All posts by Jill Studholme

Writing about people counting since 2002

Glossary of People, Vehicle and Passenger Counting Definitions

Dictionary of terms used to describe people counting, queue management, passenger counting, footfall systems, smart city counting and related topics. Any questions get in touch.

How closely the measured people counts match the actual number of people entering and leaving. The best performing systems achieve over 98% accuracy.
APC stands for automatic passenger counting.
Average Shopping Time
Average Shopping Time – the length of time a person stays in a store.
Beam Counter
See Infra-Red Beam Systems
Gathers data from Internet-of-Things devices (like smart counters) and serves the information to top level applications seen by people. Merges data from many different sources.
Business Intelligence
A technology-driven process for collecting and analysing data, and presenting actionable information to help managers make more informed business decisions.
Conversion Rate
The number of people who make a purchase divided by the number of people who enter the store. If 100 people visit a store, and 5 of them buy something, the conversion rate is 5%.
Counting Zone
The area through which people must pass to be counted.
Diagonal Split
There are times when two people side-by-side may at first look like one person. Diagonal Split watches for this “one” person splitting into two. This happens, for example, when people enter through narrow doors before spreading out when more space is available.
Directional Counting
Records in and out counts: video and thermal counters do this automatically. Some infra-red beam systems rely on you dividing the count by two, although the more expensive beam counters are directional.
Dwell Time
The length of time a person stays in one area or pauses at a display.
Count totals are saved at regular intervals: every 5 minutes or every hour say. This interval is called an epoch.
The number of people entering an area, shop or building in a given time.
Freeze Time
A video counting system detects people moving through a counting zone. It may be, though, that a person enters the counting zone and then stands still. If they stand still for long enough, the system will consider them to be part of the background. The length of time a person can stand still and yet be counted in called the Freeze Time.
Infra-red beam systems
A sensor sends a beam to a reflector on the the opposite side of the doorway. As someone passes through the beam breaks and a person is counted. Accuracy tends to decrease with wide or busy entrances. If two people cross a beam together, for instance, only one count will be recorded. Direct sunlight onto the beam will also affect the system.These were in demand some years ago – now higher accuracy and more comprehensive information is generally demanded. More…
Internet of Things. Connection of physical devices, sensors, counting units, vehicles, buildings and other items over the internet. More…
Key performance indicators, like sales conversion or average shopping time.
Minimum Separation
When a person first enters the counting zone, it may be that two parts of a person enter with a gap between them. For example a person carrying a briefcase might enter first by the case and then with an opposite foot or hand. To prevent this causing two separate people being “seeded”, you can specify a Minimum Separation number of pixels. (Seeding is the first sign of a person.)
Retail Analytics
Any information that allows retailers to make smarter decisions and manage their businesses more effectively.
Retail Sensing
Manufacturer of advanced video people counting systems and provider of business intelligence.
Unit which counts pedestrians, vehicles, passengers and bicycles as part of a Smart City. More…
Point-of-Sale. The place where a customer completes a transaction, such as a checkout counter. Integrating point-of-sale data with people counts allows conversion rate and other parameters to be calculated.
Retail Analytics
Studying past data to improve decision making and test assumptions. Includes indicators such as conversion rate, average shopping time, number of items per transaction and average spend.
Sales Conversion
The number of people making a purchase divided by the number of people entering the store. More…
The system’s first sight of a person.
Smart City
Where sensors and systems share information about the city via the Internet-of-Things. More…
Smart Mobility
Measuring and managing the flow of people, vehicles and bicycles around a area. More…
Tally Counter
Handheld tally counterHand-held tally counters are the least sophisticated of solutions. A person stands clicking the tally counter whenever anyone passes through the entrance. Tally counters were once used in nightclubs and bars to monitor occupancy, but are now being replaced by automatic counting systems.
Thermal Sensors
Positioned above an entrance, they detect people’s body heat. Quoted accuracies are between 96 and 98%. Accuracy, though, can be affected by the ambient temperature within the counting area being above or below a certain value. Low ceilings can also reduce the accuracy.
Tailgating (Mid Split)
When two people are following one another closely it is sometimes not possible to see the gap between them. This may be because the gap is bridged by shadows or perhaps a swinging arm or leg.Tailgating is more likely when the camera is low. A system like Video Turnstile can split people even when there is no clear gap, by simply altering the tailgating or, as it is sometimes known, the mid split setting.
This is the value against which brightness changes in the picture are compared to detect moving people.Decreasing it will make the system more sensitive and may enable the detection of hard-to-see people. Increasing it will tend to remove any shadows and reflections which surround people. This makes it easier to see the gaps between people. On systems like Video Turnstile you can alter the threshold to suit your location.
Typical Width and Area
We define the expected size and shape of a person by two parameters: Typical Width and Typical Area. These are both measured in pixels. The system compares each person with the expected shape and allocates them a score. When people walk so closely together that it is difficult to tell them apart, these parameters help decide whether to count them as two people.
Vehicle Sensing
Counting cars and other vehicles.
Video Analytics
Automatically analysing video to detect events, like people walking past.
Video People Counters
Where counting units analyse CCTV pictures and identify people crossing a counting zone.
Video Turnstile
Intelligent video recognition units which count people.
Walking Line
The path someone might take through the counting zone.

