Measuring Crowds or People Counting: What’s the difference?

People counting is widely used, but can it do crowd sizing?Colorful crowd viewed from above

People counting technology has been widely used for years, and in many venues.  Most notably, it has been used by retailers to determine how many people visit their store.  But it is also used by museums, libraries, stadiums, trade shows, and more.

People counting is typically accomplished by “door counting” as people enter and exit a facility.  An array of technologies is available to do this, including pressure, magnetic, photoelectric, infrared, thermal sensors and video.  In most applications, counting accuracy is the goal, and the results are as high as a 98% accuracy rate.

But what about measuring crowds when there is no “door” to place a counter?   For instance, the target area could be a public intersection in a downtown area or the common area inside a shopping center.   And what if the need to measure the size of a crowd is temporary, such as a festival, or civic event?  In many settings, there may not be as much of a need to count the exact number of people as there is to approximate the size of the crowd.

In addition, it is not always feasible to deploy sensors that have either direct or line-of-sight contact with the subjects.   In some cases, it is important to get measurements in real-time and from multiple locations, such as venue management.  Further, the data obtained may need to be integrated with business intelligence applications for decision making.  What if it was easy to compare and contrast foot traffic across multiple-locations without elaborate, expensive integration or manual processing?

In contrast to regular people counting, crowd sizing applications benefit from flexibility, rapid installation, low deployment cost, out-of-the-box integration and real-time capabilities.  Crowd sizing applications can benefit from a new technology that counts the number of active Wi-Fi devices, such as smartphones, throughout a target area.  Introducing Accuware Analytics, the tool that provides a cost-effective answer to all those pesky crowd sizing questions.

Back story

Accuware Wi-Fi Location Monitor’s Analytics functionality measures foot traffic in real-time and historically over time.  Accuware detects Wi-Fi enabled smart phones and tablets throughout a target area, enabling unobtrusive crowd sizing of pedestrian traffic volumes without compromising privacy.

Some recent statistics about Wi-Fi enabled smartphones: on average, over 44% of US population uses smartphones (comScore, Dec 2011).  People between the ages of 25 and 34 are more likely to own a smartphone (62%) than any other age group.  Across the global smartphone user base sampled, 91 percent of smartphone subscribers use Wi-Fi for data usage (Mobidia, Jan 2012).  Wi-Fi accounted for 70 percent of all smartphone-originated traffic.

Monitoring Wi-Fi-based foot traffic in a private or public environment, indoors and outdoors, can provide insights about the number of and movement of people.  What volume of visitors pass by a given location each day?  What are the peak traffic hours during the day?  Throughout the week?   How does weekday traffic compare with weekend traffic?  How does traffic change between sunny and rainy days?  These are just some of the many questions that Accuware Analytics can help answer, simply and affordably.

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