the same.


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Talk to a people counting expert

Request a no-obligation demo to talk through your requirements and allow us to share our 24 years of experience and knowledge of people counting and retail performance management.

What will you get out of a call with a people counting expert:

  • What people counting sensors are right for you
  • Why our solution can uncover hidden opportunities
  • How to increase sales and conversion
  • ✓ Discuss your requirements and a tailored quote

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