Revealed: why a longer ‘average shopping time’ pushes up retail sales

How much customers buy is a direct result of how long they spend in a store. The longer the average shopping time, the more a store sells.

The shopping time reflects the overall level of service in the store. The better the service, the longer people stay and the more likely they are to make a purchase. Measuring and improving average shopping time results in an increase in:

  1. The number of people buying something
  2. The number of items they buy
  3. The amount of money that they spend
Chart of average shopping times

This chart shows some very different average shopping times in a chain of shops in Germany. In the shops where people spend just 6 minutes there is great potential for improvement and increased sales.

How to Increase Average Shopping Time

1. Have the staff give great service

Retailers who focus on continual improvement, measure their staffs’ service levels in a number of ways, including:

  • Timing until first contact between staff and shopper
    Once focused on display
    After browsing
    Upon entry

    The above figures are from a sports store. In 43% of cases there was no interaction between staff and shopper, highlighting easy room for improvement.

  • Who initiated first contact

    Again, the measurements show a simple way for staff to improve average shopping time – simply by approaching people. Rising sales will follow.

Being pro-active, informative and pleasant increases the involvement of the staff in the sales process and attends to the customer’s needs – thus selling more. All this is directly measurable by interaction numbers and durations as in the examples above.

Informing sales people of the average shopping time in their store, and perhaps awarding bonuses for increasing it, raises the sales conversion rate by converting browsers into customers.

2. Better Signs and Displays increase Average Shopping Time

  • Clear signs help customers navigate the shop and find what they are looking for.
  • Implementing focal points – “Items of the Week”, “Just Arrived”, “Sale” – moves customers through the store.

Various measurements show the store’s progress over time, such as:

  • Time until a shopper focuses on a type of product
  • Heat maps showing where most shoppers went

It’s the measurements which are the key

Many successful retailers consider themselves to be achieving good service and signage, but by measuring average shopping time and other indicators they can pinpoint the potential for improvement and significantly increase the number people buying, the number of items they buy and how much they spend.

Put another way, an increase in average shopping time will show a corresponding increase in conversion rate, average number of units per transaction and average transaction value. Which in turn leads to rising profits.

All this is achieved with a video people counting system and retail know-how.

To find out more give us a call on +44 (0)161 839 6437 or email

New Vehicle Traffic Counter uses CCTV and continually Reports via Web Browsers

Retail Sensing are excited to launch their innovative Vehicle Traffic Counter.

Using CCTV and intelligent counting units, the traffic counting system achieves over 98% accuracy in all conditions: day and night in rain, sun and snow.

The vehicle traffic detectors can be set to count vehicles going straight on or turning. One camera can cover several exits of a junction. At four-way junctions, for example, the system provides multi-directional counts for vehicles turning north, south, east or west and coming from any direction.

The system counts cars going through the counting zone

Other benefits include

  • Traffic data is uploaded securely in real-time to web browsers: users can log into their password-protected on-line accounts from anywhere.
  • There is no limit to the number of roads and junctions on which traffic can be counted using the scaleable CCTV system.
  • Users can easily verify the vehicle counts simply by watching the video back and seeing the counts increase as the cars pass.
  • Counts can cover any period of time: the number of cars passing every 15 minutes or every hour for example.
  • Local video analytics minimises bandwidth use
  • Easy set-up of vehicle traffic counting system

Learn Current Car Park Occupancy

As well as counting vehicles along roads, the system can monitor and report the current usage of car parks. Occupancy is shown both on meters in the car park itself and remotely in the web browser report. For multi-story car parks, occupancy can be shown for the entire car park and for each floor or area.

Local Video Analytics minimises Bandwidth Use

The intelligent counting units (called Video Turnstile) analyse the CCTV pictures and upload the resultant counts wirelessly. The data is immediately made available over the internet. All the video analytics processing is done locally by the counting units, ensuring that the bandwidth use is minimised.

Easy Set-Up of the Vehicle Traffic Counting System

During set-up installers can log into the system from a web browser, view the CCTV footage and check the counts. They can make adjustments via software choices to optimise the counts at each location and precisely configure the counting zone.

For more information contact
Asad Syed
Retail Sensing Ltd
10 Stocks Street
M8 8QG
+44 (0)161 839 6437

About Retail Sensing

Retail Sensing manufacture the Video Turnstile people and vehicle traffic counting equipment. All our products are designed and manufactured in the UK. Our counting systems are in use in over 40 countries.

Download Vehicle Counting Datasheet

The secret of visitor value: why high street stores are using the same metrics as web sites

Webmasters are superstars at analysing visitor data. What can retailers learn from their approach?

One metric that stores are stealing from websites is Visitor Value. This is the average spend of each visitor that enters a store (or website).

If you can increase your visitor value then sales follow. On a website this might be achieved by better copy on the page. But how do stores increase visitor value?

The first metric to put in place is how many people go into the store. Without this it is impossible to measure visitor value.  Once the people counts are in place – what next?

Measuring visitor value in retail store

A webmaster conducts a split test: does the new page copy convert better than the old? Savvy retailers do the same thing. Does a new display, or store layout, or pricing structure work better at increasing visitor value.

Counting people entering a bricks and mortar store gives retail managers the same analytics as web managers have at their fingertips: where visitors entered the store or website, where they left it, how long they spent in each department or in front of each display (or web page) and whether changing a display results in increased visitor value.

Visitor value is a simple but very powerful performance indicator. And it all starts just from counting the people visiting your store. Find out more today.

Count footfall outdoors no matter what the weather

Rain, snow, frost, sun and wind – whatever the weather Retail Sensing counters measure footfall with over 98% accuracy. The outdoor people counting system provides footfall data for town centres and venues across the world.

The Retail Sensing embedded video server lets our customers see live video footage alongside the people counts, so they can accurately verify, and configure, the system over the internet from anywhere in the world.

Checking the system is counting properly

The outdoor system also tells retailers how many people passed-by their shop without going in, letting them measure the success of the their window displays.

The footfall system uses CCTV cameras to track peoples’ movements. The cameras connect to our footfall counters. These securely stream data to a central computer. There are no limits to the size of the system, simply connect as many cameras and counters as you require.

The system architecture means counts for different areas can be seen together as they happen. For wide areas simply link several cameras together.

Find out more…

Learn how to reduce queues and increase sales

The average person now spends one year, two weeks and a day of their lives stuck in shop queues. That’s according to a new report by Box Technologies and Intel, which highlights the importance of technology in reducing queues. The research also found

  • Seven people in a queue is the tipping point – any longer and most shoppers won’t bother joining it
  • After 9 minutes, shoppers are likely to give up queuing and leave empty handed (other research says as little 6 minutes)
  • 86% of consumers will avoid a store if they they think that the queue is too long
  • The average shopping trip includes 20 minutes queuing time.
  • 70% are less likely to return to a store if they experience long waiting times on just one occasion
70% of people won't return to a store if they are stuck in a long queue there just once

70% of people won’t return to a shop if have been are stuck in a long queue there just once

Previous research by Lu, Musalem, Olivares and Schilkrut has also found that

  • Moderate increases in the number of customers in a queue can generate a sales reduction equivalent to a 5% price increase.

No wonder retailers and other businesses try to minimise queues. With today’s technology reducing queues becomes much simpler. A CCTV queue management system lets businesses test measures to reduce queues, and assess their impact and profitability.

A video queue management system shows

  • The number of active service points (ticket booths or retail checkouts for instance)
  • The number of people currently in a queue.
  • The average queue length
  • The average queuing time over the last half hour (for example)
  • For how long the last person to be served waited
  • How often there were more than seven people in the queue
  • How many people abandoned the queue
  • How many people jumped the queue
  • Daily figures, for example, 95% of people queued for less than 5 minutes.

Integrating the queue management system with the point-of-sale system gives hard evidence about how queue length affects sales.

To learn more about measuring and managing queues, e-mail, call us on +44 (0)161 839 6437 or fill in the form.


Further Reading on Managing Queues

Read more about measuring queues.

How long does it take to lose a customer? Report by Box Technologies and Intel

Measuring the Effect of Queues on Customer Purchases. Yina Lu, Andrés Musalem, Marcelo Olivares, and Ariel Schilkrut Management Science 201359:8 , 1743-1763

Tech evolution reducing queuing patience, Essential Retail